User:John Leach/Cricket to 1730

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Cricket to 1730

The history of cricket in England from 1701 to 1730 traces the sport's development from the beginnings of professionalism at the end of the 17th century to the rise of strong clubs and featured venues by 1730.

See also : History of cricket in England to 1700.

Legacy of the 17th century

The pattern for 18th century cricket had already been established by the involvement of the gentry and their willingness to both invest in the game and gamble on the matches. This had escalated in the years following the Restoration in 1660. By 1700, investment had created the professional player and the first major clubs, thus establishing the sport as a popular social activity in London and the south-east of England. During the 18th century, its popularity grew as it was introduced to the rest of the British Isles.[1] It had already been taken further afield by English colonial, military and trading missions to India, North America and the West Indies.

While investment created the professional player, the paymasters continued to play themselves and some were good enough to rank alongside the professionals. But they retained an amateur status in that, if they sought remuneration, it would be to cover their expenses; in contrast with the professionals who were paid a salary or fee.[2] Amateur cricket was an extension of the game played in schools, universities and other centres of education, both as a curricular and extra-curricular activity. The schools and universities formed the "production line" that created nearly all the first-class amateur players.[3]

There were two main forms of cricket in the 18th century. One was single wicket in which, as the name implies, there is only one batsman, although teams of threes or fives often took part. The converse is the "double wicket" form, with two batsmen, and this has long been associated with eleven-a-side teams playing two innings each. By 1700, this form had reached a level of excellence such that a newspaper report in 1697 spoke of a "great match" being played in Sussex.

At the minor level, village cricket continued to thrive in the 18th century. In 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.[4]

After freedom of the press was granted by the repeal of the 1662 Licensing Act in 1695, sporting matters could be reported in the newspapers, but it would be a very long time before the newspaper industry matured sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, reports. For much of the 18th century, the emphasis in reports was on the gambling rather than the playing side of the game, but at least the contemporary newspapers were useful for recording the fact of games having taken place. Gradually, coverage increased and match reports began to concentrate on actual play and players.

Early cricket literature

In 1706, William Goldwyn (aka Goldwin) published a Latin poem in celebration of a cricket match. Goldwyn (c.1682–1747) was a schoolteacher and vicar. His poem had 95 lines on a rural cricket match and was called In Certamen Pilae ("On a Ball Game"). It was published in his Musae Juveniles in March 1706. Little is known of Goldwyn himself except that he attended Eton College and then graduated to King's College, Cambridge in 1700. He subsequently became a Master of Bristol Grammar School and was Vicar of St Nicholas' Church in Bristol until his death in 1747.

One of the great names in English literature is Dr Samuel Johnson and it was he who provided the earliest known reference to cricket at Oxford University. Johnson attended Oxford in 1729 for just one year and says he played cricket there. The earliest reference to the game at Cambridge University is dated 1710. Both universities have played a major role in the development of cricket, particularly in the production of first-class amateur players, and both run first-class cricket teams: Cambridge University Cricket Club and Oxford University Cricket Club.

How cricket was played in the early 18th century

An interesting description of cricket around 1700 has been written by R S Rait-Kerr in his The Laws of Cricket: Their History and Growth (1950). The bat (also known as "stick", "staff" or "stave") was like a modern hockey-stick, shaped with flat surfaces, and the batsman was usually called a "striker". He stood with knees bent and used a downward sweep to hit the ball. The objective was to loft the ball over the heads of the fielders, then known as "catchers" and "seekers". Balls were hit to either side of the bowler, who placed his fielders in an array around him, further emphasising that a hockey-type stick was used. The long stop was an important post in those days of balls being skimmed along uneven ground and one of the best fielders was always strategically placed there (George Leer of Hambledon was a noted long stop in the 1770s). The toss of a coin determined which team would choose the pitch and which team would bat first. In those early times, the senior bowler would pick out the piece of ground on which the wickets would be pitched. Although it dated from much later in the 18th century, the famous rhyme about Lumpy Stevens and his brows recalls this procedure:

