Hunslet F.C. (1883)Hunslet F.C. was a professional rugby league club in Hunslet, West Yorkshire, England, which played in the Rugby Football League from 1895 until being dissolved in 1973. Founded in 1883, before the split between rugby league and rugby union, Hunslet were a strong force in the early years of the Northern Rugby Football Union, winning All Four Cups in 1908. New Hunslet was formed and took Hunslet's place for the 1973-74 season.
1883-1900: Foundation and early yearsA special general meeting of the Hunslet Cricket Club was held on 21 May 1883, the committee resolved to grant two local teams: Albion and Excelsior the sum of £130 to form the Hunslet Rugby Club at Woodhouse Hill. The name of the cricket club was also changed to Hunslet Cricket and Football Club. The players initially wore blue and white quartered shirts. The new club played their first match on 6 October 1883, beating Hull "A". In December, another side, Imperial, amalgamated with them. In 1884, Hunslet entered the Yorkshire Cup. They also changed their strip to chocolate and white, and built a stand.
Hunslet announced their arrival the following season by beating Leeds St John's (later to become Leeds RLFC) in the third round of the Yorkshire County Cup. Better fixtures drew larger crowds and as a result the landlord wanted to put up the rent. The search was on for another ground, club officials purchased at little cost 10.25 acre of waste land at Hunslet Carr from the Low Moor Iron and Coal Company and had to shift 2,000 tons of rubbish to create what would become Parkside, which they moved to in 1888. The first game at Parkside was played on 11 February 1888, when they played and beat Mirfield. Just four seasons later Hunslet won their first trophy, the Yorkshire Cup, beating Leeds.
The city of Leeds had an abundance of rugby football clubs and although members of the Yorkshire RFU (which was in turn a Constituent Body of the RFU), it was decided to form a 'more local' association. It was for this reason that the Leeds & District organisation was formalised when a meeting took place at the Green Dragon Hotel, Leeds, on 27 September 1888. The foundation clubs were Bramley, Holbeck, Hunslet, Kirkstall, Leeds Parish Church, Leeds St John's (later to become Leeds), and Wortley.
In 1895, Hunslet were one of the twenty-one clubs that broke away from the Rugby Football Union, and joined the Northern Union. In 1897–98 Hunslet became Yorkshire Senior League Champions, and in the following season they reached the final of the Challenge Cup, going down 19–9 to Oldham.
1901-1920: All Four Cups
Billy Batten signed for Hunslet as a 17-year-old in 1905. In the 1905–06 Northern Rugby Football Union season, Hunslet won the first ever Yorkshire Cup, beating Halifax, 13–3. They were the first club to win All Four Cups, which they did in the 1907–08 season. Oldham had finished as league leaders but Hunslet beat them 12-2 in the Championship Final following an initial 7-7 draw. They changed their colours to chocolate and white after this feat. Powered by a pack known as the Terrible Six, Hunslet were led by Albert Goldthorpe, already in his late thirties but a dominant figure in the early years of the code. Many players left Parkside following this success either being transferred to other clubs or going into retirement.
After a dispute about pay, Billy Batten was transferred to Hull in 1912. He was transferred to Hull F.C. for the then record sum of £600. 1912 also say the introduction of the Lazenby Cup, awarded to the winner of an annual friendly against Leeds. In 1921, Harold Buck became the game's first £1,000 transfer when he moved from Hunslet to Leeds. According to some sources, the deal included a player in part exchange.
1920-1950Soon after the First World War Hunslet were at their lowest ever position in the league.
In 1924, the club's record attendance was set at 24,700 for a third round Challenge Cup match.
In 1927, Jack Walkington started a career as player until 1946 then as coach to 1960. In 1927–28 Harry Beverley, Leslie White, James "Jim" Traill, and Billy Thornton joined and prospects improved when they finished 4th in the league that season.
