CricketArchive

In the Mists of Time
The History of Cricket: 1300 - 1730
Third Edition
by John Leach

DateLine: 13th August 2005

 

A number of cricket books make reference to incidents in the distant past before the game became properly organised and promoted during the 18th century. As far as I know, there is no comprehensive chronology of those events and my purpose here has been to create one. Starting with the tentative reference to creag in the days of Edward Longshanks, I have tried to collate all the references I am aware of until the mists began to clear about 1730, when cricket matters began to be reported with increasing frequency and more detail in the English press.

I hope readers will find this chronology useful and, given that it can never be exhaustive, will treat it as a living document to be enhanced as our knowledge of the old days increases.

1300

Thu 10 March. Wardrobe accounts of King Edward I (aka Edward Longshanks) include a reference to a game called creag being played at the town of Newenden in Kent by the Prince of Wales, then aged 15 or 16. It has been suggested that creag was an early form of cricket. There is no evidence to support this view and creag could have been something quite different, but it does at least seem a likely suspect, especially when the location is considered.

The most widely accepted theory on the origin of cricket is that it developed among the farming and metalworking community of the Weald, which spreads across Kent and Sussex. It is significant that these counties and neighbouring Surrey were the earliest centres of excellence and that it was from there that the game eventually reached London, where it achieved mass popularity, and Hampshire, where it achieved both fame and legend.

It is quite likely that cricket was devised by children and survived for many generations as essentially a children’s game. Playing on sheep-grazed land or in clearings, the original implements may have been a matted lump of sheep’s wool as the ball; a crook or other farm tool as the bat; and a gate (i.e., a wicket gate) or a tree stump as the wicket. The invention of the game could have happened anytime before 1300.

There is a theory about the development of the game’s name which suggests that creag evolved into creag-a-wicket and then into the rhyming cricket-a-wicket, but this must have been much later and is in any case speculation. It seems more likely that the name derived from words that were in use, probably imported, after the Norman Conquest in 1066. In old French, the word criquet (which may have been confused with etiquet) seems to have meant a kind of club or stick; and it might have given its name to croquet. Some believe that cricket and croquet have a common origin but there is no evidence to substantiate that view. In Flemish, krick(e) meant a stick and, in Olde English, cricc or cryce meant a crutch or staff.

1477

A statute of King Edward IV banned certain games, including one called handyn and handoute, on the grounds that they distracted his subjects from their compulsory practice of archery. There is no evidence to suggest that handyn and handoute was a form of cricket, as some have surmised. In PWT, the author states plausibly that it was a simple indoor gambling game.

1478

A spurious reference to criquet near St Omer in Flanders, then part of the Duchy of Burgundy, seems to be a misreading of the word etiquet meaning a small stick. See explanation in HMM.

1523

Reference to stoolball found (see Bowen). This may be a catchall term for any game in which a ball is somehow hit; or it may be a specific reference to an early form of rounders. 18th Century references to stoolball in conjunction with cricket clearly indicate that it was a separate activity and rounders is the usual suspect! (See the references in TJM, paragraphs 98, 361 and 377.)

1550

Evidence in a 1597 court case indicates that kreckett was played on a certain plot of land in Guildford around 1550. This is the earliest reference to cricket being played in Surrey.

1597

Mon 17 January. The court case in Guildford concerned a dispute over a school's ownership of the plot of land in question. A 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friends had played kreckett on the site fifty years earlier. This is generally considered to be the first definite mention of cricket in the English language. The school was the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, and Mr Derrick's account proves beyond reasonable doubt that the game was being played c.1550 and, perhaps significantly, that it was played by children.

1598

Some books have recorded a reference to cricket in an Italian-English dictionary produced in 1598 by Giovanni Florio and his definition of the word sgillare, but it seems to be primarily a reference to the insect variation of cricket: i.e., the one that goes neek neek neek all night long!

1610

First definite mention of cricket in Kent concerned a match at Chevening between teams from the Weald and the Downs.

1611

First definite mention of cricket in Sussex relates to ecclesiastical court records which state that two parishioners of Sidlesham in West Sussex failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined 12d each and made to do penance.

A French-English dictionary was published by Randle Cotgrave. The noun crosse is defined as “the crooked staff wherewith boys play at cricket”. The verb form of the word is crosser, defined as “to play at cricket”.

It is interesting that cricket was defined as a boys’ game in the dictionary, as per the Guildford schoolboys of the 16th Century, but that adults were playing it in Sussex at the beginning of the 17th Century. It almost seems as if Mr Cotgrave was “overtaken by events” here. No sooner did he publish his dictionary than his definition was updated by the involvement of adults in cricket.

1613

A court case recorded that someone was assaulted with a cricket staffe at Wanborough, near Guildford.

1622

Several parishioners of Boxgrove, near Chichester in West Sussex, were prosecuted for playing cricket in a churchyard on Sunday 5 May.

There were three reasons for the prosecution: one was that it contravened a local bye-law; another reflected concern about church windows which may or may not have been broken; the third was that “a little childe had like to have her braines beaten out with a cricket batt”! This latter situation was because the rules at the time allowed the batsman to hit the ball twice and so fielding near the batsman was very hazardous, as two later incidents drastically confirm.

1624

A fatality occurred at Horsted Keynes in East Sussex when a fielder called Jasper Vinall was struck on the head by the batsman who was trying to hit the ball a second time to avoid being caught. Mr Vinall is thus the earliest recorded cricketing fatality. The matter was recorded in a coroner’s court, which returned a verdict of misadventure.

An interesting point arising from the court record is that both Jasper Vinall and the batsman Edward Tye came from West Hoathly, another village, which indicates that games involving teams from different villages were already being played.

1628

An ecclesiastical case is preserved that relates to a game at East Lavant, near Chichester in western Sussex, being played on a Sunday. One of the defendants argued that he had not played during evening prayer time but only before and after. It did him no good as he was fined the statutory 12d and ordered to do penance. Doing penance involved confessing his guilt to the whole East Lavant congregation the following Sunday.

