Sure Gate Wilderspool

1922

The Northern Union changes its name to Rugby League.

 

1923

Two drawn games with Widnes in the Lancashire Cup led to a third being played at Wigan. Warrington eventually winning 13-2, before being overwhelmed by Swinton in the semi-final.

The Supporters Club is formed, with subscription of one shilling per annum. They had the object of "supporting in every possible way the best interests of the Warrington Football Club and Rugby Football League". The club was very successful raising £525 for Warrington in its first season. This money and over £1,500 given by Club officials helped to ease the financial position.

The Club made a number of signing to strengthen the side, including Arthur Child a winger from Wales, E. Catterall from Dewsbury, J. Donovan from Oldham and Fred Ryder. Ryder remained at Wilderspool for many years after his retirement as a player as trainer.

 

1924

Bill Cunliffe was selected for his second tour of Australasia. He was accompanied by Mr Edmund Osborne who had the honour of being selected as secretary manager. The tourists left England on 11th April and returned on 21st September. Cunliffe played in all three tests against Australia, making it seven appearances in a row. The first two tests were won 22 3 and 5-3, the last was lost 21-11. He also played in the first test against New Zealand which was lost 16-8.

In 1926 the Club's efforts in ground improvements are recognised by the Northern Rugby League when Wilderspool hosts its first Lancashire Cup Final

 

1925

Arthur Frowen a rugby union half back from the Midlands joined the Club, but he took over at fullback from Ben Jolley.

Two extra forty feet bays are added to each end of the main stand, to accommodate an extra 600. The Chairman of the Rugby League opened the extensions to the main stand. A loan of £700 from the British Rugby League helped to finance the cost. The Supporters Club raised money to provide covered accommodation on the Popular side of the ground. At that time there was no terracing (only ash bankings) anywhere to be seen. At the Fletcher Street end there was only a wooden hut which doubled as dressing rooms and a refreshment kiosk.

 

1926

Warrington had their most successful league season to date. A run of ten wins from Christmas Day help the side to finish second in the league table and make the top four play-offs for the first time. The Wirepullers reached the Championship Final by defeating Swinton 11-8. The Final at St Helens was lost 22-10 to Wigan. Peacock and Ryder scored tries and Catterall kicked 2 goals.

Mr Edmund Osborne was elected Chairman of the Rugby Football League.

A concrete wall was constructed all round the playing area, to completely enclose the pitch.

In October, Warrington beat the second New Zealand tourists 17-5, in front of a modest crowd of 5,000. Flynn (2), Tranter, Parry and Green scored the tries and Catterall kicked a goal.

The Club's efforts in ground improvements are recognised by the Northern Rugby League when Wilderspool hosts its first Lancashire Cup Final. A crowd of 19,439 braved the elements to witness St Helens beat local rivals St Helens Recs 10-2, after a great battle.

In December Jack Miller made the first of his 526 appearances for Warrington.

1927

Wilderspool was chosen to host the Rugby League Championship Final. Swinton defeated St Helens Recs 13-8, in front of 24,432 spectators. The game and the gate exceeded all expectations and Wilderspool clearly established itself as a suitable venue for such occasions.

The Supporters Club presented the Club with an imposing new scoreboard.

Wilderspool was again honoured, this time by hosting the Lancashire v Yorkshire county match. The match was one of the finest exhibitions of rugby seen at the ground.

In November Dai Davies is signed from Broughton Rangers for £750.

 

1928

Canon Bardsley plotting a cup victory

On 1st January Billy Holding joined from Maryport, for £175, after trials in the "A" team.

A very poor league season was brightened by a good run in the Challenge Cup. Wins over Kinsley, Hull KR and Huddersfield were followed by a tremendous victory over Leeds in the semi-final, with Kirk scoring the only try of the match.

Thus Warrington appeared in the last Challenge Cup Final before its move to Wembley. The Club lost 5-3 to Swinton, at Central Park, Wigan, in front of 33,909 spectators. Despite an injury to W. Kirk, Warrington fought heroically before finally submitting to defeat in a gruelling game. Seeling scored the Warrington try.

