Hunslet remembered
          
Skipping, hopscotch, whip and top (you used to chalk the top in your favourite colours). Boys had wood or metal hoops that they bowled along with a stick. Diablo Kick out ball. Hide and seek (“Hiddie”). Girls played buttons or "button a go": a square was drawn on the flags (pavement) against a wall, and marked into numbered squares. You took it in turns to throw about ten buttons and the next person wet their thumb and tried to retrieve them. Boys played taws or allies (marbles). They kept them in cotton draw-string bags.

Other games were tig, hide and seek and beddy. Boys would make bogies from old bits of wood and pram wheels.    

Carrie Stocks was born in 1932 and lived at Gill Place near Belinda Street
                       
During my childhood most of our leisure time took place on the streets, certainly outdoors. The games we played took a variety of forms, but they had several points which I think are important.

The participants decided on the rules of the game. I believe this helped us to understand how democratic society worked (or not: maybe you had a dictatorship where the strongest decided the rules, generally the oldest). This could take a good amount of time and argument, even with individuals sulking and not giving of their best when the game was played, stating their disagreement with a certain rule as reason why they could not perform.

The games were nearly always physical, therefore in my opinion qualifying as sport, and the amount of physical exercise involved seems tremendous compared with leisure pursuits today.

They were self-refereed, requiring a majority decision. For example if you were playing cricket, and there was a runout dispute, even if the fielding and batting side originally disagreed, the decision would go down on the side of probability so that the game could proceed.

The games were played on such terrible ground that skills were developed as a matter of course. If you were playing cricket in a cobbled street, then the ball would bounce anywhere, bowlers tried to pitch the ball on a cobbled edge, causing it to come off at an acute angle, while the batsman had to anticipate where it was going, every ball completely different.

There were lots of tremendously skilled young athletes around who never made it to professional standards later in life because they eventually succumbed to the pleasures of society, pubs, and of course, early marriage and its wage -earning responsibilities.

Football and cricket were played both in the street and in the local park, the Top Field or Red Wall, as we called it, still there today off Pepper Road. In 1952 I  fractured my right thigh in two places playing football in the Top Field and had to spend six weeks in Leeds General Infirmary with my leg in plaster, on my back in bed with my plastered leg hooked up on a pulley into the air, and had to have all my meals on my back, and use a bedpan for the toilet!

Anyone who owned a football was in a strong position, with plenty of friends who would knock on their door asking if they wanted a game. You didn't have to be good at the game, or a popular person, if you had some useful sporting equipment you would be wanted! The football of the day was a leather ball with an opening where a round inflatable bag, a bladder we called it, was placed. It then needed pumping up, and it took some force to do so. A leather lace was then used to tie it up; similar to a shoelace but stronger. Many a game had to be stopped when the ball deflated. The ball was very heavy and you had to have strong legs and an even stronger head, especially if it was wet. If it was muddy, as it frequently was, and you headed the ball, it drilled you into the ground and left you with a right headache! Some other balls of inferior quality were used, such as paper that was compressed and tied with string. These games didn't last very long! Goalposts were piles of coats to mark the width. The height had to be estimated and a decision taken whether it was a goal or not. Stones were placed for touchlines.

Anyone who got a good cricket bat for their birthday guarded it jealously and generally wouldn't lend it to anyone. We used to bounce them handle first on the ground to test the spring in them.

A three-springer was professional quality, we thought; the spring made the ball shoot off the bat much quicker and didn't reverberate down the handle and make your body shake like a skeleton. But usually, older bats were used. Wickets were usually a milk crate, or a pile of stones. The balls were tennis balls or sponge balls, proper cricket balls only being used when you became a teenager.
We once had a game with only three of us, with the occasional additional person arriving to field and bowl the odd over. The eldest boy was very good and batted for a day and a half of playing time: all morning till early evening, eventually declaring, then bowling both of us out a few times in half an hour, then batting again! In a street game we only had a corky ball (a proper cricket ball).
Six of us were playing across the width of our street when the batsman hit the ball, which soared for a six into a garden without a bounce, smashed through the living room window where the family were having their tea, bounced on the table smashing crockery. You've never seen a street empty faster. We dived down into the cellar spaces to hide. Of course we had to own up eventually and take a scolding and pay up for a new window out of our pocket money!

Marbles were played on the hollow, which was a triangular strip of flattened cinders (burnt coke) of about 50 yards each side. We called the game, and the marbles, taws. Marbles was the posh word which most definitely wasn't used in our neck of the woods! There were various games to be played, but they generally involved a hole in the ground about 3 inches across. Some were smaller and devilish to get the marble into; others were wide with sloping sides that you couldn't miss. You had to aim your marble by inserting it between your thumb and forefinger, then wanging your thumb to propel the marble into one of your opponent's and into the hole where it became the property of the winner. It was more complex than it sounds, involving a variety of hand positions and great skill to aim and get the correct power. Cannons were also used as in snooker. One simple game had a large hole and a line about 5 yards away. You had a challenge with, say, ten marbles, which you threw with one hand to get as many as you could in the hole. You then aimed with the other marble to knock the ones outside the hole in, until you missed. The marbles then outside the hole became the property of your opponent. A man, whom I shall call Old Man Smith, used to sit on the field wall, with a huge bag of marbles. He didn't do anything but sit there and accept challenges where kids would try to win marbles off him. He didn't participate, it was the kid's job to win off him. He didn't often lose.