1629

Henry Cuffin, a curate at Ruckinge in Kent, was prosecuted by an Archdeacon’s Court for playing cricket on Sunday evening after prayers. He claimed that several of his fellow players were “persons of repute and fashion”. This may indicate that cricket had achieved popularity among the well-to-do.

1636

In a court case concerning a tithe dispute, a witness called Henry Mabbinck testified that he played cricket “in the Parke” at West Horsley in Surrey.

1637

Another ecclesiastical case records parishioners of Midhurst, West Sussex, playing cricket during evening prayer on Sunday 26 February.

1640

Puritan clerics, at Maidstone and at Harbledown near Canterbury, denounced cricket as profane, especially if played on Sunday.

The influence of Puritans at this time is significant as this was the year in which the “Long Parliament” was first assembled and proved to be a precursor to the English Civil War.

1642

The English Civil War began and Parliament banned theatres, which had met with Puritan disapproval. Although similar action would be taken against certain sports, it is not clear if cricket was in any way prohibited, except that players must not “break the Sabbath”. References to the game during the time of Oliver Cromwell suggest that it was not widely banned. The preceding references indicate that inter-parish matches were being played but there is nothing to suggest that any teams representative of counties had been formed by this time. There is no evidence of large scale gambling or patronage prior to the English Civil War and it was those factors which drove the formation of “representative” teams in the 18th Century. It must be concluded, therefore, that the level of cricket being played before the war was still “minor”standard: inter-parish at best.

1646

The earliest record of an organised match is held in the report of a court case. The match took place at Coxheath in Kent on 29 May. The case concerned non-payment of a wager that was made at the game. Curiously, the wager was for twelve candles! The participants included members of the local gentry: further evidence of the sport’s growing affluence.

1647

A Latin poem contains a probable reference to cricket being played at Winchester College, earliest known mention of cricket in Hampshire.

A fatality was recorded at Selsey, West Sussex, when a player called Henry Brand was hit on the head by the batsman trying to hit the ball a second time. The case was obviously a repeat of the Horsted Keynes incident in 1624.

1652

A case at Cranbrook against John Rabson, Esq. and others refers to “a certain unlawful game called cricket”. It is interesting that the game was described as “unlawful” and that Rabson was evidently a “gentleman” whereas the other defendants were all working class. Cricket has long been recognised as the sport that bridged the class divide.

1653

Some sports evidently were approved by the Puritans as Izaak Walton published The Compleat Angler.

1654

Three men were prosecuted at Eltham in Kent for playing cricket on Sunday. As the Puritans were now firmly in power, Cromwell’s Protectorate having been established the previous year, the penalty was doubled to 24d (two shillings).

1656

The defendants in the 1654 case were charged with “breaking the Sabbath”, not with playing cricket. Cromwell’s commissioners in Ireland did ban sport in 1656 but not cricket. They were concerned as always with “preventing unlawful assemblies” in Ireland and sport was held to be that. The sport in question was hurling. Cricket had probably not reached Ireland at this time.

1658

The “cricket ball” was first referred to in those terms in a book by Edward Phillips.

1660

The Restoration of the monarchy in England was immediately followed by the reopening of the theatres and so any sanctions that had been imposed by the Puritans on cricket would also have been lifted. Although there are only a few references to the game in the time of Charles II, it is clear that its popularity was increasing and that it was expanding.

The Restoration was effectively completed during the spring of 1660 and it can safely be assumed that, in the general euphoria which both accompanied and followed these historic events, gambling on cricket and other sports was freely pursued. It is logical to assume that the large amounts at stake will have led some investors to try and improve their chances of winning by forming teams that were stronger than your typical parish XI. Although details continue to be conspicuous by their absence, there can be little doubt that the first teams representing several parishes and even whole counties were formed at this time; and so it may reasonably be concluded that this period saw the first “great matches” or “major matches” or “important matches” or whatever term may be applied to denote the highest level of cricket.

Indeed, it must be so that this was the point of origin of “first-class cricket”; but perhaps we should interrupt the chronology for a moment to consider this event in terms of the wider picture.

The Origins of First-Class Cricket

It is quite possible that cricket was originally devised by boys in Saxon or Norman times and handed on to the next generation of lads after girls and ale became more interesting. Each succeeding generation would do likewise but each would add to the game by making amendments to the rules either by introduction or alteration. Each generation would bring in new players from a wider area and so the game would spread as the kids in the next parish came to know of it. Eventually, a situation would arise where fathers and uncles played the game with their sons and nephews to pass on knowledge and help them to improve their skills. Before long, the fathers and uncles would decide that this was a good way of passing their own free time, keeping fit, making friends and getting away from ‘er in t’kitchen.

Some of the more cynical or rebellious elements would decide that it was preferable to pious humbug in church and would use the game, in effect, to make a protest; and so we have adults playing the game whenever they can, including on Sundays when they do not want to go to church.

Cricket is a team game and the teams almost certainly originated among the boys. When the adults took over and a sufficient number in one parish was playing, it would only be a matter of time before that parish challenged another and then another. Each parish would select a particular plot of land (like the one in Guildford), play its matches there and use the same place for practice. The next stage in this evolution is the interest and participation of wealthier elements who were happy to cross the social divide in order to play a game that they thoroughly enjoyed, even if their enthusiasm was shared by “fellows of a base and beastly sort”. As the competition between parishes became more intense, someone would bet a jug of ale that “our parish can beat your lot”. The bet is defiantly accepted and it is only a small step from ale to money and then more money.

As the stakes grew, some investors would cover their bets by influencing team selection and providing incentives to the players. Two factors developed from this initiative by the investors. One is professionalism. The best players would begin to attract incentive payments that would shortly take the form of an income, regular or otherwise. The second development is a widening of the catchment area for team selection. Suddenly, the gossips in “our parish” are telling everyone that “Jervis from over t’hill there is playing for us on Saturday”. Jervis is of course the best bowler in the county and he has been paid to play for “our parish” by the local squire who has a lot of money riding on the outcome of Saturday’s game.