Billy and Tommy Cunliffe's joint testimonial raised £187 17s 8d each.

Mr Edmund Osborne was again selected as secretary manager of the Great Britain tour of Australia.

September sees Warrington pay £600 to Broughton Rangers for centre Billy Dingsdale.

Wilderspool again hosts the Lancashire Cup Final, and attracts a crowd of 19,000 who witness Wigan beat Widnes 5-4.

On Boxing Day Jimmy Tranter makes his 439th and final appearance for the Club at Rochdale Hornets, he scored 120 tries for Warrington. This match was one of eleven successive wins to recover from a mediocre start to the season to move up the table.

 

1929

Lancashire Cup Winners at the Town Hall

In January Warrington score 100 points against Bradford Northern in two league matches. Dingsdale scored four tries in each match and Blinkhorn scored 40 points.

Warrington beat Leeds 8-0 in the first round of the Challenge Cup in one of the finest matches seen at Wilderspool. It was a ding-dong struggle from beginning to end. Flynn and Blinkhorn scored the tries, with the latter also kicking a goal.

A Top Four finished was denied by defeats in the last two matches of the season to mid table sides Dewsbury and St Helens.

The first Challenge Cup final at Wembley was played out between Wigan and Dewsbury, the latter had won at Wilderspool in the third round. The Club organised a special train down to London for the final, and more than 500 supporters made the journey. Lord Daresbury a Warrington vice president presented the Cup and the medals.

An extra bay was built to the main stand at the railway end.

Bob Anderton replaced Edmund Osborne as the Club's representative on the Rugby League Council, after the latter retires.

A record crowd for a Lancashire match, as 22,739 see the county side lose 14-29 to Australia in September.

Warrington win their second Lancashire Cup by beating Salford 15-2 at Wigan, before a crowd of 21,012. Kirk, Meridith and Blinkhorn scored tries and Holding kicked three goals. It had taken narrow wins over Leigh, Barrow and Oldham for Warrington to reach the final.

In December Tubby Thompson scores all Warrington's points, 3 tries and 4 goals, as they defeat Australia 17-8. Griffiths a Welsh triallist made his debut at stand off and was subsequently signed by the Club. Warrington were without Davies, Flynn, Meredith and Holding who were on County duty.

 

1930

Once again a Challenge Cup semi-final was held at Wilderspool. A ground record crowd of 25,500 saw eventual winners Widnes win through 10-3 against Barrow.

Three defeats and a draw in the last five matches again saw Warrington just miss out on a play-off place. An open style of rugby saw three of the three-quarters score over twenty tries, Dingsdale 25, Thompson 22 and Blinkhorn 21.

With a record four representative matches in the season attracting over 71,000 spectators Wilderspool had rightly earned the title of "Sure Gate Venue". Without doubt Warrington had one of the most loyal sets of supporters in the Rugby League.

Great Britain hooker Nat Bentham was signed from Halifax. He played in the first two Tests against Australia as a Halifax player and the final two as Warrington player. He was joined in the first two Tests by Billy Dingsdale and Tom Blinkhorn in the final deciding Test, which Great Britain won 3-0. Bill Shankland played standoff for Australia in all four Tests scoring three tries.

A civic reception for the 1929 Lancashire Cup winning side

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Sure Gate Wilderspool - 1922 to 1945

1931

Warrington started their Challenge Cup campaign with a plum tie against Wigan at Wilderspool. A pulsating match which saw Warrington withstand a late onslaught from Wigan was played out before a ground record crowd of 27,100. Warrington clinched victory in the last minute 16-12.

St Helens Recs. and Wigan Highfield were beaten as Warrington progressed to the semi-final. The Wire missed out on the chance of a Wembley Challenge Cup Final by losing to unfancied York 15-5 at Headingley.

A season high in hopes finished in disappointment saw Billy Holding become the first Warrington player to kick 100 goals in a season.

