ANOTHER iconic former Bradford League ground will not stage cricket this summer.

Like Idle after the 2017 season, Salts Cricket Ground will now be given over entirely to football.

The former Yorkshire Second XI venue was used by Salts until the end of the 2005 season and has since been the home of Dales Council League club Shipley Providence, who have had a fall-out with ground owners Salts Junior Football Club.

Shipley Providence Cricket Club was formed in 1932, initially operating out in a field at Coach Road in Baildon, which is between the current Haworth Road Meths ground at Baildon Bottom and Roberts Park, which is the home of Saltaire.

The Coach Road ground was owned by the family of former TUC leader Vic Feather and they charged Shipley Providence a peppercorn rent, provided that they looked after the land, which they did.

When the Feathers gave up the site the ownership was transferred to Baildon Council, who charged Shipley Prov an annual fee of £5 per year for the upkeep.

In the 1970s, Bradford Council took ownership of the ground and, calling it “waste green space”, put the rent up to £1,376 per year.

Then club chairman Colin White, first XI skipper David Wright and secretary Syd Marsden, on behalf of Shipley Prov, went to see the gentleman concerned and said that the proposed rent was ridiculous, and it was reduced to £300 per year.

White said: “Barry Thorp, Syd Marsden, chairman Stuart Horrell and myself used to do everything down there.

“Stuart was raising £30 a week with lotto etc, Barry put his pennorth in and Syd covered all of the meeting that we needed to go to and was a top-notch fellow, and it is sad that it has come to this after being at the club for 50 years.

“The worst thing for me was moving to Salts in the first place. Coach Road used to have an old-fashioned wooden pavilion, and we bought a garage and knocked that down and put in a prefabricated garage.

“The floods of 2005 was another reason for moving as we had less chance of being flooded on that side of the river than the other, Jack King re-fitted the pavilion at Coach Road, re-did all of the toilets and the plumbing.

“In 1990, myself and John Atkinson found out where the sewer was and dug out a trench and had to raise the toilets. This was the first time the ground had had proper sanitation.

“We had a two-ring stove where we boiled the water and made the sandwiches, and we made them while the game was going on at Coach Road.”

However, over the years from the mid-1970s until 2005 Bradford Council put the rent up in stages above the rate of inflation, and Marsden revealed that Shipley Prov had had an offer to move to Salts CC.

White, who has been a member of Shipley Providence since 1969, was not happy as he said that, as groundsman, the site was too big for him to look after, and three of his fellow committee members also voted against the move, but the playing membership as a whole voted in favour so the change went ahead in time for the 2006 season (Shipley Prov were already committed to the Bradford Mutual Sunday School League for that campaign).

Owners Salts Sports Association, however, would not give the club a lease, only a licence to play as the rent of £300 a quarter each was being shared with fellow users Salts Juniors Football Club.

White said: “They were constraints put on both clubs by the Association about things that we could do and couldn’t do with our rolling licence.

“Then in the early 2010s, maybe 2012, Bradford Council said that they no longer wanted to own the land (Hartley Estates, of the Illingworth Morris Group at Salts Mill, owned the peripheral land) so Salts Juniors FC bought the site, although Salts Sports Association were still in operation.

“Then Salts Sports Association folded, and Salts Junior Football Club changed our licence to use in a few categories. They also formed a charity which owned the site, so were still paying 50 per cent of the rent, which eventually went up to £1,750 per year for our part of the deal.

“And in the last year it has gone up still further and we were paying it in four lots, which we assumed was over the course of the cricket season.

“At the end of 2021, I was approached by another cricket club from another league, with both of us just having only one team, to go to their ground.

“For the first season we would operate as Shipley Providence Cricket Club, and myself and a player looked at the ground, and he said ‘The facilities looked reasonably good’, but we were still part of the Dales Council Cricket League and at the end of the 2021 season we were asked by the players to form a second XI.

“As chairman of the league I said that I would not back down on this so I told the league that we would have two teams to help them and us.

“The owners said ‘Why have your formed two teams and not told us?’, and I explained that it was to give players a game and to help with the increased costs as it was not being used one week in two.

“In the original agreement, Salts Juniors said that it is noted that the junior football season will overlap with the cricket season so there may be problems in May and September when the football club has things on.

“They said that we will liaise with you when we have things on, but then we found out that not only were they playing on Sundays but that they were doing training on Saturday mornings after we had prepared the ground for matches.

“I complained bitterly about this and said that this was all wrong and that there were stud marks all over the square, and they said that they now own the property and will use it as and when, and that if we did anything different we must tell them.

“We said that it would have been nice if they had called us into a meeting to tell us what was going on, but that didn’t happen.

“We told this other cricket club that we would be quite amenable to bring one team to them the following year, but the club in question took it to their board and it got voted down by five votes to four so we were stuck with staying where we were.

“We couldn’t think of anywhere that we could go so the conclusion was after the end of the 2023 season we would just carry on down at Salts.

“In the meantime, we got a letter from Salts Juniors FC last July, from club secretary and trustee Sharron Hartley, saying that, after a meeting with their trustees, the current situation with Shipley Providence Cricket Club would not continue and that we would need to find a new ground for the 2024 season.

“We were accused of having no help in running the cricket club, do not want to engage with the other site users, have left the building unsecured and that we arranged an unsanctioned third-party match down there with no supervision and haven’t paid our site costs.

“We were also accused of extending the pitches on the square without consent and told that a football pitch will be marked out on the far side of the square. Arrangements could be made for the removal of all of our cricket ground equipment and the exchange of keys.

“Our trustees replied in early August that we refuted all of the allegations made in the letter of July 25 and that we would have appreciated a meeting with their trustees. We said that we did have help in running the cricket club and that the square is 30 foot shorter than when we took over from Salts CC.

“We have also looked after the septic tank, cleaned out the drains twice a year, and cut and marked the senior football and junior pitches and never overlapped the pitches. Also we have cleared the access road to the score-box of conkers, leaves and overhanging branches, as well as brambles and the peripheral grass.

“We also left a notice on the counter about the unauthorised match and put it on our noticeboard and calendar, but we apologised for the time of their arrival as they were told to arrive after 11am.

“The door was bent out of position and we could not lock it, but with the help of David Bottomley, from the bowls club, we managed to get it back in position and lock it. The alarm went off during the night but that was probably the cause.

“To say that we did not contribute to the site was wrong. We were then called to a meeting with Salts Juniors FC last November but we have never had a retraction to Salts’ first letter. We have had a couple of meetings with Salts Junior FC, one of which was quite acrimonious, but I have kept a record of all of the rent that we have paid, and all of the other costs. All in all we have spent circa £51,000 over 18 years”

White, a trustee and club secretary and administrator, who played his last league match for Shipley Prov in 2014, aged 73, added: “All of our players have now been de-registered. One has gone to Brighouse, our first teamers have gone to Green Hammerton Seconds and our second teamers to Old Monk Mavericks, both of the Dales Council League.”