This is where cricket steps up a level. The addition of Jervis to the “our parish” team means that it is no longer a parish or village side. It is representative of two parishes now and that is a giant stride in the direction of a county team.

The basic unit in cricket is the local side which may be a group of lads in one family or neighbourhood at the absolute grassroots level or, still in the local sense, the “our parish” team in which every player lives in the parish and their opponents are all inhabitants of another parish. Once you go beyond that level you have a side that is “representative” because more than one parish is involved. The “our parish” team plus Jervis may still be regarded as “our parish” but with a given man to strengthen them. In fact, two parishes are represented as residents of Jervis’ parish will come “over t’hill there” to support him.

Then you get the situation where “our parish” includes “given men” from three or four parishes and is challenged by a team made up of players from three or four parishes that are across the county boundary. Suddenly you’re not talking parishes any more but counties and because it is much easier to say Sussex and Surrey than to reel off the names of about eight parishes, you have a match between two counties or, at least, a match between two teams representing different counties. This is all very logical and although the precise sequence might have been different, or some events could have been concurrent, it does present a realistic view of cricket’s development after first adults, then gamblers and then professionals got involved. It is of course possible that the original inter-county matches were at parish level only: i.e., two neighbouring parishes whose boundary was a county one as well as a parish one. It is possible that Jervis was not a professional but agreed to play for “our parish” simply because he had friends or family here. It is important not to get too hung up on the sequence. The point is that all these things did eventually happen; but we don’t know when, we don’t know who and we don’t know how.

The most tantalising of all these questions is the when. We can make a pretty fair guess at the how (as above) and we are never going to learn much about the who for it to really matter, but it would be really nice if we could pin down the when.

So all we can do is theorise. There is every reason to believe that the game began among kids (girls as well as boys) in the south east counties, probably in Saxon or perhaps in Norman times. By 1300, it was sufficiently popular among kids to survive long-term and it may even have acquired acceptability at Court and in centres of learning; IF creag was cricket and the son of Longshanks was playing. It was still a boys’ game in Tudor times, as at Guildford, and in the early Stuart period a dictionary compiler defines it as a boys’ game. But no sooner is his dictionary published than it is overtaken by events and cricket is no longer a boys’ game only. Adults have started playing too and soon it becomes a very serious business indeed.

The first big step forward at this point is the formation of parish teams that play against each other. Evidence acquired from the years before the Civil War strongly suggests that parishes were playing each other by 1642 when the war began. None of this evidence suggests that teams representing multiple parishes had yet been formed; it further suggests that gambling was low key with the stakes still at the jug of ale or six candles level. If we are to define “first-class cricket” as a representative form of the game in which teams represent a county, or at least a significant part of a county, then it appears that we had not reached this stage by 1642. After 1642, England became firmly controlled by Cromwell and his Puritans and his Goosey Goosey Ganders. Cricket was not banned by these austere authorities, but it certainly wasn’t able to expand either, and we can safely assume that cricket was tolerated by the Puritans as long as the Sabbath was not broken; as long as no large crowds were attracted; and as long as no profanity (such as gambling) was encouraged. So village matches continued, but with everyone looking over their shoulders.

When the Restoration happened in 1660, everything changed. Charles II was known as “the Merry Monarch” and he was content that all his subjects should be as merry as he was, within reason. With the Puritans overthrown, people let their hair down. The theatres were reopened and people sought entertainment. Cricket was a leading entertainment along with several other sports and it was ideal for a wager: you could bet on “first hands” or on the overall result; you could even bet on individual players. Bets were struck, a few fortunes were made and many families were ruined. By 1664, Charles II’s “Cavalier Parliament” felt a need to crack down on gambling that was spiralling out of control and so limits were imposed. This did not stop gambling; it merely imposed a ceiling. By 1697 cricket was being played at the level of a “great match” for 50 guineas a side, which was a fortune at the time.

There can be little doubt that a lot of money was invested in cricket from 1660 and that the likes of Jervis were at that time paid to play for another parish team with the result that strong teams representing several parishes or whole counties were matched against each other for very high stakes indeed. By any definition, this was cricket at the highest level possible for the time and, although details of the matches are lost, or were never recorded in the first place, there can be little doubt that this entire scenario was the point of origin of what we now call “first-class cricket”.

Note the stress placed on for the time and remember the view of Sir Neville Cardus, wisest of all cricket writers, that the game and its players always reflected their times. In 2005, Loughborough University is a first-class team. H’mm! Well then. In 1660, Jervis and his colleagues representing most if not all of the parishes in Sussex was a first-class team too. We who are content to hand out first-class status as if it is confetti at a wedding are in no position to cast judgement on the status of historical teams that were considered top-class by their contemporaries, so much so that some people would literally wager their life’s earnings on them.

If we logically deduce that teams like the one our fictional Jervis played for were first formed in or soon after 1660, given the social and political state of the country after Cromwell’s regime was given the boot and the monarchy was restored, then we have to accept, according to Sir Neville’s doctrine, that this was the point of origin of “first-class cricket”.

1664

A Gambling Act was passed by the “Cavalier” Parliament to try and curb some of the post-Restoration excesses. It limited stakes to £100 which was in any case a fortune at the time. We know that cricket could attract stakes of 50 guineas by 1697 and it was funded by gambling throughout the next century.

1666

A letter by Sir Robert Paston of Richmond refers to a game on Richmond Green, which became a noted venue in the 18th century.

1668

The promoter of a match at Maidstone had to obtain a licence to sell ale there.

Cricket was again mentioned in a court case as being played at Shoreham in Kent.

