The future of ‘Wortley’s Wembley’ – the old TV Harrison ground, which has been disused for around 14 years – is in grave doubt as it’s earmarked to become housing. As the campaign to save it gathers momentum, West Leeds RUFC president Barry Breakwell writes about a forgotten rugby game attended by thousands back in the late 19th century…
Yes we all know that the Yorkshire Cup did come to Wortley in 1957 following a victory over Roundhegians at Clarence Field, Kirkstall 13-3.
And we all know that Dave Lee scored the try to take us on the road to victory. But did you know that the Yorkshire Cup came to Wortley many years before in 1898 – however West Leeds weren’t involved (we weren’t even formed).
The Yorkshire Cup Final was played on the grounds of Wortley RFC, which today are the disused playing field on Oldfield Lane, known to many people as the TV Harrison ground, host of many fine representative football games and cup finals.
The ground was originally a cricket field where Oldfield Lane (later Wortley) Cricket Club played from 1857 to 1877 when they relocated over Oldfield Lane (probably on the site of where now Waveney Road is) on the site of a disused coal pit.
Wortley RFC was formed in 1879 when ‘An enthusiastic nay almost impetus number of young men met together at the Queen’s Hotel and decided to form a football team’ (W Benn, Wortley De Leeds 1926).
It is highly likely that whilst the club’s ground was Oldfield Lane their HQ was the Queen’s Hotel, which remains to this day.
The first game took place on the Oldfield Lane ground under Association rules and was a kind of trial game under the title ‘Whites v Stripes’.
The game was of ‘a more robust nature, and it was quickly decided to go in for Rugby’ (W Benn). The club remained in existence until 1898 with the last game being played on 12 March against Mytholmroyd in the first round of the cup.
At a meeting on Monday 9 May 1898 it was decided ‘after protracted and animated’ (YP 11 May 1998) discussions and after a unanimous vote, that the club would not join the Northern Union (Rugby League).
Instead the decision was taken to allow football to lapse at the ground. The Yorkshire Post reported on 11 May 1989 that ‘It is probable that an effort will be made to remain in touch with the Yorkshire Union and keep the Wortley ground at the disposal of the county for any match they may wish to play’.
Back to the Cup Final
The Yorkshire Cup Final on that day (16 April 1898) was played between Hebden Bridge and our close friends Ossett. Both teams had never played in the final before.
Ossett had got to the final by beating Keighley Trinity, Otley St Joseph’s, Featherstone & Outwood Church and then Keighley in the semi-final (0-3).
It was remarked in the Yorkshire Post (YP) that the clubs had never met and are of ‘fairly equal calibre’ Bridge had a slight advantage in attack but Ossett’s defence was ‘decidedly favourable’. The YP also remarked that ‘In a Cup-tie sturdy defence not infrequently wins the day’.
The game was refereed by a Mr H Williamson (Lancashire County) and the touch judges were GE Kinder and J Ayrton.
It was remarked in the Ossett Observer that the Wortley Club and Mr Tattersall, the County Secretary had made ‘capital arrangements for the large gate’ (4000 in total). The Observer also remarked that many more spectators would have watched the game: ‘A shilling for admission is a rather stiff figure for football matches now-a-days and, there been a sixpenny side, hundreds if not thousands more would been present’.
Ossett brought an estimated 800 people to the game, most of which had come on two Great Northern Railway Special
The Ossett team selected for the final was:
Three-quarter backs: Nutter, Fisher, Jackson and Land.
Half-backs: Winpenny (captain) and Laughlin.
Forwards: Jones, Clarkson, E Biltcliffe, Dews, Clayton, Woodson, Walker and G Biltcliffe.
Ossett played in white jersey and black shorts, with a black arm band also worn in respect of their late committee man, Mr J Brooke.
Walker had replaced Turner from the semi-final as Turner was suspended having being sent off for kicking. Walker in the YP had been referred to as a ‘veteran’ and was only 27 years of age.
The Final was played in beautiful weather with Ossett running out easy winners, 2 goals and a try by Fisher and Hebden Bridge’s 1 try (13-3).
After the game the Cup was presented by Mrs Brown (Yorkshire Senior Vice-President’s wife) to captain Winpenny full of champagne remarking that ‘I have great pleasure in presenting you with the Cup and I hope you will always stay in the Yorkshire Cup’.
The next year (May 1899) both Ossett and Hebden Bridge moved over to the Northern Rugby Football Union (Rugby League)!!
After the presentation Ossett returned to home on their Great Northern Railway Specials having decorated the front of the engine with their jerseys.
The train was ‘heartily cheered’ through Alverthorpe and other stations and was met by a huge crowd at Station Road, Ossett at 7.20pm.
The occupants of the trained acknowledged the crowd by waving their handkerchiefs from the windows and displaying the cup.
The bells of the Parish Church were rung and the Ossett Borough Brass Band played ‘See the Conquering Heroes’. After speeches in the Market Place the team and dignitaries assembled at the team’s headquarter, the Carpenter’s Arms where refreshments were taken.
It is worthy of note that one of the dignitaries was the Wortley President, a Mr Johnson, had taken the trip – free beer no doubt.
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