Morley & District Family History Group



Robert 'Bobby' Peel

......Yorkshire and England cricketer was born in Churwell on 12th February 1857 , Bobby Peel commenced work at a young age at the Engine pit in the “Tanhouse” at Churwell. He became interested in cricket when his uncle, Mr. David Clark of “ Broomfield ”, Rooms Lane , gave him a bat. At only 16 years of age he gained a place in Churwell Cricket Club's second team and in the same season was promoted to the first eleven, ending his first season at the top of both the teams' bowling averages. He refused to accept both prizes and gave the second team honours to the runner up. A regular member of Churwell’s first eleven for nine seasons his genius grew, his bowling, lethal to the best batsmen the local cricket leagues could provide, attracted many offers for his services. When he eventually became a huge success at the top levels of the game he never forgot his humble beginnings at his village club and always remained a staunch supporter of Churwell cricket, it was only by his efforts that the club survived the 1914/18 war. At 25 years of age he became a professional with Oldham, topping the bowling averages in the Lancashire League, and then on to a brilliant career with both Yorkshire and England . He made his debut for Yorkshire against Surrey at Sheffield in 1882 when he took 9 wickets for 29 runs.

Bobby Peel was primarily a bowler and, with his fine length, easy action and splendid command of spin, this sturdily built left-hander regularly took 100 wickets for Yorkshire with his "peculiar left-arm twisters." He played his first game for the County in 1882 and his last in 1897. His feats with the ball were prodigious and far too numerous to record in this brief biography, but here are some examples:-

He was often a match winner; in 1886 against Surrey at Sheffield his match figures were nine wickets for 15 runs and against Australia at Dewsbury, six for 41 runs.

Against Gloucester in 1890 he took 7 wickets for 27 runs and then hit 51 runs in 57 minutes.

In 1887 he took five Kent wickets for 14 runs in an innings and, with 43 runs off his bat in a low-scoring match, he was largely responsible for a victory by four wickets.

In the same season eleven Leicestershire wickets fell to him for 51 runs at Dewsbury, capturing five wickets for only 4 runs in the first innings.

The following year he took eight Nottinghamshire wickets in an innings for 12 runs.

In 1892 against Derbyshire at Leeds he captured five wickets for 7 runs in one innings and eight for 33 in the match.

That same year he scored 226 not out against Leicester .

He even topped that feat in 1895 against Somerset , fifteen wickets falling to him in 36 overs for 50 runs, nine for 22 in one innings caused a sensation.

At Halifax in 1897, a month before the end of his county career, he dismissed eight Kent batsmen in an innings for 53 runs, his match average being eleven for 85.

Robert Peel took a total of 1,550 wickets for Yorkshire , at an average of 15.09 runs. He was one of the finest all-rounders of any time; in addition to his bowling prowess he was a brilliant fieldsman, especially at cover-point, and a punishing left-handed batsman.

He scored 11,000 runs for the County, including 10 centuries.

To commemorate his highest score of 226 not out against Leicester at Bradford in July 1892, Bobby's supporters presented him with a suitably engraved gold watch. This marvellous memento is now a treasured possession of his granddaughter.

He reached 210 not out in 1896 in a Yorkshire score of 887, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, a total that remains a county match record. Peel and Lord Hawke added 292 for the eighth wicket.

Bobby’s feats with the ball were prodigious; he took a total of 1,550 wickets and scored 11,000 runs for Yorkshire .

He was Wisden’s “Cricketer of the Year” in 1889.

Bobby Peel’s career against the Australians was, to say the least, impressive he played for England in 20 Test matches against Australia , touring that country on four occasions, in 1884-5, 1887-8, 1891-2 and 1894-5. At Sydney in 1894 Australia needing 177 runs to win, scored 113 for the loss of two wickets. The next day sunshine followed a heavy rain storm and Bobby said to the England captain "Mr. Stoddart, gie me t'ball", and then, with the Lancashire left-hander Johnny Briggs, the remaining eight Australian batsmen were dismissed for only 53 runs, giving England an amazing victory by 10 runs. When he arrived back at Morley Top station in May 1885 he was met by a carriage and pair and the Morley Brass Band playing "See the Conquering Hero Comes". He was presented with a gold watch and an illuminated address, (Where are they now?). In 1896, at the Oval, Peel & J.T. Hearne, dismissed Australia for 44 runs. Peel's match analysis was eight for 53 and in the second innings his figures were six for 23 in 12 overs. This was the last match in which W.G. Grace led England to success over Australia .