It has been reported in some books that the Clerkenwell Rate Book rated the landlord of the Ram Inn, Smithfield, Middlesex for a cricket field but later investigation established the meaning was otherwise and that this was not a cricket reference.

1671

Perhaps a sign that the times, post-Restoration, they were a-changing. A man called Edward Bound was charged with playing cricket on the Sabbath and was exonerated! The case was reported in Shere, Surrey.

1676

Sat 6 May. A diarist called Henry Tonge, who was part of a British mission at Aleppo in Turkey (now in Syria), recorded that “at least forty of the English” left the city for recreational purposes and, having found a nice place to pitch a tent for dinner, they “had several pastimes and sports” including “krickett”. At six they “returned home in good order”.

1677

Accounts of Thomas Dacre, the Earl of Sussex, include an item which refers to £3 being paid to him when he went to a cricket match being played at ye Dicker, which was a common near Herstmonceux in East Sussex.

1678

Mention of cricket as “a play” (presumably in the sense of a sport that is played) in a Latin dictionary published by Dr Adam Littleton.

1680

Lines written in an old bible invite “All you that do delight in Cricket, come to Marden, pitch your wickets”. Marden is in west Sussex, north of Chichester, and interestingly close to Hambledon, which is just across the county boundary in Hampshire.

1693

A match in Sussex was the occasion of crowd trouble and a number of persons were charged with riot and battery. We know about it because of a later petition by the defendants to Queen Anne (who did not succeed until 1702) in which they pleaded for remission of fines imposed, they having been "mere spectators" at the game.

1694

Accounts of Sir John Pelham record 2s 6d paid for a wager concerning a cricket match at Lewes.

1696

Freedom of the press was granted by the British government which had already relaxed censorship following the Bill of Rights in 1689. It was from this time that cricket matters were increasingly reported.

1697

By the end of C17, cricket had long since broken its bounds as a village pastime and was already into the age of great matches. All that was needed now was for the matches to be reported.

"A Great Match in Sussex"
venue in Sussex
c. Wed 30 June
result unknown (TJM)

The earliest known newspaper report of a match proclaimed to be “great” or a similar adjective. The report was in the Foreign Post dated Wed 7 July 1697 and describes “a great match at cricket” that was played “the middle of last week” in Sussex with “eleven of a side” and “they played for fifty guineas apiece”. The stakes on offer indicate the importance of the fixture and the fact that it was eleven a side suggests that two strong and well-balanced teams were assembled. Unfortunately, no other details were given but we do have a current starting point for the origin of top class cricket.

TJM = Sussex Cricket in the Eighteenth Century by Timothy J McCann.

1700

A series of matches, to be held on Clapham Common, was pre-announced on Sat 30 March by a periodical called The Post Boy. The first was to take place on Easter Monday and prizes of £10 and £20 were at stake. No match reports could be found so the results and scores remain unknown. Interestingly, the advert says the teams would consist of ten “Gentlemen” per side but the invitation to attend was to “Gentlemen and others”. This clearly infers that cricket had achieved both the patronage that underwrote it through the 18th Century and the spectators who demonstrated its lasting popular appeal.

The 18th Century

Cricket is a feature of modern life and it is fair to say that our modern times began around 1700 following the great advances in science, technology and philosophy that heralded the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Leibniz, one of the great thinkers of the age, influenced the foundation of the Berlin Academy in 1700. Along with Descartes, Spinoza, Pascal, Galileo and Newton, he was a father figure of 18th Century rationalism which flowered under such as Voltaire, Goethe, Rousseau and Franklin and was in many ways underwritten by the genius of such as Bach, Burns and Mozart.

Newton published his Optics in 1704 and Newcomen designed his atmospheric steam engine in 1705. A new, modern world of industrial and scientific revolution was beginning and cricket has held its own in that world, always moving with the times from wealthy patrons to county clubs to Test cricket and ultimately to its newest dawn: Twenty20. Along the way, it has survived its own revolutions and crises such as lbw, roundarm, overarm, bodyline, limited overs, boycotts (!) and TV replays to the point where it is still an important and popular component of culture in the 21st Century. Before delving into the match history of the 18th Century, it is worth taking a look at the world in which those matches were played. The 18th Century was the era of wigs, waistcoats, cravats, breeches and buckles. The large wigs of the 17th Century were driven out of fashion by popular cocked hats such as the familiar tricorn. As this hat could not be worn with a huge wig, the smaller “bob” wig with queue (i.e., tail) came into general use. Wearing of wigs by all levels of society lasted until Napoleonic and Regency times when natural hair became fashionable at last. One impact of the French Revolution was that breeches had been replaced by trousers when the 18th century ended, thanks to the influence of the sans-culottes.

Travel was mainly on foot or on horseback. Carriages were virtually unknown except as a status symbol and other wheeled vehicles such as wagons and carts were little used except for local traffic. Packhorses or mules were the usual means of carrying goods. Heavy goods went by barge along the rivers or by sailing ship along the coast. Long distance travellers would often rely on coastal voyages too. There had been a gradual introduction of “stage wagons” designed to carry passengers in stages with horses being changed at staging posts that were usually inns, the innkeeper doubling as a postmaster. It was not until the railways appeared in the 19th Century that top class cricket could break the bounds of its south-eastern heartland and become a truly nationwide game, although there are plenty of references which prove its steady spread across the country during the pre-railway period.

England was still an agricultural economy in those days and the majority of people lived in rural or semi-rural locations. Places like Dartford and Chertsey, whose cricket teams made names for themselves in the 18th Century, were rural villages at the time. The only metropolis was London, especially north of the river. With a population of half a million, London was England’s major port and its main commercial and cultural centre. London was where you could make your fortune, or more likely your ruin. When cricket came to London, it flourished. It still does.

