In this cemetery in Horbury lies an unusual gravestone that tells a story of the life of one of the town’s most celebrated businesses. William Oates Sykes was born into the Sykes sports manufacturers family, after his father William moved to Horbury and bought a saddlery business in 1874.
Moving into the football business, the family’s Zig-Zag branded footballs were used in many leading events, including the FA Cup finals of 1936, 1937, 1939, and 1946. Skyes expanded the business into cricket where he was known as a master bat maker.
In 1929, Australian Donald Bradman scored what was then the highest first-class innings of 340 for New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground. After, Sykes signed him up to promote the Sykes autograph bat.
Following the war, the company was bought by the Slazenger company, founded by Manchester-born Ralph Slazenger, and became part of their global brand.
A cricket lover all his life, the unusual grave features three metal stumps and the words “HE PLAYED THE GAME” engraved above.
Know Before You Go
Walk from the top of the cemetery through the upper cemetery gate where the road splits. Follow the road around to the left and the gravestone is on the right.