For honest Lumpy did allow, he ne'er would pitch but o'er a brow

Barty-King writes about the stance of the batsman defending a wide wicket in a picture of 1739, while a slightly later picture from 1742 shows a bat that looks like an ice hockey stick. The 1739 bat is raised, presumably to be in a position to defend the low and widely spaced stumps. Rait-Kerr says the striker has a forward stance with bent knee and the bowler aims at one stump. There must have been an infinite number of occasions when, to the bowler’s anguish, he "scored a goal" as it were and the ball shot straight through without any timber falling. Yet this syndrome does not seem to have become a matter of concern until the famous occasion in 1775 when Lumpy Stevens "scored a hat-trick" against the seemingly unbowlable John Small. It was only then that the middle stump was introduced.

In the late 17th century, the ball was trundled (if slow) or skimmed (if quick), not bowled as it is known it today, in overs of four balls. The four ball over had existed from time immemorial and the number was not increased until the 1889 season. David Terry intriguingly asked if the number of balls in an over equated to the number of stumps? Indeed, there are now six stumps and six balls!

Rait-Kerr writes that the ball itself came in various sizes and colours and was waterproofed with grease to avoid picking up moisture. In The Duke Who Was Cricket, John Marshall describes the ritual of choosing the ball at important matches. For example, there was a choice of balls available for the 1727 challenge match between the Duke of Richmond and Mr Alan Brodrick. It appears that most balls were wooden (probably blackthorne wood) and sewn into a leather cover, which had an annoying tendency to break open during play. The diameter of the ball must have been limited to between three and four inches. Many 17th century balls were about three inches in diameter (there is a collection in the MCC museum). The heavy modern-type ball with wound core and thick leather cover did not come into use until about the 1740s.

The 1744 Laws give several instances of "it is out" but it is possible that there were still only three methods of dismissal at the end of the 17th century. These would have been bowled, caught and the interesting one of "hitting the wicket with the ball before the batsman has touched the umpire’s bat". The function of the umpire’s bat was for the batsman to touch it with his own to record a run. Rait-Kerr says that, as far as it is known, there was no batting crease and the batting position was known as "the striker’s place".

The double wicket version of the game was controlled by two umpires, one from each team, who would position their bats before allowing the bowler to bowl. The Duke of Richmond’s articles in 1727 stipulated twelve "gamesters" to each team, inferring that this included the umpires. Presumably both umpires had to agree on the decisions taken. In some respects, the holding of a bat by the umpire represents a "staff of office".

The scorers were also on the field and this continued until late in the 18th century. They sat on the grass or on stools to notch the scores on a stick, with a deeper knick at 20, which of course represented a score. The same method was used by shepherds when counting sheep, hence the connection between cricket being played on sheep-shorn hills and the method of scoring for cricket. The term point (or prick) was a means of keeping a tally (i.e., scoring with a point or prick of the pen or knife upon paper or wood).

Patronage and gambling


In 1702, the Duke of Richmond's XI defeated an Arundel XI in Sussex. The source for this game is a receipt sent by one Saul Bradley to the Duke on 14 December 1702. The receipt was in respect of one shilling and sixpence 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.[5]

After the 1st Duke of Richmond died in 1723, his son Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond quickly succeeded him as cricket's main benefactor and became a famous patron of Sussex cricket for the next thirty years. The 2nd Duke enjoyed a friendly rivalry with his friend Sir William Gage, another Sussex patron. Their teams played each other many times and their earliest known contest was on Tuesday, 20 July 1725, five days after Sir William's team was beaten by unknown opponents. Our knowledge of these two games is based on a humorous letter sent by Sir William to the Duke on 16 July. Sir William bemoaned that he was "shamefully beaten" the previous day in "his first match of the year" but says nothing of his opponents. He then looked forward to playing the Duke's team next Tuesday and wished his Grace "success in everything except his cricket match".[6]