Autocracy remained the political reality of the times, although in England the mould had been broken: first by Cromwell and then by the Bill of Rights which established constitutional monarchy. But France was ruled by the tyrannical Louis XIV until 1714 and the revolution was still 89 years away. War was the normal state of international relations throughout the 18th Century. As the century began, the Baltic was in flames as militant Sweden fought against Russia, Poland and Denmark. The ambition of Louis XIV would shortly begin the carnage known to history as the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Perhaps most ominously of all, bearing in mind the history of war in the 20th Century, Prussia had just secured autonomy from the Holy Roman Empire and was about to re-invent itself as the most militaristic state the world has seen since ancient Sparta, so much so that it would be described not as an army within a state but as a state within an army.

But at least England was a largely peaceful place in which to live and play cricket in the 18th Century. Apart from the Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745, it was all quiet on the home front and the majority of Great Britain’s military and naval actions were performed on foreign fields or faraway seas. Indeed, it was a voyage into those faraway seas, a peaceful one this time, that resulted in Captain Cook’s exploration of Australia. It is somehow fitting that a Yorkshireman influenced the foundation and settlement of Australia. The first convicts arrived there in 1788, only one year after MCC played its inaugural match at Lord’s. So, whether you think of the 18th Century in terms of intrepid Yorkshiremen, transported convicts or the foundation of a gentlemen’s club in north London, it was certainly the time when modern cricket began.

The relative tranquillity of England compared with other lands in the 18th Century is perhaps best summed up by reference to the century’s most famous date: 14 July 1789. In Paris, Camille Desmoulins led the mob towards the Bastille. They stormed it and destroyed it to begin the most infamous and ferocious revolution in history, a revolution that would preface Bonaparte and his Napoleonic Wars: earth-shattering events that would change mankind forever. But 14 July 1789 is a date that occurs in the records of English cricket too. On that date, not a million miles from Paris, Hampshire was playing Kent on Windmill Down just outside legendary Hambledon. Kent won by 56 runs. The score in Paris was somewhat different.

1702

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Arundel
venue in Sussex
date unknown
Richmond’s XI won? (TJM)

The source for this game is a receipt sent by one Saul Bradley to the Duke on Mon 14 December 1702. The receipt was in respect of 1s 6d paid by the Duke “for brandy when your Grace plaid at Cricket with Arundel men”. It is thought the brandy was bought to celebrate a victory. Note that this was the first Duke of Richmond, also called Charles Lennox. He died in 1723 and it was his son, the 2nd Duke, who became the famous patron of Sussex cricket.

Away from cricket, the East India Company bought control of the New (or English) Company that had been set up as a rival trading organisation in 1698. An Act of Parliament then amalgamated the two as “The United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.” The charter was renewed several times in the 18th century, each time with financial concessions to the Crown. The significance of this piece of information is that it was largely via the success of the East India Company that cricket was introduced to and established in India; and consequently in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The first report of cricket in India concerns mariners of the so-called “John Company” playing at Cambay in 1721 (see below).

Meanwhile, Queen Anne succeeded the late William III under the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement. When she died with no surviving heirs in 1714, the throne passed to the Elector of Hanover, who became George I and whose descendants played a major role in popularising cricket in London.

1705

West of Kent v Chatham
venue in Malling, Kent
date in July?
result unknown (PWT)

This was an 11-a-side game advertised in The Post Man dated Tues 24 July 1705.

PWT = From the Weald to the World by Peter Wynne-Thomas.

1706

William Goldwyn (aka Goldwin) published a Latin poem in celebration of a cricket match.

The spread of cricket relied heavily on ease of transport and communications. In 1706, Parliament established the first turnpike trusts which placed a length of road under the control of trustees drawn from local landowners and traders. The turnpike trusts borrowed capital for road maintenance against the security of tolls. This arrangement became the common method of road maintenance for the next 150 years.

1707

Croydon v London
Croydon (Duppas Hill?)
Tues 1 July
result unknown (WDC)

London v Croydon
Lamb’s Conduit Field, Holborn
Thu 3 July
result unknown (WDC)

These two are the earliest known matches of real significance that Mr H T Waghorn could find in his research. They were advertised in a periodical called The Post Man (dates Sat 21 to Tues 24 June 1707) as “two great matches at cricket (to be) plaid, between London and Croydon; the first at Croydon on Tuesday, July 1st, and the other to be plaid in Lamb’s-Conduit-Fields, near Holborn, on the Tuesday (sic) following, being the 3rd of July.” No match reports could be found so the results and scores are unknown.

The dates are uncertain as the report states: “the first game to be played on Tuesday 1 July 1707 (which is a correct date in the then in use Julian Calendar) and the other to be played on the Tuesday following, being the 3rd of July”. It has been assumed here that the second game was played on 3 July, but it was a Thursday.

There is record of a “London Club” from 1722 but it is not known when that organisation was founded or if it formed the London teams in the 1707 matches.

Later matches in Croydon were played at Duppas Hill, but it is not known for certain if that was the venue in 1707.

Lamb’s Conduit Field was near Holborn in Middlesex. It had no connection with White Conduit Fields in Islington which later became the home venue of the White Conduit Club, forerunner of MCC.

WDC = The Dawn of Cricket by H T Waghorn.

1709

Kent v Surrey
Dartford Brent
Wed 29 June
result unknown (FLPV)

The earliest known match involving county teams or at any rate teams bearing the names of counties. The match was advertised in the Post Man dated Saturday 25 June 1709. The stake was £50.

Some authors have suggested the teams in reality were “Dartford and a Surrey village”. This view is short-sighted and conflicts with the evidence we already have of patronage and high stakes. It is likely that Dartford, as the foremost Kent club in this period, provided not only the venue but also the nucleus of the team, but there is no reason at all to doubt that the team included good players from elsewhere in the county. The Surrey team will equally have been drawn from a number of Surrey parishes and subscribed by their patron.

One player who may well have taken part was William Bedle (1680 - 1768), of Dartford, who is the earliest great player to have been recorded. He was reckoned to be "the most expert player in England" and must have been in his prime c.1700 to c.1720 (see FL18).

