In my lifetime the sport of Rugby Union has never been played at any level in Dewsbury.
The neighbouring towns of Cleckheaton, Morley and Ossett have clubs – indeed Cleckheaton & Morley have long proud histories.
However, Dewsbury, like most other Rugby League clubs, have their roots in the other code.
The great split of 1895 is well documented. A group of clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire broke away from the RFU to form the Northern Union, and the Northern Union quickly became Rugby League.
Dewsbury first played at Crown Flatt as a Rugby Union club in 1876, when they were known as Dewsbury & Savile.
1881 was a landmark year as the club won the Yorkshire Cup &and staged the Yorkshire v Cheshire game.
Crown Flatt was increasing in stature and a significant day in Rugby history was staged at the ground on 15th February 1890 – England v Wales.
Yes, international Rugby Union at Crown Flatt!
When I posted about this on social media many months ago, many people were shocked and surprised.
It seems to be one of those auspicious happenings that not many are aware of, and the game was quite historic as Wales gained their first ever victory against England.
Fittingly, the most significant man on the field was a Dewsbury player – half-Back Bill Stadden.
Where do you start with Bill Stadden? This guy is worth a book about himself!
The game was played in a snowstorm on a quagmire of a pitch, and the foul weather reduced the crowd to 4,000, which proved a blow to a number of ticket touts.
It is said that one tout bought 1,000 tickets at eight pence each on the day before the game and had to sell them at two pence each in the run up to kick-off!
Back to Bill Stadden. He had played for the Canton and Cardiff clubs in his native Wales before moving to Dewsbury. He was actually the first Welsh player to sign for an English club.
This resulted in the first of several things to upset the England captain A.E. Stoddart and the English hierarchy – the Dewsbury fans present supported Stadden and Wales.
Stoddart clearly objected to this and said the ground was an insult to both teams.
Many said that the bitterness of Stoddart was because of the unpatriotic attitude of the crowd, whilst one newspaper declared: “It will be a very far cry indeed to the next international at Dewsbury”.
Needless to say the only try of the match to clinch victory for Wales was scored by… Bill Stadden!
Stadden won eight caps for Wales over a period of seven years.
His full name was William James Wood ‘Buller’ Stadden and he was born in 1861.
He was a butcher in Dewsbury town centre but sadly the end of his life was shrouded in sadness.
On Christmas night in 1906 he strangled his wife to her death.
His five children and a lodger were present in the house. Stadden surrendered himself to the police and three days later committed suicide at the age of 45.
Dewsbury reformed as a rugby club in 1898 and joined the Northern Union, so, after staging one of the greatest moments in Welsh rugby union history, the town was now staunch rugby league territory and has been ever since.