BBC News

Remembering Yorkshire County Cricket Club's out grounds

By Andrew Glover
BBC News

image captionCounty and international cricketers played for and against Yorkshire at grounds including (l-r) Middlesbrough, Hull, Bradford and Harrogate

Busy celebrating its 150th year, Yorkshire County Cricket Club evokes glowing memories across the three ridings.

The club starts its first Championship game of the season on Wednesday at Headingley and will decamp to Scarborough for a handful of fixtures later in the summer.

Home games are restricted to those two venues now, but in decades past, fans around the county revelled in the chance to watch the White Rose at a proud list of out grounds.

Some of the forgotten fields to host the Tykes no longer get to hear the thwack of leather on willow.

But those such as Fartown, Huddersfield, and the Circle, Hull, now the site of the KC Stadium, have a deserved place in the history books.

Many others still see plenty of cricket - it is just unlikely Yorkshire will return for competitive matches.

Brian Bainbridge remembers scurrying through the gates at Middlesbrough's Acklam Park, rushing to get a plum spot on the boundary to see stars of the game like Geoffrey Boycott and Imran Khan.

'Holiday atmosphere'

As a young player, Mr Bainbridge was used to seeing temporary stands and beer tents spring up to welcome the crowds.

He said: "Yorkshire played the West Indies at Acklam Park. At the time it was probably the quickest wicket in Yorkshire.

"Charlie Griffith hit Doug Padgett and Jackie Hampshire on the head. The fast bowlers loved playing there."

Mr Bainbridge himself played a handful of first-class games for the county after excelling in club and second XI cricket.

image captionYorkshire's last County Championship title was sealed at Scarborough in 2001

His best performance came at another out ground, St George's Road in Harrogate.

He says: "Harrogate was a nice ground because you were close to the crowd.

"It had a good old-fashioned pavilion and a nice big dressing room in the days where there were some very moderate facilities.

"We were well supported there and it was a holiday atmosphere.

"Players looked forward to playing on different grounds and the fans used to like seeing the county players for themselves."

'The Bullring'

David Warner, former cricket correspondent of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus and author of The Sweetest Rose: 150 Years of Yorkshire CCC, said each ground had its own significance.

"In terms of area, Yorkshire was the biggest of the counties," he says.

"It had members spread all around the county. People looked forward to the games on their patch."

Players too, Mr Warner said, enjoyed the variety and challenges that playing on different pitches offered.

"As a ground, I don't think I'm wrong in saying Bradford Park Avenue was the most popular with the players," he said. "It had a great atmosphere and was known as 'The Bullring'.

image captionGeoffrey Boycott scored his 150th century at Middlesbrough's Acklam Park

"A lot of people did regret it when Yorkshire moved away from the out grounds but such a move was inevitable."

Yorkshire CCC was formed in Sheffield and had its first headquarters at the combined football and cricket ground at Bramall Lane.

The stadium's association with cricket ended in 1973 and the White Rose moved across the Steel City to Abbeydale Park, home of Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club.

Collegiate chairman Richard Ibbotson said Bramall Lane was "the Mecca".

"Many people saw it as the home of Yorkshire cricket.

"Yorkshire came here in 1974. Abbeydale is more of a park-style ground. It's got a beautiful setting on the edge of the Peak District National Park, on the boundary of the county.

"I don't think Yorkshire's record here was particularly good or bad, but in terms of the crowd and the revenue, Abbeydale was better than anywhere."

Mr Ibbotson spoke vividly about Viv Richards "peppering the marquees with sixes" and believes hosting Yorkshire has benefited his club.

"Undoubtedly having the Yorkshire players down and being seen as Yorkshire's home ground in Sheffield certainly helped the club attract a lot of good players," he said.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan and current player Joe Root came through the ranks at Collegiate.

Younger fans will get to see Yorkshire's current crop in an exhibition match at Abbeydale Park on 2 September as part of Yorkshire's 150th year.

The celebrations have been organised with enthusiasm by Boycott in his role as club president.

Chris West, president of the North Yorkshire and South Durham league, shares fond memories of seeing the batsman and other "gods of Yorkshire cricket" in the flesh at Acklam Park.

"You didn't see cricket on the television very often, only the occasional grainy bit of footage. Your Boycotts, Closes and Truemans, they had a mystique about them.

"There was a great atmosphere and a buzz around the ground. It was a great disappointment to many people in Middlesbrough when the games finished, but I understood the rationale behind it

"They had spent a lot of money on Headingley and they had to play more cricket there."

Commentary on every county match this summer is available via the BBC Sport website.