Dartford Brent was a popular Kent venue throughout the 18th century and was probably used for cricket matches in the 17th century.

FLPV = Fresh Light on Pre-Victorian Cricket by G B Buckley.

1710

The earliest reference has been found to cricket being played at Cambridge University.

1717

Thomas Marchant, a farmer from Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, first mentioned cricket in his diary. He made numerous references to the game, particularly concerning his local club, until 1727. His son Will played for “our parish”, as he often called the Hurstpierpoint team.

1718

London v Rochester Punch Club
White Conduit Fields, Islington
Mon 1 Sept 1718 and ? July 1719
London won by 21 runs (FL18)

This game was unfinished on Mon 1 Sept 1718 because the Rochester players walked off in an attempt to have the game declared incomplete so that they would retain their stake money. London was clearly winning at the time. The London players sued for their winnings and the game while incomplete was the subject of a famous lawsuit where the terms of the wager were at issue. The court ordered it to be “played out” and this happened in July 1719. Rochester with 4 wickets standing needed 30 (more?) but were out for 9 (more?). The lawsuit may inadvertently have increased the sport’s popularity: as the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity!

FL18 = Fresh Light on 18th Century Cricket by G B Buckley.

1719

London v Kent
White Conduit Fields, Islington
Wed 19 August
Kent won (WDC)

The report says the teams played “for a considerable sum of money”.

1720

London v Kent
White Conduit Fields, Islington
Sat 9 July
London won (WDC)

Two London fielders were badly injured by a clash of heads. Mr Waghorn noted that advertising and reporting of cricket ceased for many years and wondered if that was due to a perception that the sport is dangerous.

Mr Waghorn may have overlooked the impact of the South Sea Bubble on cricket. This was a major economic crisis caused by a frenzy of investment in the South Sea Company during the preceding years. When the company was found to be insolvent, its crash in 1720 caused massive repercussions throughout the economy and many formerly prosperous investors were ruined. It is quite likely that some of cricket’s patrons at the time were badly affected and it would have curtailed their cricketing activities.

Therefore, the reason why Mr Waghorn could find fewer reports may well have been due to the withholding of patronage and investment, hence fewer matches.

1721

English sailors of the East India Company were reported to be playing cricket at Cambay, near Baroda, and this is the earliest known reference to cricket being played in India.

Away from cricket, one impact of the South Sea Bubble was the unofficial creation of the post of Prime Minister, though it was not officially called that until 1905. The office at first combined the roles of Leader of the Commons, First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the person of Sir Robert Walpole who held office until 1742. Walpole is not known for any particular cricketing connection but his regime did no harm to the game’s development. His son, the writer Horace Walpole, supposedly hated the game!

1722

Although teams styled “London” were already in existence, the first actual reference to a “London Club” was dated in 1722.

London v Dartford
Islington (on White Conduit Fields?)
Wed 18 July
result unknown (The Cricketer magazine)

There was a letter about this game in The Weekly Journal dated Sat 21 July 1722.

1723

Dartford v Tonbridge
Dartford Brent
date unknown
result unknown (Dartford CC)

Recorded in the journal of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford: "At Dartford upon the Heath as we came out of the town, the men of Tonbridge and the Dartford men were warmly engaged at the sport of cricket, which of all the people of England the Kentish folk are the most renowned for, and of all the Kentish men, the men of Dartford lay claim to the greatest excellence”. It is more than likely to been Dartford Brent where this game was taking place. Robert Harley (1661-1724) was a leading Tory politician who was against spending on the armed forces; he was a particular favourite of Queen Anne and a strong opponent of Sir Robert Walpole.

1724

London v Dartford
Kennington Common
Thu 18 June
result unknown (FL18)

This is the earliest known match at Kennington Common, where (it is believed) The Oval is now sited.

Penshurst, Tunbridge & Wadhurst v Dartford
Islington (on White Conduit Fields?)
Mon 10 August
result unknown (TJM)

This match was the parishes of Penshurst, Tunbridge and Wadhurst versus Dartford. It is reported in a diary entry by one John Dawson, who may have watched it. No details are known but as Dartford was already recognised as a leading club, it may have been a “great cricket match” as Mr Dawson says.

Chingford v Mr Edward Stead’s XI
venue unknown
date unknown
result unknown (WDC)

This seems to be the earliest reference to cricket being played in Essex (if at Chingford) or by an Essex team. The game echoed the one in 1718 as the Chingford team refused to play to a finish when Mr Stead’s team had the advantage. A court case followed and, as in 1718, it was ordered to be played out presumably so that all wagers could be fulfilled. We know that Lord Chief Justice Pratt presided over the case and that he ordered them to play it out on Dartford Brent, though it is not known if this was the original venue. The game was completed in 1726 (see below).

Mr Edward (aka Edwin) Stead was a noted patron of early C18 cricket, especially in his native Kent. He was a Maidstone resident.

1725

Sir William Gage’s XI v unknown XI
venue unknown (in Sussex?)
Thu 15 July
Gage “shamefully beaten!” (TJM)

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
venue unknown (in Sussex?)
Tues 20 July
result unknown (TJM)

Our knowledge of these two games is based on a humorous letter sent by Sir William Gage to the 2nd Duke of Richmond on Fri 16 July. Gage bemoans that he was “shamefully beaten” the previous day in his first match of the year but says nothing of his opponents. He then looks forward to playing the Duke’s team next Tuesday and wishes his Grace success in everything except his cricket match!

1726

The London Evening Post dated Sat 27 August carried an advertisement for a single wicket match between players called Perry (of London) and Piper (of Hampton, Middlesex). The venue was Moulsey Hurst, near Molesey in Surrey. This is the earliest reference we have of cricket being played there. It was famous for various sporting activities, especially prizefighting, and was often used for cricket throughout the 18th century.

