Colton Sports and Social Club creates an oasis of tranquility and utopia in an ever changing modern world

Back in 1927 players for Austhorpe Rangers dug out a farmer's field by themselves so they could play football on it.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 6:00 am

Fast forward almost 100 years and you get the sense that should that be the case - today's cohort would do the same.

In a village in east Leeds that has been beset by housing and retail development - there is one hub that is holding the community together, and retains what may be seen as dying values in the modern world.

For generations grandfathers, dads and sons and daughters have played cricket and football from Colton Sports and Social Club while relatives, friends and family members have looked on supporting from the sidelines with a pint - and into the night drinking, dancing, laughing sharing stories of the good old times.

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Andy Wright at Colton Institute Sports and Social Club.

During a visit to the club this week, some of these were shared with me but maybe not for printing.

That sense of fun, community, togetherness and social interaction came to an abrupt halt last March with the implementation of the first national lockdown.

But, the world is waking up and Colton wants its heart to beat again.

John Gibbons is the club secretary and has been involved since he relocated from Cheshire in the mid 1980s, and his now grown up son, wanted to play junior football.

Groundsman Graham Stalgis at Colton Institute Sports and Social Club getting the pitches ready for the re-starting of sport.

He said: "It was a village and they wanted to crate their own sporting community. Funding was non-existent, they used to do Christmas raffles and that is how they got the money together. As long as there is sports played on this land it will never be redeveloped for housing or anything else and that is in the constitution. That legacy is carried through to this day for the people that join."

In a housing market where a four bedroomed house can sell for £450,000, that security will stand the club in good stead, and adds to its charm because if ever there was a tale of two villages, Colton is one.

Its origins are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Coletun and references being a farm. In the old part of Colton these are still present with a quaint mix of farmhouses, agricultural conversions, cottages with lavender bushes over the doors and cherry blossom blowing over narrow country roads.

Even in 1956, the club buildings had no electric or water and the cricket teas were made by getting water from a stop tap below the ground, carrying it to the hut and boiling it on a Calor gas ring.

Park Road in the old part of the village of Colton.

Colton Methodist Church continues a faith tradition that has been present in the village since 1832 and is the buffer between old and new. For after that, there are swathes of new houses, estates and development - some 1700 when all said and done.

With that brings the need for suburban services and the din of the motorway rumbles in the background. A short drive away is the The Springs, a retail and leisure park development across 275 acres that is made up of an 800,000 sq ft business park with more than 60 businesses and a working population of 4,500 people. Within the development is 140 acres of parkland and public realm and 300 homes due for construction. Just off the A6120 ring road sits Colton Retail Park with high street and national brands such as Sainsbury's, Pets at Home, Argos, Next, Boots and McDonald's.

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A few years ago, Mr Gibbons says the club may have dropped off but with a new energy and committee, it is going from strength to strength.

Colton Retail Park which opened in the 1990s.

There are junior and senior cricket and football teams, a bowls club and tennis courts. Away from sport, the club hosts school parties, funerals, real ale festivals, quiz nights, coffee mornings, entertainment evenings and the village bonfire night celebrations.

He said: "We went through a lull to be perfectly honest but started getting stronger. People realised we were on the doorstep and what we do. A new committee was formed and we have gone from strength to strength. We have a local audience but have members from Barnsley that come up on a Sunday. You come here on a Sunday morning and the old guard are stood outside at ten to twelve and have been doing that for 30 years, now their children do that. That is the longevity."

Last year the club had more than 640 members and memberships have been up for renewal since April 12. Nearly every one has been renewed and the club has been inundated with requests on when new members can join.

Mr Gibbon added: "The first Monday that we could open we thought we would be quiet but we were talking some 85 members came and they were literally queuing out of the door. That continued for the rest of the week. Everybody said how great it was to get out and see people."

Andy Wright has been a member for near on 30 years after also getting involved when his then young son wanted to play cricket. It is some years since either of them played but the community that is based around Colton Sports and Social Club is what appeals.

He added: "My daughter got married here and we have built up a great circle of friends. We use this like you would a local pub. If you are sat on your own, someone will talk to you and I have just been sat with my grandson's school teacher - that is the sort of place we are in. It is a great asset to the Colton community, if this was not here...?"

Colton Methodist Church.
Michael Murphy steward at Colton Institute Sports and Social Club.