Robert Peel's amazing full bowling return in first-class cricket was 1,754 wickets at 16.21 runs apiece.

His benefit match at Bradford, in 1894, amounted to £2,000, the equivalent today of the amazing figure of £100,000.

In a County match against Middlesex on 18th August 1897, at Bramall Lane, there was a confrontation between Mr. Peel and the Yorkshire captain, Lord Hawke, a strong disciplinarian. This led to Bobby Peel's suspension and the end of his first class career, much to the indignation and, indeed, fury of his friends, admirers and Yorkshire supporters.

The hero worship that surrounded Bobby was truly enormous. The famous Morley stage, film, and Shakespearean actor and matinee idol, Henry Ainley, who was educated in Churwell, was always a Yorkshire enthusiast, and he considered it the highlight of his life when he was allowed on one occasion to carry Peel's bag from Morley railway station to his home in Rooms Lane.

In 1898 Bobby Peel began a free-lance club career, he played for Accrington in the Lancashire League and eventually as professional for Morley. He was still enjoying his cricket when he was over sixty years of age, playing for Churwell. In 1918, at 61 years of age, he was a member of the Churwell team which reached the semi-final of the Heavy Woollen Cup, in this match against Heckmondwike it seemed Churwell would win until Bobby was unfortunately run out after scoring a magnificent 69 and the game was lost by 41 runs. After an exciting match there was a collection for Bobby in appreciation of his efforts, which amounted to £5. 13. 5d. Mr. Peel once said "I started my cricket career in Churwell and I will terminate it in Churwell."

In the early 1900’s he was the landlord of the Commercial Inn in his home village of Churwell, it is said he was responsible for the installation of the steps leading from the road to the door of the inn that had become difficult to reach because of previous road alterations.

In 1922 the Yorkshire Evening News employed him as a scout to spot the rising young cricketers in the County.

Bobby also enjoyed playing rugby and was a member of the Morley team in the early 1880's. On 14th February 1920 , at the remarkable age of 63, he took to the field as a three-quarter back for the "Old Maroons" in a charity game against Morley, to celebrate the reformation of the Morley R.U.F.C.

Mr.Robert "Bobby" Peel had married Miss Annie Laycock of Wortley at Batley Old Church on 20th April 1878, they had two sons and two daughters, one son, Bob, was killed in the 1914 -18 war. He spent his last years with one of his daughters, Mrs. Thackray of Victoria Road, but Bobby's interest in cricket never left him, he was always ready to coach youngsters, showing them how to hold the bat, play strokes, where to pitch the ball for a length and how to impart spin. They could not have had a finer teacher. He was also a regular visitor to Headingley to watch Yorkshire in action.

Mr. Peel, one of the best Yorkshire and England cricketers of all time and proud loyal “Chureller”, died, at the age of 84, at his daughter's home at 112, Victoria Road , Morley on Tuesday 12th August 1941 , and was interred at Morley Cemetery on Friday 15th August.

It is appropriate to conclude this potted biography with the following extract taken from Mr. Bob Dennis’s most valuable book “History On Your Doorstep, Churwell.” :-

“It has been pointed out that men and boys born on a hillside are least prone to tiredness by the very nature of their surroundings, this was certainly true of Bobby Peel. As a schoolboy the writer, with many other rabid Churwell cricket enthusiasts of the same age, made no bones about who was their hero. Now times have changed. No one any more expects a man over sixty to hammer a premier side like Altofts Colliery for 69 not out, or belt up to 89 runs against Heckmondwike in the heavy Woollen Cup Final.

When young Peel was playing round the parish-pump or larking wi’t lads int’ Tanhouse, he little thought that he would become the stuff of which history is made. Local History. National History. World History.”


information supplied by R Barraclough


Additional information :-

Robert Peel jnr, was born in Morley, the son of Robert and Annie Peel. He enlisted in nearby Dewsbury, joining the KOYLI and became Pte., 21973. He had also been connected with the London Regt., (Royal Fusiliers). Robert was KIA on 25 April 1918 aged 28. His family at that time were living at 69 Springfield Road, Morley. Robert is remembered on the Poziers Memorial along with over 14,500 other casualties whose final resting place is known only unto their God. Close by is the Poziers British Cemetery where over 2755 servicement rest, over 1,300 are unidentified.


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© Carol Sklinar

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