London & Surrey XI v Mr Edward Stead’s XI
Kennington Common
Mon 29 August
result unknown (WDC)

This match was “for 25 guineas between the men belonging to Edward Stead, Esq. of Maidstone and the men of London and Surrey.”

Chingford v Mr Edward Stead’s XI
Dartford Brent
date in September?
result unknown (WDC)

This is the conclusion of the 1724 match which was unfinished at that time and became the subject of a lawsuit. Lord Chief Justice Pratt ordered it to be played out. It is not known if Dartford Brent was the original venue but it seems certain the match was concluded there.

On the subject of legal matters, Mr Buckley recounts a letter written by an Essex resident. The writer complained that a local Justice of the Peace had seen fit to literally “read the Riot Act”, as it were, to some people who were playing cricket on Saturday 10 September. He had a constable with him who dispersed the players. It seems the JP considered any game or sport as a pretence covering the gathering of disaffected people in order to raise a rebellion! Given the ruling by Lord Chief Justice Pratt, who in effect ordered the game to be played in Dartford, the issue raised was that it was apparently lawful to play cricket in Kent but not in Essex.

1727

Warehorne v Hawkshurst (12 a side)
Warehorne Greene
Mon 5 June
result unknown (FL18)

This game was arranged by Thomas Hodges, Esq. and George Baker, Esq. who is described as the General Receiver.

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
venue unknown (in Sussex?)
date unknown
result unknown (PVSC)

Charles Lennox (1701 – 1750), the 2nd Duke of Richmond, was perhaps the sport’s greatest patron. He is forever associated with Sussex; he was born at Goodwood, lived and died at Godalming and is buried in Chichester Cathedral. A number of matches were promoted by wealthy landowners like Richmond, Sir William Gage, Alan Brodrick, Mr Chambers and Edward Stead. Among the best of the professional players were the all-rounder Thomas Waymark, who was apparently a groom employed by Richmond; and Stephen Dingate, who may have been a barber.

Sir William Gage’s XI v Duke of Richmond’s XI
venue unknown (in Sussex?)
date unknown
result unknown (PVSC)

Mr Alan Brodrick’s XI v Duke of Richmond’s XI
played at Peper Harow ?
date in July?
result unknown (PVSC)

Peper Harow is about four miles from Godalming and was the home of the Brodrick family.

See the excellent conjecture in http://www.shacklefordorg/peperharow/1727cricketmatch.htm that Peper Harow was the venue of the match in July 1727.

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Mr Alan Brodrick’s XI
possibly Godalming?
date in August?
result unknown (PVSC)

References to the games between the Duke of Richmond and Mr Brodrick mention that they drew up Articles of Agreement between them to determine the rules that must apply in their contests. This may be the first time that rules were formally agreed, although rules as such definitely existed. In early times, the rules would be agreed orally and subject to local variations. This syndrome was also evident in football until the FA was founded, especially re the question of handling the ball.

PVSC = Pre-Victorian Sussex Cricket by HF & AP Squire.

1728

Swiss traveller César de Saussure noted in his journal the frequency with which he saw cricket being played while he was making his journeys across southern England in June 1728. He referred to “county matches” as a commonplace.

Mr Edward Stead’s XI v Duke of Richmond’s XI
Coxheath, Kent
Tues 25 June
Mr Stead’s XI won? (PVSC)

Result is surmised from the report of a game in August (see below).

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Mr Edward Stead’s XI
Penshurst Park
date in July?
Mr Stead’s XI won? (PVSC)

Result is surmised from the report of a game in August (see below).

London v Middlesex
Islington (White Conduit Fields?)
Mon 5 August
result unknown (WDC)

The venue of this game was very precisely reported as “in the fields behind the Woolpack, in Islington, near Sadlers Wells, for £50 a side.”

This match is also the earliest known to involve a team called Middlesex.

Mr Edward Stead’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
Penshurst Park
date in August?
Mr Stead’s XI won (WDC)

This game could be called Sussex v Kent as the players were reported as “11 of each county”. Sir William Gage was a Sussex landowner and Mr Stead was a resident of Maidstone in Kent. It seems that “Kent” won the game although “Sussex” needed just 7 in their second innings. Evidently Mr Stead’s team also won its games against the Duke of Richmond’s XI as their victory over Sir William Gage’s XI was “the third time this summer that the Kent men have been too expert for those of Sussex”.

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
Lewes
date unknown
result unknown (PVSC)

Also recorded in TJM.

1729

The earliest reference to cricket at Oxford University seems to have made by Dr Samuel Johnson, no less. He was there for one year and says he played cricket there.

London v Dartford
Kennington Common
Tues 5 August
Dartford won “very much”
sources: FL18 & The Cricketer magazine

The original source was the London Evening Post on Thu 7 August which reported: “on Tuesday was played a great cricket match on Kennington Common between the Londoners and the Dartford men for a considerable sum of money, wagers and bets, the latter beat the former very much”. Mr Buckley recorded the date as Tues 8 August but it must have been Tues 5 August.

Mr Edward Stead’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
Penshurst Park
Thu 28 August
Gage’s XI won - by an innings? (WDC)

Also titled Kent (Stead) v Surrey, Sussex & Hampshire (Gage). It was 11 a side and played for 100 guineas with “some thousands” watching. It seems to have been the first known innings victory as Gage “got (within three) in one hand, as the former did in two hands, so the Kentish men (i.e., Stead’s team) threw it up.” It is said that a groom of the Duke of Richmond signalised himself by extraordinary agility and dexterity (presumably this was Thomas Waymark).

This is the first time that Sussex and Hampshire are used in a team name, though not individually.

Sussex, Surrey & Hampshire v Kent
Lewes
date in September?
result unknown (WDC)

A report dated Sat 13 Sept says that “the great match played at Penshurst will be played again in Sussex”.

A local game in Gloucester on Monday 22 September is the earliest known reference to cricket in Gloucestershire.

