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The industrial city of Bradford, metropolis of the wool and textile trade, is part of the conurbation of Yorkshire textile towns on the eastern flank of the Pennine Chain. Situated in a large saucer of land, it is isolated from its neighbours by the surrounding hills and from these hills came the Royalists to lay seige to the town in 1642. They set up their cannon in Barkerend but the redoubtable folk of Bradford foiled their attempts to destroy the cathedral by protecting it with sacks packed with the wool from their mills. In 1800 steam power was introduced followed by the first power looms twenty-five years later. The men were hard working, tough Yorkshiremen and for their pleasure they walked out to Apperley Bridge, six miles north of Bradford, to play cricket. It was soon apparent that cricket would survive and it began to attract much support which led to the raising of a public subscription of £4,000 to lease some land from Mr Francis Sharp Powell much closer to the town. Work on the new ground commenced in 1879 and according to the Bradford Observer dated July 19, 1880, the ground was opened by Mayor Alderman Holden at 10.30 with a game between the Gentlemen and Players. Unfortunately this inaugural match appears to have been rained off and the first serious game was on the following day between Bradford and Castleton. This was J. W. Hudson's match for he took 5 for 15, including 4 wickets in 4 balls to record the first hat-trick at Bradford, and followed this by making the top score of 39 for the home side. A year later the county side moved in and with the exception of the periods of hostility they have continued without a break through to the 1980s. . In latter recent seasons the wicket was more often condemned than praised. Certainly the ball moved considerably during the morning of the first day but no more than occurs on any wicket with some green in it. To Yorkshire's consternation in 1965 Bailey and Knight had them badly in trouble at 44 for 7 by lunch, yet when Essex batted Smith and Barker tamed what had been a spiteful strip. Condemnation of any wicket can sometimes be traced back to a display of inept batting. Only six years after their initial game at Bradford, Yorkshire hammered 590 runs out of the Lancashire attack and now, 78 years later, it still remains the highest score in a single innings on this ground. Percy Holmes made 275 against Warwickshire in 1928 and nobody has yet topped his score. By 1932 Lancashire gained revenge for that 590 and dismissed the home team for their lowest ever score of 46 at Bradford.
It has been said of Yorkshire that they do not play cricket, they work at it, and the whole atmosphere of the Park Avenue ground is workmanlike. Every person in the ground is a critical observer and none is slow to express an opinion. Perhaps it is this intense and dedicated approach that once prompted the comment that a strong Yorkshire is England's best guarantee of a good Test side.
Although there were a few games in the 1990s, the last first-class game was in 1996 as poor attendances and spiraling upkeep costs forced Yorkshire to abandon their spiritual home. Although the academy remained, that too was relocated as increasing vandalism and financial difficulties made Bradford's future precarious.
The Bradford/Leeds UCCE made Bradford their home in 2000 and played some games there but the problems remained - one official said that they had to clear the outfield of syringes before they could play - and at the end of 2004 the university moved out.
The ground today is a shell of what is was and it seems unlikely to survive that much longer. It is a sad end for what was once one of the game's great spiritual homes.
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