Chapter Two

The Birth Of The Lancashire League

In 1892 the greatest Cricket League in the World was born. Thirteen clubs formed the Lancashire League and from that time onwards Nelson's fame spread. The Nelson club was the very first winner of the Lancashire League championship. The first seven matches that Nelson played in were all won by Nelson and only once did their opponents exceed 50 runs!

As this was the first season of Lancashire League cricket, some of the local averages are shown below.

The amateurs only bowled 52 overs between them, S.Bunkum taking four wickets in his 38 overs.

It was on the 14th May that year that professional Joseph Hulme recorded the first league century when he took 114 off the Bacup attack at Seedhill.

A remarkable demonstration in honour of the Nelson cricket team was made on the Saturday evening following Nelson's final fixture. In the afternoon they had completed a most successful season with the defeat of Rawtenstall on their own ground. They were undisputed champions of the league, experiencing defeat only twice whilst winning 17 and drawing the other 5.

The cricket club committee had intended to hold a special reception but those intentions had not been publicly notified. The townspeople of Nelson and district took advantage of the occasion to show their interest and satisfaction with the team in an extraordinary manner.

At the conclusion of the match at Rawtenstall, the Nelson team drove home by wagonette drawn by four horses, on the two foremost of which were seated postillions in uniform. Stretched across the wagonette was a contrivance on which were painted the words "THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS" in red on a white background. The wagonette was also decorated with ribbons and flags and progress of the conveyance along the road attracted a great deal of attention, cheers being frequently raised as the Nelson team were recognised.

The Nelson committee had got the temporary loan of the League Challenge Cup and they met the team at the Junction Hotel in Brierfield. The triumphal entry into Nelson then commenced. Proceeding the wagonette, Mr.Bower (club captain) carrying the cup in his exalted position on the dickey, was the Nelson Prize Brass Band, playing "See the conquering hero comes". A vast crowd accompanied the vehicle and progress was slow owing to the immense assembly of people on the route. Passing the Clayton Arms rockets were fired and fireworks discharged. A seething mass of people, demonstrating their welcome by enthusiastic cheers and flag waving, were gathered in the town centre.

The public part of the demonstration ended at the home of Mr.Bower in Leeds Road after the cavalcade had proceeded along Carr Road, Every Street, Scotland Road and down Leeds Road.

In 1893 Nelson retained the services of Hulme and Cuttell as professionals and the team finished second in the league table, four points behind Burnley. W.H. Bower rose to the forefront as a batsman, hitting 770 runs for an average of 40.53. This aggregate has been beaten on only six occasions by a Nelson amateur batsman in the first 100 years of the League - once by Chick Hawkwood and five times by Ian Clarkson.

Hulme and Cuttell were again responsible for the lions share of the bowling, Hulme taking 101 wickets from 496 overs whilst Cuttell took 82 wickets from 468 overs (identical to the previous season). The amateurs bowled 71 overs between them.

For 1894, Nelson had to engage two new professionals as Hulme decided to return to play for his county and Cuttell chose to stand down in order to qualify as an amateur - having learnt the trade of a warp dresser.

The two new professionals were Francis Shacklock, a Notts County player, and Arthur Wilkinson from the Notts Castle club and Nelson finished the season in second place again, this time behind Rawtenstall. A notable achievement during that season was an opening partnership of 165 against the old enemy, Colne. Francis Shacklock and Bill Harry Bower were both out just short of their maiden centuries, the former being dismissed for 98, the latter for 96.

In 1895 and 1896 the Nelson cricketers were clear champions, winning the league by margins of seven points over Accrington and five points over East Lancashire respectively.

It was in 1895 that Nelson recorded a score of 263 for 4 declared at Seedhill against Burnley - a Nelson record for a home total which stood until 1994. It should also be noted that Burnley were then bowled out for 75!

The following season saw Rishton amass the massive total of 307 for 5 declared in their home fixture against Nelson. This was still, at the turn of the 21st century, the highest score ever recorded against Nelson. The runs were scored from 70 five ball overs and Nelson replied with 195 for 2 from 64 five ball overs. It is interesting to compare the 502 runs scored from 670 balls with present day cricket. Overs cricket in the early 1990's provided for 552 balls to be bowled to constitute a full match. Nowadays it would take something like an extra hour and a quarter to bowl those additional 118 balls. In 1896 the teams were averaging 134 balls per hour - equivalent to 22 overs per hour, using a six ball over!

Also during that 1896 season, W.H.Bower became the first Nelson amateur to make a league century when he scored 117 at home to Church, and two other amateurs, Samual Driver and John Hanson, were responsible for recording the first all-amateur century partnership when they put on 124 for the third wicket at East Lancashire. Driver made 55 whilst Hanson hit his highest ever score for Nelson of 68. When Bower made that century against Church only one other batsman reached double figures, professional George Wood making just 12! Nelson totalled 186 for 9.

W.R.Cuttell's appearances as an amateur were cut short when he was invited to play for the County in 1896. In 1897 he became a regular member of the County team with whom he gave good service until 1906.

Joseph Hulme was signed to return as professional in 1897 but he was unable to fulfil his engagement due to illness. He was signed again for 1898 but was only able to play during part of the season. It was on 23 April 1898, at Seedhill, however, that Hulme recorded the following remarkable bowling analysis :- 7.2 overs, 7 maidens, 0 runs, 7 wickets, and Bacup were all out for 15 in reply to Nelson's 85.

Substitute professionals were appointed in Hulme’s absence and one of them, Harry Ellis, followed a bowling stint of 5 for 54 with a score of 97, which included 14 fours, as Nelson reached 134 for 4 to beat Haslingden.

Two of the most famous amateurs to play for Nelson joined the club in 1899. E.A. Wynne joined after being connected with Todmorden and Burnley and J.E. Brooks joined when he took an appointment as assistant master at Walverden school. The two new men promptly won the batting and bowling prizes, Wynne finishing top of the batting averages with 413 runs (average 37.34) and Brooks topped the bowling averages with 23 wickets at 8.65 runs each. Their prizes were one guinea each!

The Lancashire League changed its rules in 1900 regarding the appointment of professionals and each club was permitted to engage only one. Nelson's choice was Harry Riley who had taken 108 wickets the previous season but, although he was successful enough to take a further 95 wickets, the club slumped to equal tenth in the league table. On 27 June 1900 Harry Riley hit a brilliant 100 at Accrington and he shared the only century stand ever recorded for a Nelson eighth wicket partnership. His partner was John Hanson who finished on 40 not out.

Accrington must have enjoyed competing against Nelson in 1901. Their highest scores against Nelson both at Accrington and at Nelson were recorded. First of all they hit 283 for 3 declared at Nelson and followed that with a score of 229 for 7 declared at Accrington. Nelson's successes were few during this particular season but the professional, Arthur Woodley, did put in one fine performance which is worth special mention. Against Enfield at Nelson he took 9 for 28, clean bowling eight of his victims. Bill Bower hit his second league century when he made 118 in the reverse fixture away to Enfield.