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Bygone Stanley - The Civil War


(extracts from 'God in Yemount 1644')

On the 20th day of May, 1643, the most noble and renowned Lord Fairfax, Lord General for the Parliamentary forces in the Wakefield & Stanley area, gave orders for a party of 1000 foot, three companies of Dragooners and 89 troops of horse should march from the garrisons of Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Howley.

Sir Thomas Fairfax was the Commander-in-Chief, the foot were commanded by Sergeant Major General Gifford and Sir William Fairfax, the other four by Sir Henry Fowles. Rowley was their rendevous where they all met on Saturday aforesaid. About 2 o'clock the next morning they all marched away and came to Stanley where two of the enemy's troops lay with Dragooners. That quarter was beaten up and about 24 prisoners taken there.

About 4 o'clock in the morning we came before Wakefield where, after some of the horses were beaten in the town, our foot with unspeakable courage beat the enemies from the hedges which they had lined with musketeers even into the town which they assaulted in two places - Warrengate and North Gate. After an hour and a half's fight our men recovered one of their pieces and turned it upon them and entered the town in both places at one and the same time. It is interesting to note that the fields in Stanley where the first skirmish was reported to have taken place were called the Gannonry, the Great Gun Croft and the Little Gun Croft. These were around Stanley Green. This research was done by B. N. Steele.

Now on a smaller scale we had a 'Civil War' in Stanley 187 years later which has already been described when the Stanley villagers waged war against the authorities for attempting to close the ancient Corpse Way.

Then another 'Civil War' which I remember - Stanley Nibs rugby team versus Sharlston on Rooks Nest Road in a cup-tie. The ground was packed to capacity; almost everyone in the village was present. The Sharlston team also had a good number of supporters; many had walked, some had come on cycles, and one bus for the team and officials. I was eight years of age and watched this match with my father. I remember most of the Stanley players, nearly all mine workers from the local pits. There was A. Burton, W. Parry, B. Smales, Nab Holt, Yates brothers, Holroyd, Ward. The Sharlston team were all mine workers from Sharlston colliery.

The kick-off was 2 p.m. Strong men faced each other; both teams were intent on winning and they had no mercy towards their opponents. The tackling was hard and ferocious and the referee had a difficult task keeping these two teams from tearing each other apart. The half-time score was 0-0. In the early part of the second half Billy Kale, one of the Stanley wingmen, took a pass from his own Line and ran the full length of the field to score under the posts at the Rooks Nest Road end. The Stanley spectators jumped and danced with joy and then there was a deathly hush - the referee had disallowed the try, judging that Billy had not grounded the ball but had bounced it.

The Stanley spectators shouted abuse at the referee; there was almost a riot equal to the Corpse Way rebellion of 1831, but the referee was unmoved. Soon all was forgiven and the game re-started. Stanley were quickly under attack and a strong young centre three-quarter named Seymour took a pass ten yards from the Stanley line and scored a try to the left of the goal posts. The Stanley supporters were stunned to silence; the Sharlston supporters were cheering and clapping but the referee had blown his whistle and ruled that the 'try' was from a forward pass. It was still 0-0 and this battle between the two villages continued. With only a few seconds from time, Nabber Holt, a Stanley player, took possession of the ball and calmly dropped a goal from 40 yards. The final whistle went; it was the last kick of the game and Stanley were winners by 2 pts to nil.

The players, who were covered with sweat, mud and blood, all shook hands with each other. The battle was over and they were all good friends. All the players then walked together to the headquarters for a bath - there were three large galvanised baths in the public house yard which had been filled with hot water, and 6 buckets of cold water which they threw over each other after the hot bath. These baths were out in the open, the only protection from the weather being a large tarpaulin hung on four poles as a temporary shelter. I was too young to go to the after-match reception, but they usually had pickled onions, pork pies and a few pints of good ale. Someone would play the piano and all would sing some good old rugby songs.

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