New Fulneck School cricket pavilion honours Pudsey war hero Major William Booth

The William Booth pavilion opened at Fulneck School, Pudsey, in September. Photo: Damon Sugden

Words and photos: Damon Sugden

A rebuilt cricket pavilion has been formally opened at Fulneck School, after the project was completed with the help of a generous benefactor and some amazing feats of fundraising by the school itself. 

As well as offering top-class facilities, the eagerly awaited new pavilion is named in memory of former Fulneck School pupil and local hero Major William Booth, who played cricket for both Yorkshire and England.

Major William Booth was a talented batsman and bowler, but his promising sporting career was cruelly curtailed during WW1 when he was just 29 years old.

A sizeable bequest left to Fulneck School by the Booth family has helped complete a replacement building for the previous damaged pavilion. It has been backed by an incredible £20,000 fund-raising campaign by the school and its students, which was required to cover many extra unforeseen costs since the project was initiated four years ago.

It may have been a long wait for the new facility to become available. Indeed, there have been several challenges along the way – including asbestos removal from the old building, changes to the building footprint, some terrible weather and not to mention several lock downs. 

Richard Hutton cuts the ribbon.

However the future importance of the pavilion to local youth and grass roots cricket of the sports field it graces, plus other athletic pursuits, cannot be understated (this is on a pitch upgraded and wicket re-laid by Pudsey Congs Cricket Club).

Many first class cricket careers have started out here, and it is similar in significance to the TV Harrison Sports ground in Wortley as a cradle for sporting talent. Notable players as well as Major Booth who have learnt their craft here include; England captain and record breaker Len Hutton and his son Richard Hutton, and also Ashes legend Matthew Hoggard.

The new building provides first-class changing rooms with a social and catering area, plus a covered veranda for viewing team sports, or enjoying the magnificent view over Fulneck Valley. 

Such is the quality of the facility that it will be the envy of many larger sports clubs, and will give young people an amazing start to their sporting careers.

The opening ceremony was presided by School Principal Francine Smith and Vice Chair of Governors Mr Chris Stern, with guests Martin Bradford, Richard Hutton and Pudsey and Farsley Royal British Legion Branch.

School Principal Francine Smith said:

“Guests from the Royal British Legion have brought the Standard today because a part of this memorial pavilion is about the Remembrance of someone who gave their life in the First World War.

“Thank you Martin for helping to complete the project.”

Richard Hutton cuts the ribbon.

Richard Hutton (former cricketer and son of England legend Sir Len Hutton) was invited to cut the ribbon which officially unveiled the new pavilion.

A Tower of London Poppy (from the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibition) representing Major William Booth was presented to Martin Bradford on behalf of the School as thanks for his and the Booth family contribution.

Mr Bradford added:

“The history in this place is not only my Great Uncle (Major Booth), the Prime Minister during WW1 Herbert Asquith attended Fulneck School, Richard’s Father Len Hutton was born in 1916 (the year Booth died in WW1) … was the first professional captain of England – they both played here, so there is a strong heritage that I hope you will enjoy.”

Pudsey Congs Cricket Club and Pudsey St Lawrence Cricket Club have been using the facility during the summer and now its time for everyone to enjoy this marvellous building.

Photo: Trish Smith.

Major William Booth key moments:

• Born in Pudsey in 1886, son of the famous shopkeeper for whom Booth’s Yard in Lowtown is named after.

• His unusual first name “Major” was a given name, not a military rank.

• Educated at Fulneck School where he showed talent as a cricket all-rounder.

• Went on to play for Pudsey St Lawrence Cricket Club and Yorkshire.

• Selected to represent England for the MCC tour of South Africa 1913.

• Named as a Wisden cricketer of the year for 1914.

• Had a great reputation as a gentleman and role model.

• Joined the Leeds Pals in September 1914, along with fellow Yorkshire cricketer Roy Kilner and footballer Evelyn Lintott (who had played for both Bradford and Leeds City).

• Given the rank of Sergeant, Booth was later commissioned as a Lieutenant.

• Mortally wounded on the first morning of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st 1916, Booth passed away in the arms of fellow Yorkshire cricketer Abe Waddington, who was also badly wounded.

• Booth’s body was unreachable in no man’s land for over a year, he was only later identified by the MCC cigarette case in jacket pocket – he is now buried at CWGC Serre Rd N°1 Cemetery.

• His sister Sarah refused to accept that he had died, and left his room untouched with a light on the window awaiting his return, well in to the 1950s.

• Former England Captain Mike Atherton successfully campaigned for Booth’s name to be added to the MCC Players’ Memorial at Lords.


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