In the remaining years up to the 1930s, Hunslet had rather a lean period, until 1932 when they regained the Yorkshire League Trophy and made it to the final of the Yorkshire Cup. The 1931–32 season saw them win the Yorkshire League.
In the 1920s, the club had played in white jerseys, but the players used to steal them for work. Determined to prevent this happening, the club changed to coloured jerseys in 1932. They could not use the Leeds city colours as rivals Leeds wore those, so Hunslet decided to adopt the University of Leeds colours of myrtle, white and flame-red having been given new kit by the university.
Hunslet celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1933–34. The club did this in some style, beating Widnes at Wembley Stadium in the Challenge Cup Final. They were given a civic reception back in Leeds and toured with the cup.
Hunslet reached the RL Championship Final in 1938 meeting their neighbours Leeds in the only all-Leeds final. The match was played at the Elland Road football ground, to accommodate a huge demand from the city's rugby league supporters. Over 54,000 people watched the game, a then record for a match in England, Hunslet triumphed, 8–2, to take the title for the second time in the club's history.[https://web.archive.org/web/20080620235557/http://www.rugbyleagueoralhistory.co.uk/subjects/view/early-days]
In the late 1930s the club was doing well and played in front of large crowds. This wave of success was only halted by the Second World War. Hunslet dropped out of the wartime Yorkshire league in 1942–43 but returned to the competition in 1943–44.
Post-warHunslet stopped being a multi-sport members club with sections for bowls, cricket, athletics, social events, and other smaller sections in 1951 and became a limited company. The new status as rugby league club saw a decline in Parkside being used by other sports and other members of the community.
The Parksiders lost the 1956 Yorkshire Cup Final to Wakefield Trinity. Hunslet lost, 44–22, against St. Helens in the 1959 Championship Final at Odsal Stadium, Bradford.
In the late 1950s, Hunslet's fanbase went into decline as post-war slum clearances changed what had been a residential area into an industrial one. Despite this, in 1958, they paid £2,000 for Horace Grainger, making him the most expensive rugby league player of the era.[http://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/local-news/rugby-league-star-was-most-expensive-player-1-6493832]
The team's performances began to decline, reaching a low point in 1961–62 when they finished 25th and were relegated to the new second division. However, player-coach Fred Ward resurrected the team when he joined Hunslet at the start of the 1962–63 season. It was decided that the team never looked that imposing in green and a decision was made to go back to white, this time with two chocolate hoops. In his first season, Hunslet won the Second Division Championship and secured a position in the top division as well as winning the 1962 Yorkshire County Cup Final over Hull Kingston Rovers.
Hunslet lost in the 1965 Yorkshire Cup final against Bradford Northern and that same year reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup. To avoid going on black and white television against Wakefield Trinity, who also wore hoops in the middle of their jerseys, the club got a strip with a chocolate V. They won the semi-final and went to Wembley with it, stitching green blazer badges to the jerseys. They lost the final narrowly, 20–16, to Wigan. The side were again split up by transfers and retirements. Just two years later in 1967 the dream was over. Attendances continued to decline partly because of further slum clearances and factory closures. The last four home games of 1969–70 attracted attendances of less than 1,000 each. Ward left the club and with that the club entered free fall.
1970-1973: DisbandmentOn the eve of the 1970–71 season the players were told they were going to have their wages cut, and because they had not had a rise for eight years they went on strike. Under threat of the club being closed the players eventually backed down. However, after one game they again went on strike. Players retired or went on the transfer list and the team dropped down the league.
Parkside's stand was burned down by vandals in 1971. Parkside was then sold off to an industrial developer for around £300,000 in 1972. The last game at Parkside was on 21 April 1973 against York. Parkside was demolished and Hunslet became tenants at the Elland Road Greyhound Stadium. In July 1973 the club announced the winding-up of Hunslet RLFC because no suitable new location could be found that was financially viable. The £300,000 proceeds of the sale of Parkside were distributed to shareholders.