The pit, the players, triumphs and tragedies ... 140 years of Kiveton Park FC

The pit, the players, triumphs and tragedies ... 140 years of Kiveton Park FC

By David Beddows | 12/11/2021

The pit, the players, triumphs and tragedies ... 140 years of Kiveton Park FC
Kiveton Park FC team in 1962/63 season

 

ITS history runs as deep as the mine shafts from which so many of its players have emerged down the years.

It has survived two world wars, played in the FA Cup, won trophies and produced more than its fair share of professional footballers.


Kiveton Park FC is a true survivor of the local football landscape and this year it celebrates its 140th anniversary.


Not many grassroots clubs date back as far. In fact, Kiveton can lay a strong claim to being among the ten oldest clubs of its kind in Yorkshire.


1877 saw the first record of football being played in the village when Kiveton took on their neighbours from Anston.


Four years later, in 1881, Kiveton Park FC was formed and played its first recorded match on October 15.


The club reflected its surroundings — a working class pit village where football provided a release from the drudgery of everyday life.


“Football was an escape for players back then,” says Lee Hicklin, the club's historian.


“In Kiveton you went down the pit, that was it, so if you had the chance of doing something different then you took it.


“I think that is why so many young lads worked their socks off to try and improve their game so they wouldn't have to go down the pit. That's also why so many ending up going into the professional ranks.”

Archive picture of Hard Lane football ground.

As the club began to hit full stride in the 1890s, winning the old Hatchard Cup twice, the first future heroes emerged.


Brothers Herbert and Harry Chapman, Kiveton born and bred, both played for the club at this time.


Herbert went on to become one of the most successful managers in history due to his exploits at Arsenal, while Harry became a legend at Sheffield Wednesday, winning the FA Cup in 1907. Herbert's nephew, Ken, still lives in nearby Wales.


An article in the Advertiser a few years ago stated that for its size Kiveton produced more professional footballers than any other club in the country, pro rata.


Lee explained: “Mining villages in particular had teams that attracted really big crowds and there would be representatives from league clubs there, checking out the latest young player. Kiveton was always relied upon.”


Many other notables started their football journies there.


They include Herbert Morley, who went to play for England, Leslie Hofton — a league winner with Manchester United — USA international Ted Gillen and dozens of others who went into the Football League.


In 1883 the club affiliated with the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA — an affiliation it has held ever since.


In 1891/92 it joined the Sheffield and District League and won the Sheffield Minor Cup.


During World War One, the club was touched by tragedy when six playing members were killed in battle (another was killed during World War Two).


“These were young lads of 18 or 19 who worked down the pit and fancied a game of football on a Saturday afternoon,” said Lee. “For them to end up losing their lives on the front line in France is tragic.


“A plaque in our new clubhouse commemorates their loss.”


By the early 1920s the club had settled at Hard Lane and times were good.


Not long after the war, in the 1920/21 season, Kiveton made their debut in the FA Cup and two years later reached the third and final qualifying round before losing to Rotherham Town — forerunners of Rotherham United — at Clifton Lane.


The crowd was thought to be in the thousands and the underdogs missed out on a date with Halifax Town in the next round and a nice little pay day.


Kiveton Park entered the FA Cup a few times, the last time around 1970.


In 1923 came a name change to Kiveton Park Colliery, with whom the football club would become more aligned over the next few decades.

 


A move into the Yorkshire League followed in 1949 and in 1972 Kiveton won the Sheffield Senior Cup for the only time.


In 1981 they got to the quarter-finals of the FA Vase, beating Warrington Town and North Ferriby United.


A year later, Kiveton became founder members of the Northern Counties East League but more troubled times were looming.


In 1991 the club was kicked out of the NCEL because of the poor state of Hard Lane, not helped by the downturn in the coal industry.


Three years later the pit closed, almost killing the village.


“When the pit shut, the club pretty much went into hibernation for a few years,” said Lee. “It just couldn't run any more. With Kiveton being a pit village, the club relied so much on the pit.


“It was called Kiveton Park Colliery FC for so long because it was pretty much dependant on the colliery for players. It also provided the groundsman etc.
“At the time, Hard Lane suffered with vandalism and the club kind of died a death.”


Thankfully, Kiveton Park has re-awoken since and has laid down stronger roots arguably than the club of old.


Players are drawn from different professions and youth teams formed, so much so that by 2017 the club had outgrown Hard Lane.


It moved to the wide open playing fields at Wales High School, which has the room to grow and prosper.


“Since the move, we have become a far bigger club catering for far more teams,” says Lee. “We now have over 20 teams and 300 players on our books.


“The men's first team play in the County Senior League and have ambitions to move up higher and eventually play in the FA Cup again in future.


“There are plans in place to build a new 3G pitch which would be a great boost for the club, school and community. We opened our first ever clubhouse this summer.”


It's comforting that 140 years since those colliers first kicked a ball in an organised match in Kiveton, football in the village has reinvented itself.


With its legions of young players, Kiveton hopes to bring through more talents who go on to play professionally and maybe even make their mark on the game in other ways.


Thanks to people like Lee, the new generation will be reminded of the club's past and of men like Herbert and Harry Chapman.


As Lee Hicklin says: “For a little village football club we've not done too badly.”

 

 

HARD Lane, which stood in the shadow of the old Kiveton Park Colliery, was the local football club's home for a century.


“Back in the day crowds would be in their hundreds,” says Kiveton Park FC historian Lee Hicklin. “Spectators would be lined all the way around the pitch.


“It was only in the 1960s and 70s that the crowds started to dwindle. It became harder and harder to run a team.”


Hard Lane is still in use today but Kiveton Park FC has made its home in more spacious surroundings at Wath High School.


“It was a bit of a wrench to move because Hard Lane was our home for 100 years,” said Lee.


“It was a really good home but only when we had one team. When we started running more junior teams it became a bit cramped. There are seven or eight pitches and plenty of parking as well as a clubhouse at Wales, which we never had at Hard Lane, and now we're a charity it enables us to apply for funding to take the club further forward.”