One name is always inextricably linked with Pudsey St Lawrence, that of former Yorkshire and England icon Sir Leonard Hutton. The great man cut his cricketing teeth with the club and spent many happy hours at Toft Road - fitting then that the main entrance should be called the Sir Leonard Hutton gates in honour of Pudsey’s greatest son.
In 1932 he made his first 50 against Queensbury and his maiden century followed in 1933 when he hit 108 not out in a Priestley Cup tie. Despite his considerable commitments with Yorkshire and England, Hutton still had time to compile a fine Bradford League record. He scored four centuries and 32 half centuries with a highest score of 133 against Undercliffe in 1940 which almost pales into insignificance when set against his never to be forgotten knock of 364 not out for England against Australia at the Oval in 1938.
Hutton was always proud of his St Lawrence connection and five years after hitting what was then the world record score in Test cricket, he was delighted to help them to their first major honour in 1943 when they defeated Brighouse in the Priestley Cup final. Hutton played his part by making 64 out of his side’s total of 149 and his score was only one run less than the total for the entire Brighouse team.
His was a special talent but St Lawrence have been fortunate to have attracted many fine players down the years, men like Edgar Oldroyd, Eddie Leadbeater, Herbert Sutcliffe, Major Booth, Phil Carrick, Ashley Metcalfe, Hutton’s son Richard, Steven Rhodes, James Dracup, Chris Gott, Peter Graham, Adrian Rooke and current captain Iain Priestley.
In recent times they have also nurtured the careers of a number of New Zealand youngsters who were to use the experience to establish themselves as Test performers, men like Mark Greatbatch, Martin Crowe, Simon Doull and Chris Pringle.
After winning the Priestley Cup in 1943, St Lawrence had to wait a further 13 years before collecting their next silverware. To their delight, they achieved the league and cup double.
They started the 1956 season in fine style and were unbeaten until July 28 when they lost to Brighouse. They lost their next two games to Saltaire and Bradford as well before regaining their composure to clinch the championships by three points from Bradford.
The star performer was former Yorkshire and England player Leabeater. He took 70 wickets at 10.51 runs each, for a side which was captained by the popular Bradford League stalwart Roly Parker. In the cup final, St Lawrence beat Spen Victoria by 21 runs despite Percy Watson taking a hat-trick for the losers. St Lawrence made 152 and bowled their opponents out for 131.
By the mid seventies, St Lawrence had built a powerful side. They won the title in 1975 in impressive style. Keith Smith, an inspired signing from lower league cricket, topped their batting averages with 39.25 while Indian Test batsman Salim Uddin, Stuart Speak and Richard Coates all scored valuable runs. The main wickettakers were Vijay Modgill (56) and Steve Smethhurst (39).
St Lawrence retained their title in 1976 but had to fight hard to shake off Bowling Old Lane and Idle. Modgill was again the most successful bowler with 50 wickets while opening bowler Harry Atkinson was a valuable addition.
The St Lawrence side of 1984 was one of the best in recent times. They collected 117 points to win the title by a massive 23 points. The batting was awesome with New Zealand Test batsman Mark Greatbatch making 800 runs while Smith, wicketkeeper Rhodes - later to play for Worcester and England - and Russell Gaunt all averaged over 30.
Once again they managed to retain their title the following season. Their side, skippered by former Yorkshire player Colin Johnson, relied on its bowlers with Peter Graham, Mike Bailey and David Robertshaw rising to the challenge.
St Lawrence’s last title success was back in 1991 under the inspirational leadership of Chris Gott. During that campaign he became the only player in the league’s history to hit six sixes in an over. Undercliffe’s off spinner Paul Whitaker, later to play for Hampshire, was on the receiving end.
St Lawrence have rebuilt their side in recent years. They finished in second in the league to Pudsey Congs in 2002 and were beaten by the arch rivals in the Priestley Cup final. Today’s rivalry is intense but it is mild in comparison to the early days of cricket in Pudsey. Back in the 1830s the Top Enders and Low Enders frequently tested out their rivalry in the streets or local fields using a tub leg for a bat, a large stone hob set on end for a stump and a covered pot taw for a ball.
These games led to Pudsey Feast challenge matches of which the Kings Arms and the New Inn (Park Hotel) participated. These were often very violent occasions which make contemporary Bradford League definitions of dissent appear insignificant. According to Joseph Lawson in ‘Progress in Pudsey’ “money was mostly played for, and frequent uproar, confusion and even fighting took place”.
