In Victorian Yeadon, feast week (the third week of August) was the highlight of the social calendar. The showpiece attraction was an exhibition cricket match played over three days on Yeadon’s White Swan ground against a visiting team.
In 1877, the legendary W G Grace played for a United South of England XI but was bowled for a duck by Yeadon pace bowler, John Tye (who had played county cricket for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire), much to the disappointment of the paying spectators and festival organisers!
Tragedy struck feast week in 1883 when fast bowler Merritt Preston hit batsman Albert Luty on the head with a bouncer and killed him. Luty was laid to rest in Yeadon Cemetery where, seven years later, Preston was buried beside him following his own death in 1890. Preston was one of several Yeadon players of his generation to play for Yorkshire.
The most notable feast week, however, undoubtedly came in 1878. The visitors that year were Australia, who were touring England at the time. Among the Australian side were Alex Bannerman (28 Tests and brother of Charles Bannerman, who scored the first Test century in the first-ever Test) and Frederick Spofforth (94 Test wickets in 18 Tests at an average of just 18.41).
The visitors stayed in the Swan and Peacock pubs and crowds came from all around the surrounding districts, in waggons, carts and even wheelbarrows. Yeadon, who fielded 18 men against the 11 of Australia, lost the toss and were put into bat.
Openers Samuel Denison (from Rawdon) and Matthew Myers (a local man who played 24 times for Yorkshire) got the home team off to a steady start with a partnership of 35 before they were both dismissed in quick succession by Francis Allan. A batting collapse then followed, with Spofforth (6 for 18) and Allan (8 for 33) making short work of the rest of the Yeadon batting line up. Yeadon were all out for 91.
In reply, Australia were soon in trouble at 7 for 3 and never recovered, subsiding to 54 all out. The only Australian to put up any resistance was Bannerman, who carried his bat for 27. The man who did most of the damage was Ted Peate (5 for 24).
Peate is now unfairly remembered as the last English batsman to be dismissed when losing at home to Australia for the first time in 1882. The subsequent press coverage lamented the ‘death’ of English cricket giving rise to the Ashes. He was the first of the great Yorkshire left-arm spinners but is not now as famous as Wilfred Rhodes and Hedley Verity. Nevertheless, W G Grace rated him as England’s best spin bowler of the time and he took a then record 214 wickets in the 1882 season.
In a match against Surrey in 1883, Peate took 8 for 5 to complete an innings victory for Yorkshire inside two days. Ungrateful club administrators criticised him for ending the game too soon and costing them the third day’s gate receipts! Peate was eventually dropped from the Yorkshire side after an unhealthy lifestyle caused his weight to balloon to 16 stone. He died in Horsforth in 1900, aged just 45.
Yeadon began their second innings with a lead of 37 but lost wickets at regular intervals to their first innings tormentors, Spofforth (9 for 30) and Allan (6 for 32). Only H Reynolds (30) put up any sort of fight as Yeadon were dismissed for 71, leaving Australia 109 to win.
Bannerman and William Murdoch (who would go on to earn one England cap in addition to his 18 Australian caps) looked to have set Australia on course for victory with a stand of 32 before William Bosomworth produced one of the most remarkable spells of bowling ever seen at the White Swan ground. The Yorkshire pace bowler ripped through the Australian side to finish with figures of 8 for 24 off 31.2 overs. Australia were all out for 84 and Yeadon had won by 24 runs. The result made headlines all around the country.
Two years later, the Australians gained their revenge when they won a rematch at the White Swan ground by an innings and 65 runs, with Australia’s Henry Boyle taking match figures of 18 for 59.