Beddy was a game of equal sides picked by the leaders, who were the oldest, strongest and best players. Teams were picked, with the weakest left until last. A compound was created; for example, at school it was a corner of the playground making a square with chalk on the ground. The fielding team scattered and were given about ten seconds to get as far away as they could. Boundaries were established as to how far one could go before the game started. The other team then set about capturing individuals by tapping them three times on the head. The taps were sometimes quite violent, and the wrestling contests to stop being caught were huge, but once someone got hold of you it wasn't long before there were three or four and that was that. You were then taken to the compound. The only way you could be released was by one of your team getting a foot inside the compound and shouting “Beddy!” and then anyone caught in the compound could run free again.

        
  As the game progressed and more people were caught the compound was defended with more people until, finally, there was only one person free: as the aim of the game was to release your teammates everything then centred on the compound.
At school where the big games were played, there was a huge lad called Dave, head and shoulders above everyone else and built like a brick wall. He was always the last on his side and to see him charging over the playground with huge cheers from the captives and the defenders like little ants all over him was one of the lasting images of my schooldays. He generally managed to get his team out, and 20 or 30 captives would run whooping out and it all had to start again. When everyone was caught the capturing team then became the hunted.

Kick-out Ball had a similar theme to Beddy but there was just one person to capture the others. It was played with a smaller crowd of maybe six people, generally at night on the streets. A ball was placed in the middle of the street. The gaoler would count to fifty, the hunted hid in gardens or roamed nearby streets, hiding behind walls or whatever. If they were seen, the gaoler shouted their name and then it was a race to the ball. The gaoler had to touch the ball, the hunted to kick it down the street. Any captives could then escape. The races to get to the ball and the excitement of hiding made it a very good game. When there was just one free, again things came down to within 50 yards of the ball with the excitement at its highest.

Fives, which I believe is a sport and came out of the public schools, was another great physical and skilful game. It was played with a tennis ball or a spongy ball (not ideal because of the huge bounce) against the gable end of a house. A line was chalked as high as we could reach, the ball was hit above the line and was allowed one bounce before being hit back onto the wall. You could hit it with your fist or flat palm; fist was better. It was a street variation of squash or tennis. Of course you had the problem of the occasional car, when you had to stop, and the occupants of the house beyond the gable end weren't too chuffed either!

Whip and Top
was generally a favourite of younger children and girls around Whitsuntide, which was six weeks after Easter.
Church festivals were much more important in those days and holidays and celebrations tended to be bigger than they are today. At Whit your mother usually bought you a new clothes outfit - your Whitsy clothes which were your best clothes. You wore them on Whit Sunday and went round your relatives who would put sixpence in the top pocket of your jacket if you were a boy.
A whip consisted of a stick of wood with a thin strip of leather knotted at one end and threaded through a hole in the wood. The top was made of wood, about 20 to 30 cm round at one end, tapering to a point at the other with a groove just below the top. You found a piece of level ground like a piece of tarmac road, wrapped the leather round the groove and then holding the top in one hand and the whip in the other, close to the ground unless you were an expert, then let go of the top whilst flinging the whip the other way; this started the top spinning on the ground and you kept it going by repeatedly whipping the top, sometimes making it jump as much as a metre and following it around. One of the beauties of whip and top was that you coloured the top in chalk with different circles or whatever pattern you liked (circles were best) and when it started spinning you got the most wonderful sight like a kaleidoscope.

Geoff Tebbutt, who now lives in France,  was born in 1942 in the Peppers
Back to top
 
 
                               
Although Hunslet has always been more strongly associated with rugby league rather than soccer, it had a hand in the formation of the club that was to become Leeds United.
In 1889 employees of Leeds Steelworks formed a soccer club, known at first as "The Twinklers" and by 1894 as Hunslet FC. It became one of the strongest teams in West Yorkshire. They won the West Yorkshire Cup four times and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Amateur Cup twice, including a win in 1896 over Old Etonians who had previously won it. In 1898 the first competitive soccer match at Elland Road (which at that time was owned by Holbeck Rugby Club) saw Hunslet FC beat Harrogate 1-0 to win the Yorkshire Cup.

Hunslet FC had no ground of their own and had moved from the Ellington ground on Low Road to the Laburnum Ground at Parkside (next to the rugby ground) and then to the Nelson Ground on Low Road. In 1902 they lost the lease and disbanded.

In 1904 Holbeck Rugby Club folded. In the same year a meeting took place at the Griffin Hotel on Boar Lane, attended by former Hunslet FC men, amongst others. The result was a decision to establish Leeds City Association Football Club, the forerunner of Leeds United,  and to rent Elland Road. They played their first match there in 1904.

Source for Football: The Mighty Mighty Whites
 
Street games in the 1940s and 50s Football Street games in the 1930s and 40s
Games and sport (2)
Back to Games and sport (1)
You are here: Home > Daily Life > Games and sport (2)
A Country Life advertisement from 1949
.