The main rival to Richmond and Gage was Edward Stead (sometimes called "Edwin Steed") of Maidstone, who was the first of the noted Kent patrons. The Sussex teams of Richmond and Gage enjoyed an inter-county rivalry with Stead's Kent that suggests an origin for the concept of a county championship.[7]

The terms of the wager

The patrons ensured that cricket was financed in the 18th century but their interest, equally applicable to horse racing and boxing, was based on the opportunities that cricket provided for gambling. Every important match in the 18th century, whether first-class or single wicket was played for stakes. The early newspapers recognised this and were more interested in publishing the odds than the match scores. Reports would say who won the wager rather than who won the match.[8] Sometimes, gambling would lead to dispute and two matches ended up in court when rival interests sought legal rulings on the terms of their wagers.

On Monday, 1 Sept 1718, a game on White Conduit Fields in Islington between London and the Rochester Punch Club was unfinished because the Rochester players walked off in an attempt to have the game declared incomplete. This was 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 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 runs to win but lost by 21.[9]

In 1724, Chingford v Edward Stead's XI ended early because the Chingford team refused to play to a finish when 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. It is known that Lord Chief Justice Pratt presided over the case and ordered them to play it out on Dartford Brent, though it is unclear if that was the original venue. The game was completed in 1726.[10] This match is the earliest reference to cricket being played in Essex, assuming Chingford was the original venue, and is the first known to have involved an Essex team.

The introduction of Articles of Association, agreed before matches by the stakeholders, largely resolved any problems between patrons and match organisers. But the concept was more important in terms of defining the rules of play and eventually these were codified as the Laws of Cricket.[11] The earliest known use of articles was for a July 1727 match in Surrey between the Duke of Richmond's XI and Mr Alan Brodrick's XI. It may have been 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.

Competitive cricket to 1730

Matches of the early 18th century

Periodicals called The Post Boy and The Post Man were useful sources for cricket advertisements during the early 18th century. In 1700, a series of matches to be held on Clapham Common was pre-announced on 30 March by 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. The advert says the teams would consist of ten "Gentlemen" per side but the invitation to attend was to "Gentlemen and others". This clearly implies that cricket had achieved both the patronage that underwrote it through the 18th century and the spectators who demonstrated its lasting popular appeal.[12] On 24 July 1705, The Post Man announced West of Kent v Chatham, an 11-a-side game at Malling, Kent.[12]

On 26 June 1707, London played Mitcham at Lamb's Conduit Field in Holborn and, on 1 and 3 July 1707, Croydon played London twice, the first game played in Croydon, possibly at Duppas Hill, and the second at Lamb's Conduit Field. Both of these matches were advertised by The Post Man as "two great matches at cricket (to be) plaid (sic), between London and Croydon; the first at Croydon on Tuesday, July 1, and the other to be plaid in Lamb's-Conduit-Fields, near Holborn, on the Tuesday following, being the 3rd of July". No post-match reports could be found so the results and scores are unknown.[12]

The earliest known match that definitely involved county teams (or teams with county names) was Kent v Surrey at Dartford Brent on Wednesday, 29 June 1709. This was advertised in the Post Man the previous Saturday and played for a stake of £50. Dartford Brent was a popular Kent venue in the 18th century and had probably been used for matches in the 17th century. 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, while the Surrey team would have been drawn from one or more Surrey parishes and subscribed by their patron.[13]

One player who could have taken part in the 1709 match was William Bedle (1680–1768), of Dartford, who is the earliest great player whose name has been recorded. He was "reckoned to be the most expert player in England" and must have been in his prime c.1700 to c.1725.[14] Other good players known to have been active in the 1720s were Edward Stead of Kent; Edmund Chapman and Stephen Dingate of Surrey; Tim Coleman of London; and Thomas Waymark of Sussex.