There is a bat in The Oval pavilion which belonged to John Chitty of Knaphill, Surrey. Dated 1729, it is the oldest known bat. It looks more like a hockey stick than a modern cricket bat but its curvature was to enable the batsman to play a ball that was always rolled, as in bowls, never pitched. Pitching began about 30-35 years later and the straight bats we use nowadays were created in response to the pitched delivery.

1730

Thu 28 May. Four men of Kent played four of Brentford for £50 at Westerham in Kent, “articles being drawn to play or pay”.

Thu 4 June. The return match of the above was scheduled at Kew Green.

Surrey v Middlesex
Richmond Green
date in June?
Surrey won (WCS)

WCS = Cricket Scores 1730 – 1773 by H T Waghorn.

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
Bury Hill
Fri 12 June
result unknown (TJM)

29 June. There was a “two threes” contest for £50 at Mickleham Downs in Surrey between three men of Surrey and three men of Sussex. The report in the London Evening Post says they were “esteemed the best players in the respective Counties” but unfortunately does not name them. The Sussex three won.

London v Kent
Grays Inn
Thu 2 July
Kent won (KCM)

KCM = Kent Cricket Matches by F S Ashley-Cooper.

This match is also mentioned in Mr Waghorn’s Cricket Scores.

Mr Andrews’ XI v Duke of Richmond’s XI
Merrow Down, Guildford
Thu 9 July
Mr Andrews’ XI won (WCS)

This match is also mentioned in FL18 with the additional information that Mr Andrews was a resident of Sunbury, Middlesex.

Mr Andrews may therefore have been involved on Thursday, 23 July, when Sunbury played Epsom on Epsom Downs.

Greenwich v London
Blackheath
Fri 31 July
result unknown (FL18)

This match was played for 20 guineas.

Duke of Richmond’s XI v Sir William Gage’s XI
Dripping Pan, Lewes
Wed 5 August
result unknown (WCS/TJM)

It is not clear if this match was eventually played as the announcement states it “was put off on account of Waymark, the Duke’s man, being ill.”

Kent v London
Blackheath
Wed 5 August
drawn? (FL18)

Apparently drawn. The report says the “Kentish champions would have lost their honours by being beat at one innings if time had permitted”. A repeat was scheduled for Wed 12 August at Islington (see below).

Sometime in August, Mr Edward Stead and three colleagues played a four-a-side game against four Brentford men “for a considerable wager”. The Brentford men won. This may have been a repeat of the games on Thu 28 May and Thu 4 June.

Putney v Fulham
Putney Heath
date in August?
Putney won (WCS)

The stakes in this “great cricket-match”, won by Putney, were 50 guineas per side.

London v Kent
venues: Frog Lane, Islington (Wed 12 Aug) and Kennington Common (Tues 18 Aug)
Wed 12 & Tues 18 August
result unknown (WCS)

This match was played at Frog Lane in Islington on 12 August “but being obliged by their articles to leave off at seven o’clock, they could not finish it”. London had a lead of 30 when play ended on 12 August but no details were reported of the resumption at Kennington Common on 18 August.

On Monday 17 August, a twelve a side game was played at Tonbridge and was “backed by a great many of the noblemen and gentry of that place”. It seems to have been a tight contest which was unfinished on the day, so another date was chosen for the conclusion, but nothing further is known (see FL18).

London v Surrey
Kennington Common
c. Wed 26 August
London by 1 run (WCS)

This match was “thought to be one of the completest matches that ever was played”.

London v Surrey
Artillery Ground
Mon 31 August
London won by 6 runs (WCS/FL18)

The stake was 20 guineas.

This is the earliest definite match at the Artillery Ground which was in Finsbury between Chiswell Street and Bunhill Fields. It was referred to in contemporary reports as the “old” Artillery Ground, but this may be because it was used frequently for other forms of sport or entertainment. It was generally used for matches involving the original London Club and also became the featured venue of all London cricket until about 1765, after which the focus shifted to Hambledon and the London Club disbanded.

London v Surrey
Artillery Ground
Fri 4 September
result unknown (WCS)

This match was the third in a tri-series but it was reported beforehand only.

October. A match on Datchet Heath, near Windsor, is the first reference to cricket in Buckinghamshire (WCS).

Sources

My information is essentially driven out of various historical notes that I have accumulated over many years and so I may be overlooking some of the sources I used originally. My apologies to any writer I have momentarily forgotten. But the sources certainly include:

A Social History of English Cricket by Derek Birley;
Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians: various publications;
At the Sign of the Wicket: Cricket 1742 – 1751 by FS Ashley-Cooper in Cricket Magazine (1900) (ASW);
Chertsey Cricket Club website at http://www.chertseycc.org.uk/ccc/hist.html
Cricket: History of its Growth and Development by Rowland Bowen;
Cricket Scores 1730 – 1773 by H T Waghorn (WCS);
Dartford Cricket Club website at http://www.dartfordcc.co.uk/
Fresh Light on 18th Century Cricket by G B Buckley (FL18);
Fresh Light on Pre-Victorian Cricket by G B Buckley (FLPV);
From the Weald to the World by Peter Wynne-Thomas (PWT);
Hambledon: Men and Myths by John Goulstone (HMM);
John Nyren's ''The Cricketers of my Time'' by Ashley Mote;
Kent Cricket Matches by F S Ashley-Cooper (KCM);
Pre-Victorian Sussex Cricket by HF & AP Squire (PVSC);
Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 by Arthur Haygarth (SBnnn);
Start of Play by David Underdown;
Sussex Cricket in the Eighteenth Century by Timothy J McCann (TJM);
The Dawn of Cricket by H T Waghorn (WDC);
The Glory Days of Cricket by Ashley Mote;
Wisden Cricketers Almanack (annual): various issues

I will be pleased if any readers can point me to additional sources that provide similarly useful information. Thanks are already due to Peter Griffiths, Don Ambrose and Keith Warsop who have been more than helpful.


(Article: Copyright © 2005 ACS)

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