A brief history of the cricket ground on Broadhalfpenny Down

As the site of the original Hambledon Club, founded in about 1750, the Broadhalfpenny Down Cricket Ground has a very special place in cricket history. It was here that the game grew from an occasional country pastime to a properly organised national sport. It was the foundation from which cricket was to become an international sport in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Below is a condensed history of the club and the ground. If you wish to know more, please contact BDPT on 01730 825711 or by email to: BDPT12@aol.com

1750 to 1792

The Hambledon Club, founded in about 1750, was the first proper cricket club. Its clubhouse was ‘The Hutt’ (now The Bat & Ball) opposite Broadhalfpenny Down (BHD). By 1760, the club had become the centre of the cricket world and its members included some of the finest cricketers of the day. It was the acknowledged authority for the Laws of Cricket. New laws were considered and recorded in the club’s minutes. They transformed the game of cricket from an occasional rural pastime into the international sport we know today. The Men of Hambledon achieved amazing success under the direction of Richard Nyren, the tenant of The Hutt, carrying all before them on a number of occasions. Most notably they beat Rest of England teams on a number of occasions and once by an innings.

In the 1780s London became the favoured centre for cricket and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), founded in 1787, assumed authority for the laws. The last cricket match played on Broadhalfpenny Down was in 1792 and the ground then lay fallow for 116 years.

1908 – Revival of Interest & Return of Cricket to Broadhalfpenny Down

Although the old Hambledon Club closed in 1796, memories of the great deeds of their famous cricketers were cherished by many and a move was made to erect a memorial stone to them. The great England cricketer and all round sportsman, C B Fry, took an interest. A three day match between a Hambledon XII, which included Fry, and an All England XII, captained by the legendary G L Jessop, was played from 10th to 12th September and the memorial stone unveiled on the 10th.

Winchester College

Harry Altham, a Master at Winchester College, first class cricketer, cricket historian and President of MCC, had a great affection for Broadhalfpenny Down. In 1924, he persuaded Winchester College to purchase the ground and surrounding farmland. There was a grand, well-attended match in 1925 to celebrate the acquisition of the ground. This was followed by two similar matches but it was not until 1936 when BHD was leased to the local engineering firm of Wadhams that Harry Altham’s wish for regular cricket to be played on the ground was fulfilled.

HMS Mercury & The Broadhalfpenny Brigands CC

In 1952, Wadhams gave up their tenure and Harry Altham offered the lease to HMS Mercury, which, in 1941, had moved to Leydene House, a mile from the ground. The lease was later taken over by the Ministry of Defence. In 1959, four officers founded the Broadhalfpenny Brigands CC with the aim of securing regular fixtures to be played on the ground. Over the years, the Brigands took over the responsibility for managing BHD. When it became clear that HMS Mercury would be closed, the Brigands applied for the lease. In 1992, this was granted to them by Winchester on condition that they would set up an independent trust to secure the long-term future of the ground.

Broadhalfpenny Down Association (BHDA)

On the initiative of The Brigands and Winchester College, BHDA was set up in 1996. It was made clear that it was to be independent of the Brigands. In view of the importance of the ground in the history of cricket generally and to Hampshire cricket, it was stipulated that BHDA should include representatives of the Cricket Society, English Schools Cricket Association, Hambledon Cricket Club, Hampshire Cricket Board and the MCC as well as the Brigands and Winchester College.  

Until 1998, the facilities on BHD were primitive – a small thatched pavilion with no electricity or running water. In 1997 BHDA was granted planning permission to build a new pavilion. An appeal was launched in April 1998. The response to the appeal was magnificent, with over 400 donations from all over the world. These totalled £120,000 and the pavilion, with electricity and runnng water was completed by November. Subsequently, from 1999 to 2008, a further £68,000 was raised for: a marquee, artificial grass wicket and net, pitch covers, new gate and entrance replacing a highly dangerous one, sight screens, ground maintenance equipment and secure storage huts.

The Broadhalfpenny Down Preservation Trust (BDPT) 

The Broadhalfpenny Down Preservation Trust (BDPT) was incorporated in 2010, with the same objectives as BHDA, and granted charitable status in 2012. Fund raising was delayed by the opening of a BDPT bank account taking nearly three years. BDPT now has to raise substantial funds to sustain its objectives: hosting of events for encouragement of the young, visually impaired and disadavantaged; provision of new equipment; and for the maintenance and improvement of the facilities on Broadhalfpenny Down.
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