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Rhodes 'crown jewels' for Yorkshire Museum

— 20 December 2010

A “priceless” treasure trove of cricket memorabilia which belonged to Wilfred Rhodes, one of Yorkshire and England’s greatest ever players, has been gifted to the county club.

Rhodes’s granddaughter, Mrs. Margaret Garton, presented the huge collection to Yorkshire only a matter of weeks after the completion of the £300,000 cricket museum at Headingley Carnegie - which is due to be officially opened in March.

It contains 293 separate items, including a photograph album with 305 snaps taken by Rhodes himself on his cricket travels to India in the 1920s and which have never been seen before outside his family…but the piece de resistance is an autograph album with the players’ signatures from 45 Test and county teams Rhodes played against.

In a remarkable career stretching from 1898 to 1930 Rhodes captured a record 3,598 wickets for Yorkshire – 1,117 more than his nearest rival and teammate, George Hirst who, like Rhodes, was born in Kirkheaton, Huddersfield.

Rhodes, who moved from No. 11 in the batting order to open the innings, is also fifth in the list of Yorkshire’s heaviest run-scorers of all time with 31,075 runs and 46 centuries. For England the demon all-rounder bagged 127 wickets in 58 Tests, and scored 2,325 runs.

An inventory of each item in the amazing collection has been meticulously prepared for Yorkshire’s Archives Committee by the Club’s longstanding member, Ron Deaton, an expert on cricket memorabilia: “I have never seen anything like this before. It is just a dream,” Ron said. “It is an honour and a privilege to have spent six weeks sifting through it all, and it must be one of the most wonderful collections in existence.

“There are thousands of pieces of paper in all, and every item is an absolute treasure. For me, it is like looking at the crown jewels. The cricket-loving community throughout the world will be fascinated by this collection, as will all Yorkshire members and fans. It is the crème-de-la-crème of cricketing memorabilia from the greatest Yorkshire cricketer of the 20th Century.”

As well as the autograph book, which contains the signatures of all the county teams of the 1908 season, there are other items of major significance - including five cricket balls, some with shield-shaped silver plaques, which were presented to Rhodes after some of his most outstanding achievements.

They are the balls in use for his 100th Test wicket at Adelaide in 1922; his first-wicket record Test stand of 221 with Jack Hobbs in Cape Town in 1910; his hat-trick for Yorkshire v. Derbyshire at Derby in 1920; his wicket with his very first delivery on England’s tour of Australia in 1903, and his career-best figures of 18.4-10-24-9 for CI Thornton’s XI v. The Australians at Scarborough in 1899.

In perfect condition is a large leather casket, shaped like a cricket ball, which was presented to Rhodes by Lord Hawke, then Yorkshire President, on Rhodes’s retirement from First Class cricket at the Scarborough Jubilee Festival in 1930.

Filled with chocolates at the time, it was handed over by Hawke on behalf of Rowntrees of York in appreciation of his great career. Also preserved is the newspaper cutting and photograph of the event which appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Press on Saturday, September 13, 1930.

In addition to their importance as cricket memorabilia, Rhodes’s snapshots offer a fascinating insight into the times in which he lived, particularly his photographs of India, one of which shows an elephant pulling the roller over a cricket square.

“One of Wilfred’s great hobbies was photography,” Ron said, “and when he was married he converted an attic into a photographic studio at his home in Marsh Grove Road, Huddersfield. This is where he would have developed all the photographs which form his collection.”

Rhodes and his wife had one child, a daughter, Muriel. She married Thomas Burnley, and they had two children, Wilfred Rhodes Burnley and Margaret Burnley, now Mrs Garton and the sole surviving member of the family. Mrs Garton and her husband, Denis, live in Dorset, and when she learned of Yorkshire’s interest in the collection she presented it to the Club.

Yorkshire Archives chairman David Allan said: “We are extremely grateful to Mrs. Garton for her generosity in letting us have this marvellous collection which her grandfather had built up over the years.”