The Nidderdale League first commenced in 1894. Prior to then clubs had mostly played only friendly cricket, although there was a competition in the 1880’s at both Kirkby Malzeard, in which a Pateley Bridge & District team competed, and similarly at Thornton Watlass. The earliest record of a match involving a Nidderdale League club was between an 8 of Burton Leonard against 8 of Knaresborough at Riggs Moor in 1796.
In the first season of the league 6 clubs took part. Dacre Banks, Hampsthwaite, Birstwith, Glasshouses, Pateley Bridge and Ripley. The competition commenced in May and within a month there was correspondence in the local press complaining about umpiring decisions, laying to rest any misconceptions that such disputes are of recent origin.
Dacre Banks were the first winners when they defeated Glasshouses in a match at Birstwith in front of 1500 spectators in September. Amongst those playing in the Dacre Banks side was Willie Sutcliffe, the father of Herbert Sutcliffe, who was born in Summerbridge in November 1894.
Dacre Banks CC 1894
The next winners were Pateley Bridge, and then Glasshouses won the league for three years in succession and, under the rules of the competition, claimed the trophy as their own. It re-emerged in the 1970’s as the Charles Spence Memorial Trophy and is played for by Nidderdale Ladies Cricket League.
After 1898 the clubs went back to playing friendly cricket. The league was re-formed in 1912. Birstwith were the first winners followed by New Park in 1913. The Hon E. Wood, coincidentally a patron of Birstwith CC, who was later to become President of the league, donated the trophy that is still played for today by the first division. The onset of First War resulted in the league being suspended at the end of the 1914 season. The competition was re-started in 1920 and early winners included Harrogate IInds and Bilton.
A second division was formed in 1921 which both Burnt Yates and later Scotton won three years in a row in the 1920’s. Clubs were not necessarily invited to play in the first division and/or could decline promotion to the higher division. The league ran unbroken until 1936.
However, in 1937 the league was suspended through a lack of clubs willing to take part. This was likely to have been due to a combination of factors. A number found the Harrogate League a more attractive proposition, whilst others, including Glasshouses who won the league in 4 successive seasons prior to 1937, went back once again to friendly cricket, citing the cost of travelling to away matches as the reason.
During the 1930’s an evening competition was started which initially involved clubs playing at neutral venue equidistant from those participating to cut travelling costs.
With the passing of World War II the league was re-started under the careful stewardship of Secretary, Harold Atkinson who, along with Treasurer, Ronnie Swires, served the league for almost 40 years in the post war period. Since 1948 it has run continuosly and has grown to have 51 clubs, many with 2nd XI’s, and some with 3rd XI’s, playing every Saturday from mid April to mid September. There is also a thriving junior league from Under 9’s through to Under 17’s.
The latter part of the 1980’s saw the gradual introduction of overseas players in the league to which there was considerable resistence on grounds that this was very much against the character and tradition of village cricket. Eventually after many heated AGM’s it was resolved to allow one per club.
The 1990’s saw a significant period of growth when a number of clubs from firstly the Wath League and more recently, the Wensledale League, joined following difficulties in sustaining their competitions.
In 1994 the league celebrated it’s centenary with matches against a Yorkshire XI at Ripley in July, and then MCC at Dacre Banks in September. The match against MCC is now an annual fixture.
Glasshouses have been the predominant team throughout the history of the league, winning the league on 19 occasions and the league knock-out competition 15 times, the latter 9 years in succession from 1946 to 1954. In fact so strong was the club that in one season the 1st XI met the 2nd XI in the knock-out cup final. The nearest club to match this record is Knaresborough Forest with 16 league and 11 cup wins and in more recent times Killinghall have won the league 13 times in 21 years.
The number of clubs gradually increased over the years but a marked increase participation happened after the England team’s Ashes success in 2004. A ninth division was created to accomodate this new desire to play the game. Some clubs created a 3rd XI a 4th XI and in the case of Studley Royal a 5th XI. Not an inconsiderable effort to turn out 55 players every week. There was investment in club facilities and Newby Hall notably developed a second pitch adjacent to their existing ground to accomodate their 3rd XI. In 2006 the investment in juniors and facilities paid dividends when Newby Hall won the First, Fifth and eighth Divisions.
In 2015, in a bid to shake up club cricket in Yorkshire with the aim of the best clubs playing each other, a series of ECB Premier Leagues were formed as a Yorkshire Cricket Pyramid, and the Nidderdale League became aligned to the York and District Senior League as its route to the ECB Premier League North. In that first season, Pannal won Division One and had took the opportunity to move into the York and District Senior Cricket League Division 2. In subsequent seasons, the winners, or team placed second, will have the opportunity to progress up the pyramid.
The league now extends over a wide geographical area, from Middleham in the north to the outskirts of Otley, Leeds and York, a far cry to the days when it was within Nidderdale alone, and when teams were on occasion carried by horse and waggon to away matches. The 2017 season will see Upper Wharfedale join, at the very edge of our catchment, but a beautiful place to play cricket nonetheless.
It still remains however essentially a village cricket league set in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.