Dartford v London

The first great rivalry in cricket history was between the Dartford and London clubs who are first known to have played each other in 1722. On Wednesday, 19 August 1719, London v Kent was played at White Conduit Fields and Kent won. This is the earliest known definite result. The report said the teams played for "a considerable sum of money".[15]

On Saturday, 9 July 1720, London v Kent at White Conduit Fields was won by London. In this match, two London fielders were badly injured by a clash of heads.[15] H T Waghorn wrote that advertising and reporting of cricket ceased for some years after this game and he wondered if that was due to a perception that the sport is dangerous.[15] A more likely reason was the impact of the South Sea Bubble. When the South Sea Company was found to be insolvent, its crash in 1720 caused massive repercussions throughout the economy and many formerly prosperous investors were ruined, including some of cricket's patrons. The reason for fewer reports was the withholding of patronage and investment, hence fewer matches.[16]

On Wednesday, 18 July 1722, London v Dartford in Islington was the subject of a letter in The Weekly Journal dated 21 July 1722. The result of the match is unknown. In 1723, the prominent Tory politician Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford recorded in his journal: "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".[17] It is more than likely to have been Dartford Brent where this game was taking place.[17]

On Thursday, 18 June 1724, London v Dartford was the earliest known match at Kennington Common, near where The Oval is now sited. The result is unknown.[18] On Monday, 10 August 1724, there was a match in Islington (result unknown) which featured the combined parishes of Penshurst, Tunbridge and Wadhurst versus Dartford. This was recorded in a diary entry by one John Dawson, who may have watched it. No details are known but Mr Dawson says it was "a great cricket match".[19]

The first "champion county"

In June 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. He referred to county matches "as a commonplace". If they were a commonplace, they were also keenly contested to the point where winning teams would proclaim their county's superiority. It is a long time before the actual words "county championship" appear in the sources but it is clear that the idea of a champion county existed in the 1720s if not sooner.

When Edward Stead's XI played Sir William Gage's XI at Penshurst Park, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in August 1728, the game was the equivalent of Kent v Sussex as the players were reported to be "11 of each county". Sir William Gage was a Sussex landowner and Mr Stead was a resident of Maidstone in Kent. Kent won the game although Sussex needed just 7 in their second innings. Evidently Mr Stead's team also won two games against the Duke of Richmond's XI (another Sussex team) and a contemporary newspaper recorded that Stead's victory over Gage was "the third time this summer that the Kent men have been too expert for those of Sussex".[7] This amounts to a proclamation of Kent's superiority and is the first time that the concept of a "champion county" can be seen in the primary sources.

Gage and Sussex had their revenge in 1729 when they defeated Stead's Kent XI by what appears to have been the earliest known innings victory. Thomas Waymark, the earliest-known of cricket's great all-rounders, turned the tide in Sussex's favour, a contemporary report saying that "(Waymark) turned the scale of victory, which for some years past has been generally on the Kentish side".[7] This is another indication that the concept of a "champion county", even if only in the form of "bragging rights", existed in the 1720s.

Single wicket

Single wicket came to the fore in the 1720s. In 1726, a match at Moulsey Hurst between Perry of London and Piper of Hampton, Middlesex, was advertised in the London Evening Post. This is the earliest match known to have been played under single wicket rules. Single wicket attracted huge wagers throughout the 18th century, although the form reached its peak in the 1740s and was less popular thereafter.

In 1730, there are reports of four single wicket events in the press, including a tri-series organised by Edward Stead whose Kent quartet played a Brentford four "for a considerable wager". The Brentford team won the decider.

This was one occasion when Stead, a profligate gambler, lost heavily. His gambling habit eventually got the better of him as it is known that he died in reduced circumstances, on 28 August 1735, while still only 34.


During the 1720s, some of the most famous venues of early cricket came into general use. They include Dartford Brent, Kennington Common and Moulsey Hurst, but the most significant was the Artillery Ground in Finsbury.