The Club was rocked by the deaths of two stalwarts, committee man and former Great Britain prop, Arthur Skelhorn and vice president Thomas Pemberton, who had been the Club's treasurer for 37 years.

In July 1931, Warrington sign Australians Bill Shankland for £550 and Nelson Hardy for £400. More than 2,000 supporters are at Bank Quay station to greet Shankland. Shankland made a try scoring debut against St Helens Recreation on 29th August. Secretary Bob Anderton was responsible for bringing the Australian pair to Warrington.

The improvements to the main stand continue when a further bay is added.

The 1932/33 Lancashire Cup winning side, Bill Shankland is in the centre holding the ball.

 

1932

The first ever rugby league match to be broadcast on the radio is the Wilderspool clash between Warrington and Halifax, on 2nd January. Halifax won 2-0.

Billy Dingsdale was selected for the Great Britain touring side to Australasia, and he was accompanied by Club secretary Bob Anderton who was Business Manager.

Warrington achieved success again in the Lancashire Cup. They defeated Barrow, St Helens Recs., and Wigan to reach a final with St Helens. The Cup,was won 10-9 before a record crowd of 28,500 at Wigan. Dai Davies scored the first try and Tubby Thompson the second with Billy Holding kicking two goals.

 

1933

Victories against Leigh, Batley and a thriller at Wigan put Warrington through to the semi final of the Challenge Cup. Then St Helens were defeated 11-5 at Swinton to take Warrington to Wembley for the first time. Thompson scored the try and Holding kicked 4 goals.

In April winger Tubby Thompson scored six tries at Wilderspool as Warrington defeat Bradford Northern 38-12.

Warrington make their first appearance at Wembley but lose 21-17 to Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup Final. Dai Davies twice and Billy Dingsdale score the Warrington tries and Billy Holding kicked four goals. The cup was presented by the Prince of Wales.

Warrington missed out on the play-offs despite finishing level on points with the third and fourth placed teams. The Club scored a record 151 goals and 160 tries for a total of 782 points. Welsh winger, Steve Ray established a new try scoring record for the Club with 33. Full-back Billy Holding kicked a record 125 goals and scored 256 points. Another record was to beat both St Helens and Wigan four times each during the season.

The famous Wilderspool players' tunnel was built by the groundstaff and four of the players, Billy Holding, Nat Bentham, Tommy Flynn and Dai Davies, all of whom were miners.

In September Lancashire lost 33-7 to the touring Australians at Wilderspool before a crowd of 16,576. The following month Jack Miller made his Great Britain debut at prop in a 4-0 victory over Australia at Belle Vue, Manchester. He kept his place for the remaining two tests which were won 7-5 and 19-16. Billy Dingsdale also played centre in the second test. J.T. Woods who played wing to Dingsdale was later signed by Warrington from Barrow.

Warrington won a thrilling match against the tourists 15-12. A crowd of 16,431 gain their fourth win against a touring side from Australia. Second row "Candy" Evans scored two tries and winger Garrett one with three goals from Holding.

 

1934

On 13 January the new changing rooms under the main stand were opened by Councillor A. Crowe, the club president and Mayor of Warrington. Warrington went on to beat Hull 16-8.

The chance of return to Wembley disappeared with a second round Challenge Cup defeat in London. A crowd of 3,000 saw Warrington lose to London Highfield 5-19.

In March Wilderspool played host to a Rugby League XIII against a French Rugby League touring side.

Unrelenting rain did not prevent a crowd of over 11,000 watch the first representative match against a team from France. The Rugby League XIII defeated Jean Galia's tourists 32-16.

Wilderspool was for the second and last time the venue for the Rugby League Championship Final. Wigan defeat Salford 15-3 to take the title in front of 31,564 spectators.

In May Warrington lost to Wigan 32-19 in an exhibition match in Dublin.

In the summer giant second row forward Jack Arkwright joined Warrington from his home town club, St Helens. He became a feared and dominant figure in the Warrington pack of the 1930s.

Trainer Billy Bennett and long standing Club Secretary Bob Anderton check the players boots at a training session before the Wembley final.