It was during the late 1830s and 1840s that the drunken and violent behaviour of young men caused much concern and debate among respectable and middle class early Victorians. From the 1840s moral reform and the improvement of the behaviour of working class young men was high on the agenda of Victorian religious groups, charitable organisations and philanthropists. In Pudsey, the Mechanics Institute was founded in 1847, the first Baptist Chapel in 1851 and the Temperance Society was revived in 1853.
It also seems very likely that the link between Parish Church and cricket team through the establishment of Pudsey St. Lawrence Cricket Club in 1845 was also an ‘improvement’ initiative. The creation of the St Lawrence Club, with all that implied in terms of organisation, combined with the adoption of cricket rules, led to more orderly matches.
The oldest surviving record of a Pudsey St Lawrence fixture is contained within the Leeds Mercury, from October 23, 1847. It reported: “A match of this fine game to conclude the season came off on Friday at St. Lawrence Cricket ground between the married and single members of the club, gallantly won by the former.”
From 1850 there were other national and local influences which shaped the clubs early years. To begin with there were the 1850 and 1853 Factory Acts which reduced the working week and created the Saturday half-day. This meant for the first time that cricket could be played and watched on a regular basis not just Saints days and holidays, an essential pre-requisite for a league structure.
It also meant that the working class had the opportunity to play and watch cricket which widened its appeal and help secure its financial footing. These Acts also led to the setting up of local factory and mill teams, such as John Varley’s and Salter, which brought together workers and bosses - and thus contributed to the more harmonious class relationships which the reforming Victorians so much desired.
A second ‘influence’ was the formation at the Britannia Club in 1854 - as a Sunday school initiative - and its metamorphosis as Pudsey Congs which has continued the ‘Up Towner’ versus ‘Down Towner’ Clan warfare! A third influence was the visit of the All England Eleven to Pudsey in 1863 and 1864. They played against 22 from Pudsey and the surrounding district. The England XI won the first match by seven runs and were defeated by Pudsey the following year by 105 runs - and complained bitterly about the state of the pitch! The significance of these two three-day matches, which were both watched by large paying crowds, lay in spreading the cricket gospel and in the professional greats of their day demonstrating the new technical skills of cricket. The England XI was led by George Parr, acknowledged as the best batsman in England at that time.
Pudsey St. Lawrence was involved in three types of cricket during their early years. First of all ‘purse’ matches, which were always played on neutral grounds for an agreed sum of money or ‘purse’.
There were many ‘against the odds matches’ such as that between a Pudsey Eleven and a Baildon 13 which took place in September 1849 for a purse of £22, and which involved organised betting. This included All Pudsey Teams playing outsiders - for instance an All Pudsey Team played Morley at Farsley in 1868 for a purse of £50 per side. But they also played as The St. Lawrence against local sides. There was a famous match for £50 a side against Britannia on August 2 and 3 1875. The match was watched by 3,000 spectators and Britannia took the £100, winning by seven wickets.
Pudsey St. Lawrence players also appeared in the Calverley Parish team in an annual fixture against Guiseley Parish. The match proceeds being donated to local hospitals.
In the 1886 match the three St. Lawrence players included Willie Sutcliffe, father of Herbert. Finally, they also played league matches.
It is evident that by 1886 when Joseph Lawson penned his now seminal ‘letters to the young on progress in Pudsey’ that Cricket had come a long way in achieving the Victorian reformist ideals. “Playing for money was ultimately given up, and looked upon as being low and degrading to the game. The winning club mostly got a new ball, and the various towns and villages continued to contend against each other for the mastery. As years have passed on, the behaviour of both players and spectators had become comparatively orderly.
St. Lawrence did continue to succeed and progress during the last quarter of the century. They secured their own ground on the field next to St Lawrence Church having previously played on different fields including those behind the Black Bull, the Reece and what is now the Market place and children’s play area.
They began their league career in the Leeds and Holbeck League and their opposition included Calverley, Leeds Albion, Baildon Green, Eccleshill. Upper Armley, Bowling, Guiseley, Farsley, Undercliffe, Cleckheaton, Headingley, Sticker Lane, Thackley, Idle and Holbeck Recreation.
In 1886 the new pavilion and combined scorebox was completed and opened - an occasion of much celebration and optimism and a future seemingly secured on their church ground. But it was not to be.
Almost before the proverbial ‘paint was dry’ their ground was to be purchased by the local board for the purpose of a public park. Their president, William Dibb Scales came to the rescue by leasing their present Tofts Road ground. This required a great deal of hard work to make a suitable playing area and a large amount of soil was used in raising the level of the Chapeltown end to the height of the present square. The St. Lawrence ground was opened in May 1899.
St Lawrence joined the Bradford League in 1912 and have established a reputation of which they can justly be proud.