Belonging to the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) since 1638, the Artillery Ground has mainly been used for displays, parades, training, etc. but the HAC was often willing to allow its use by outside parties wishing to stage other events. It is situated just off the City Road immediately north of the City of London and was historically stated to lie "between Chiswell Street and Bunhill Fields", the latter being a cemetery. From about 1730 until the 1750s, the Artillery Ground was the main home venue used by London Cricket Club and was the feature venue for not only London but all English cricket. It eventually fell into disrepute because of uncontrolled gambling and several crowd disturbances. It ceased to be used for major cricket in the aftermath of the Seven Years War, the last known match taking place in 1778, many years after the London Club had already disbanded.

The earliest match definitely played at the Artillery Ground was London v Surrey on Monday, 31 August 1730. London won by 6 runs for a stake of 20 guineas. The venue was described in contemporary reports as the "old" Artillery Ground, but that may be because it was used frequently for other forms of sport or entertainment. 1730 was the first season from which a sizeable number of match reports have survived, there being 12 first-class and 4 single wicket games in the records. It is clear that London had the predominant team and it was from this time that an emphasis was placed on club cricket, rather than on the occasional elevens formed by the patrons.

The growth of cricket in England and overseas

By 1700, cricket had been introduced to India, North America [20] and the West Indies but the first definite references occur in the 18th century. In 1709, cricket was played by William Byrd of Westover on his James River estates in Virginia, then an English colony. This is the earliest reference to cricket being played in the New World.[21] In 1721, English sailors of the East India Company were reported to be playing cricket at Cambay, near Baroda, and this is the earliest reference to cricket being played in India. It was via the East India Company that cricket was introduced to and established in India; and consequently in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The other three countries now playing Test cricket had not received English colonists by 1763. Australia and New Zealand had been partly explored by Abel Tasman in the 1640s but still had only their Aboriginal and Maori inhabitants respectively.[22] The first European settlement in South Africa was founded on Tuesday, 6 April 1652 when the Dutch East India Company established Cape Colony on Table Bay, near present-day Cape Town[23].

It is possible that cricket was introduced to the Americas and India before it had spread throughout the British Isles. There is no record of cricket in Yorkshire, home of the English game's most successful club, until 1751. The earliest mentions of cricket in Ireland, Scotland and Wales occur even later in the 18th century.[24]

While England's seafaring and trading concerns ensured the spread of cricket overseas, at home it relied heavily on ease of transport and communications, most of these being waterborne as long journeys tended to be undertaken using coastal or river vessels. Road transport was slowly improving and, in 1706, Parliament established the first turnpike trusts that placed a length of road under the control of trustees drawn from local landowners and traders.[25] 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 and came in time to assist the spread of cricket throughout England.


  1. For example, Bowen, p.267, records 1792 as the date of the earliest known match in Ireland.
  2. Birley, ch.18.
  3. Birley, ch.1.
  4. McCann, pp.1–5.
  5. McCann, p.1.
  6. McCann, p.4.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Waghorn, p.7.
  8. Birley, ch.2.
  9. Buckley, p.2.
  10. Waghorn, p.5–6.
  11. Birley, p.18–19.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Waghorn, p.4.
  13. G B Buckley, Fresh Light on Pre-Victorian Cricket, Cotterell, 1937
  14. Buckley, p.48.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Waghorn, p.5.
  16. Birley, p.16.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Dartford Cricket Club.
  18. Buckley, p.3.
  19. McCann, p.4.
  20. Simon Worrall, Cricket, Anyone?, Smithsonian Institution Magazine, October 2006.
  21. William Byrd, The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, Dietz Publishing, 1941, p.144–146.
  22. The Tasman page at Project Gutenberg of Australia.
  23. Roger B Beck, The History of South Africa, Greenwood, 2000.
  24. Bowen, p.261–267.
  25. William Albert, The Turnpike Road System in England 1663–1840, Cambridge University Press, 1972.