 

1935

In January Bill Baxter captained a 16 man Northern RL squad on a three match tour of France.

The Northern Union won all three matches against Lyons, South East France and Roanne.

A highly successful league season saw Warrington finish in second place, two points behind Swinton. Warrington defeated Wigan 9-0 in the play-offs at Wilderspool, thanks to a try try from Goodall, two goals from Holding and a goal from Newcombe. The Championship Final at Wigan was lost 3-14 to Swinton. Dingsdale scored a try and former Great Britain hooker Nat Bentham was dismissed in his final match before his retirement.

Wilderspool staged the Lancashire Cup Final, when Salford defeated Wigan 15-7, before 16,500 spectators.

In November Dave Cotton joined Warrington from St Helens.

 

1936

Checking the players boots at Wembley

Despite a disappointing league season, Warrington again reached Wembley. Good wins over

Barrow and Halifax (after a replay) brought Wigan to Wilderspool. A thrilling third round tie was won 5-2, with scrum-half Goodall scoring a try and Flannery kicking a goal. An injury-hit Warrington played brilliantly to defeat cup favourites Salford at Wigan in the semi-final. Goodall scored a try and Flannery and Arkwright kicked the goals in a 7-2 victory.

There was high expectation for Warrington's second visit to Wembley, only to lose 18-2 to Leeds in the Challenge Cup Final. Warrington dominated possession but only had a Bill Shankland goal to show for their efforts. Remarkably Warrington had a different full-back in each of round of the cup, five in total. One of those was Harry Palin who made his debut, he was dropped for the next round and was transferred to Swinton.

Bob Anderton is again Business Manager of the tour of Australia. He is accompanied by props Jack "Cod" Miller and Jack Arkwright. Miller played in the first Test against Australia, which was lost and Arkwright replaced him for the final two which were both won. Arkwright was sent off in the second for flooring Aussie hard man Stehr, who also was sent off. Miller played in both of the Test wins over New Zealand and Arkwright one.

Former Swinton star winger Chris Brockbank became Wires first team manager. He had been coach of Huddersfield on their Wembley visits of 1933 and 1935, he was coaching Bradford Park Avenue soccer club when Warrington lured him back to rugby league.

On 10th October Warrington won at Streatham & Mitcham 8-5. This proved to be their last visit to the London club as they folded and withdrew from the league.

Wilderspool again sees Salford win the Lancashire Cup when they beat Wigan 5-2. 17,500 people witness the repeat final.

Kangaroo captain Dave Brown signed a four year contract to join Warrington. He became the highest paid player in the game, he received a £1,000 signing on fee plus £3 per week an £6 a match. Brown has always been rated by the Australians as one of their greatest ever centres. He always wore a scrum cap, having gone bald at 18.

In 1929 Warrington beat Leeds 8-0 in the first round of the Challenge Cup in one of the finest matches seen at Wilderspool.

 

1937

Warrington were losing 0-4 when their February visit to Bradford was abandoned after 34 minutes. The replayed match was won 14-2.

Wilderspool staged its fourth and final Challenge Cup semi-final, when Widnes beat Wigan 13-9. A crowd of 29,260 paid £1,972 to watch the match.

Another excellent league season saw Warrington again finish second, this time two points behind Salford. Leeds were beaten in the Top Four play-off match at Wilderspool, 12-2, with two Dingsdale tries and three goals from Holding. The Championship final was a tremendous game against Salford at Wigan. Hooker Cotton scored a try, Holding kicked two goals and Shankland and Welsby one each as Salford scored late in the game to win 13-11. Warrington put up a great fight and had to cope with injuries to Brown and Holding.

In the summer, Ivor Bennett a Welsh Rugby Union international forward signed for Warrington from Aberavon. Other notable signings were winger, Mel de Lloyd and scrum half, Cueto.

In October, Warrington break the transfer fee record by paying Liverpool Stanley £1,450 for international fullback Billy Belshaw.

