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Gloucestershire (cricket)

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Cricket had probably reached Gloucestershire by the end of the seventeenth century. It is known that the related sport of "stow-ball" aka "stob-ball" was played in the county during the sixteenth century. In this game, the bat was called a "stave".[1] A game in Gloucester on 22 September 1729 is the earliest definite reference to cricket in the county. The match was advertised in The Weekly Journal dated 15 September as an 11-a-side match for "upwards of 20 guineas" to take place "in the Town-Ham of this City".[2] From then until the foundation of the county club, very little has been found outside parish cricket.

Dr Henry Grace, the father of W. G. Grace, and his brother-in-law Alfred Pocock founded the Mangotsfield Cricket Club in 1845 to represent several neighbouring villages including Downend, where the Grace family resided.[3] In 1846, this club merged with the West Gloucestershire Cricket Club whose name was adopted until 1867. It has been said that the Grace family ran the West Gloucestershire "almost as a private club".[4] Henry Grace managed to organise matches against Lansdown Cricket Club in Bath, which was the premier West Country club. West Gloucestershire fared poorly in these games and, sometime in the 1850s, Henry Grace and Alfred Pocock decided to join Lansdown, although they continued to run the West Gloucestershire and this remained their primary club.[5]

In 1867, West Gloucestershire changed its name to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club. Henry Grace hoped to compete against the first-class county clubs but the situation had been complicated in 1863 by the formation of a rival club called the Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Cricket Club. Nevertheless, Dr Grace's club played Gloucestershire's inaugural first-class match versus Surrey at Durdham Down, near Bristol on 2, 3 & 4 June 1870.[6] The existence of the Cheltenham club seems to have forestalled the installation of Gloucestershire's "constitutional trappings", but the Cheltenham club was wound up in March 1871 and its chief officials accepted positions in the hierarchy of Gloucestershire. So, although the exact details and dates of the county club's foundation are uncertain, it has always been assumed that the year was 1870 and the club celebrated its centenary in 1970.[7] What is certain is that Dr Grace was able to form the county club because of its playing strength, especially his three sons WG, EM and Fred.

Since 1888, the county club has played most of its home games at the Bristol County Cricket Ground in Nevil Road. A number of games are played each season at the Cheltenham and Gloucester cricket festivals on Cheltenham College Cricket Ground and Archdeacon Meadow Cricket Ground at The King's School in Gloucester. Gloucestershire have never won the official County Cricket Championship but their limited overs team, called the Gloucestershire Gladiators, has been very successful with ten trophies.[8] Some of the greatest cricketers of all time have played for Gloucestershire: W. G. Grace, Walter Hammond, Tom Graveney, Mike Procter and Courtney Walsh.

References

  1. David Terry cites Alice B. Gomme in The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland.
  2. Barclay's, page 411.
  3. Midwinter, page 12.
  4. Rae, page 15.
  5. Rae, page 34.
  6. CricketArchive – match scorecard.
  7. Rae, page 89.
  8. Playfair 2018, page 112.

Bibliography

  • Birley, Derek: A Social History of English Cricket. Aurum (1999).
  • Midwinter, Eric: W. G. Grace: His Life and Times. George Allen and Unwin (1981).
  • Playfair: Playfair Cricket Annual. Playfair Books Ltd (1948 to present).
  • Rae, Simon: W. G. Grace: A Life. Faber & Faber (1998).
  • Terry, David: The Seventeenth Century Game of Cricket. The Sports Historian No. 20. Sports Library (2000).
  • Swanton, E. W. (editor): Barclays World of Cricket, 3rd edition. Willow Books (1986).