In The Blood…

My parents moved home in 1960, not far, in fact it was only 500 yards as the crow flies, nobody could really have known what effect moving those 500 yards would have on my life.

We moved from Kingsway in Wrose, to a brand new home on the new and expanding Willow Estate, situated on the edge of Idle Moor. My bedroom was at back of the house and each morning I would pull back the bedroom curtains and look out over a cricket ground. I guess from the very first time I saw that view, I was destined to play cricket, and to play cricket for Bolton Villas.

Bolton Villas, can never have claims of being famous, its history is not decked with achievements; famous players do not abound from the pages of the club scorebooks, in fact it is true to say it has never been near to producing a county player, let alone a test player, but the dream is passed from generation to generation, one day!

The homes of the Willow Estate surrounded the ground on three sides, with the bungalows of Kings Road making up the fourth side. The homes proved attractive for young couples with families or those planning families in the near future. A look at the voter’s role at that time, would see family names like Gibson, Clarke, Lawrence, Tattersall, Brennan, Haigh, Topham, Baines, Stockdale and Wilson.

Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of all these families and many more living in this area over the coming years have played their part in the history of Bolton Villas Cricket Club.

In those early days youngsters made the Bolton Villas ground their focal point; it was their playground and would play centre stage for their sporting activities like, cricket, football, rugby, tennis, horse racing and the Olympic Games. Events were a common site on the ground, other games like ‘Hide and Seek’ and ‘Tin Can Squat’ would be played as the light faded. Everyday and night the ground would be our home, our meeting place.


Unders 18’s 1975 Bradford Central Junior League
Back row left to right: Roland Baines, Mick Firth, Rick Lawrence, Brent Shackleton, Dave Tattersall, Mick Cotton
Front row left to right: Richard Tattersall, Steve Wilson, Nick Gibson, Allan Stockdale, David Freer

During the summer, the ground would host challenge matches, cricket would be played out over five days between the kids from our end of the estate, Willow Avenue and Willow Villas and those from the far end, around Willow Crescent and Willow Gardens.

Amongst my fellow team members would be Nick and Deb Gibson, Peter Clarke, Nigel Topham, Philip Baines, and Brian Ackroyd. Amongst the opposition ranks would be Richard Lawrence, David and Richard Tattersall, John Brennan, Mick Firth, Andy and Sally Midgley.

Over the years, others would come on to the scene like Alan Stockdale, Steve Wilson, Andrew Tattersall, Jonathan Haigh, Jonathan Elliott, David Freer and Philip Haigh.

All would play junior cricket for the club in the 70’s and early 80’s, many winning junior league and cup honours, and playing their part in leading the club into its ‘Golden Period’ with senior success throughout the 1980’s and 90’s.

During the winter the ground would became Valley Parade, Wembley Stadium, Odsal or Twickenham with organised football and rugby matches or shortened versions of the game, like ‘Attack and Defence’. Further challenge matches between the two teams would take place.

We would watch them play each Saturday during the summer, sitting around the ground, chanting their names and seeking their autographs. Then after school and in the summer holidays the likes of Gerald, Tom and Johnny would line up alongside Boycott, Trueman and Sobers as we took part in our own version of the current test series or the latest Yorkshire fixture. When winter dawned we did not forget our hero’s and many times we would set off across Idle Moor to watch Gerald Taylor play goalkeeper for Westfield Rovers.

Gerald Taylor & Johnny Escoe

Gerald Taylor & Johnny Escoe

We all had our own cricket hero’s, these would include the usual suspects like Geoff Boycott, Fred Trueman and Gary Sobers, but we had others hero’s with unfamiliar names, such as Gerald Taylor, Johnny Escoe (both pictured left) and Tom Brown (pictured right).

Tom Brown

Tom Brown

Who are these people I hear you ask, well, these were our hero’s who turned out for Bolton Villas week in week out.

My Bolton Villas career began in 1970 at the age of twelve, making my debut in the under 18 junior team. A month later on the 20th June 1970 aged 13 years and 7 days, I made my Second X1 debut against Buttershaw St Pauls, this was followed two years later with promotion to the First X1.

I was encouraged from an early age by Ernest Jackson (pictured left), the First X1 Captain, later Club President. He would always say to me “Always aim at the three stumps” He would place pennies on each of the stumps to encourage me to hit them and later if I’d been successful let me take the cash home. When we made the junior team his reward for a good performance would be to buy each member a bottle of pop from the tea tent, which was situated in the old wooden pavilion.

Ernest Jackson

Ernest Jackson

Each year we would wait for the first signs of a new season, players arriving to begin work on getting the ground ready. Granville Lawson preparing the wicket, Mr Taylor, Gerald’s dad, coming along to paint the main gates and the site-screens, players would appear to roll the wicket, Tom Brown would urge the youngsters to sit on the roller to gain maximum weight to flatten the wicket, Brian Haigh would be supervising proceedings and keeping the peace.

Nobody could say my affair with Bolton Villas has been smooth, far from it. But, like a number of people I know and have mentioned in this short piece it gets into your blood and it’s something some people just can’t shake off, I guess I’m one of them.

This section of the site is my attempt to preserve the history of the club, I hope it will inspire old members to let us have their photos, memories and funny tales so we can share them and pass them on to future generations.

Brent Shackleton