Warrington win the Lancashire Cup when they defeat Barrow 8-4. 14,000 spectators witness the final at Wigan. This was despite playing most of the match with 12 players after the early dismissal of Jack Miller. Australian centre Dave Brown scored two tries and compatriot, Bill Shankland kicked a goal. Warrington won the Lancashire Cup despite only scoring 15 points in the competition.

The Australians once again visited Wilderspool twice on their tour and lost on both occasions. They first lost 5-7 to Lancashire before a crowd of 16,250, the highest attendance outside the Test matches. Then on 27 November Warrington defeated the Kangaroos 8-6 in front of a crowd of 12,637. Davies and Cueto scored the tries and Shankland kicked a goal.

 

1938

The Good Friday clash with Widnes at Wilderspool turns out to be Bill Shankland's final match in the Primrose and Blue. Warrington went down to a disappointing 4-8 defeat.

Another good league season saw Warrington finish fifth, just outside a play-off position.

The Wardonia Cup, donated by a local firm for charity matches is first played for between Warrington and Wigan. The first match is won on the toss of a coin.

Billy Holding kicks his 834th and final goal for the Club, he is still second on the all time goal kicking list for Warrington and fourth on the points list with 1,686.

The Boxing Day clash with Leigh was abandoned after 54 minutes with the scores level at 8-8. The match is replayed at the end of the season and Warrington thrash Leigh 30-0, with Izzy Davies scoring 5 tries. Davies also scored 4 tries at Leigh.

 

1939

Albert Johnson made his Wire debut against Halifax at Wilderspool in January.

A season of much promise failed to live up to expectations with a seventh place league finish and disappointing defeats in the cups. Winger Izzy Davies did create a new try scoring record with 34 tries in the 1938/9 season.

Bill Shankland finished 3rd in the British Open golf championship at St Andrews.

The 1939/40 season is abandoned after only three matches as War is declared. Warrington continue to play in the Lancashire section of the War Emergency League, which commenced on 28 September.

 

1940

Tunnel being built by the groundstaff and four of the players, Billy Holding, Nat Bentham, Tommy Flynn and Dai Davies, all of whom were miners.

In May summer rugby is introduced when the Lancashire Summer Competition is formed. Warrington play Wigan twice in the Summer League - East before the competition is abandoned.

Ernie Brookes, Warrington's first Great Britain International player, died on 27 July. He had been the stand-off and a key member to the successful Wirepullers team in the early part of the century.

On 14 September as Warrington are playing Broughton Rangers at Wilderspool, a German Aircraft bombs Thames Board Mills, at Arpley Meadows, less than a mile away. A number of people were killed at the factory family day on the playing fields.

On 23 October, Jackie Fish, Warrington's great hero before the Great War died at the age of 61. His exploits that thrilled the fans in those early years remain part of Wilderspool's rich history.

Rugby at Wilderspool ceases after a 19-2 win over Oldham on 28 December. The ground is requisitioned for storage purposes by the United States Air Force establishment based at Burtonwood. The Club went into hibernation for five years.

 

 

1942

In January Mel De Lloyd was suspended sine die for striking the referee, whilst guesting for Keighley. He was sent off for disputing a decision and then he hit the referee. The suspension was lifted ten months later.

The Club is incorporated into a Limited Company, Warrington Football Club Ltd, with 10,000 £1 shares issued.

Bob Anderton was elected as Chairman of the Rugby Football League, a position he held for three years.

 

1943

The Rugby Football Union allowed Rugby League players to play rugby union during wartime. In January Northern Command played a rugby league v rugby union game at Headingley. 8,000 spectators turned up to watch the league side win 18-11, the match was played under rugby union rules. Bill Chapman of Warrington was in the back row with Trevor Foster.

 

1944

Bill Chapman also played in the second rugby league v rugby union game at Odsal in April. Once again played under rugby union rules, the League team won 15-10.

 

1945

Jack Miller and Ossie Peake, won Challenge Cup winners medals whilst guesting for Huddersfield. They played in both legs against Bradford Northern, which Huddersfield won 7-4 and 6-5. Peake scored the only try of the first leg.

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