A cricketing history in six parts
By popular demand, we are re-publishing Stephen Saunders excellent six-part history of Broadhalfpenny Down, but in one long-form article.
Tuesday 23 June 1772 was market day in Hambledon, Hampshire and on that day the first designated first-class match was due to take place in the village at Broadhalfpenny Down. The official classification of a first-class match is one that is scheduled for three days or more duration between two sides of eleven players each with the opportunity to have two innings each. The origin of the term “first-class match” is unknown but it acquired official status, though limited to Great Britain, in 1895 following a meeting of the leading English clubs and the MCC in May 1894. It was not until 1947 that the term was formally defined by the Imperial Cricket Conference and it was specifically stated then that the definition “will not have retrospective effect”. So how have matches prior to 1895 been classified as first-class? As there is no official definition applicable to this period it has been left to statisticians to come up with the criteria. So the classification is a statistical one, not an official one. As one would expect, in any group of experts, few statisticians agreed. In Playfair Cricket Records Roy Webber says matches should be classified as first-class from 1864, (the introduction of Wisden Cricketer’s Almanac). Bill Frindall in his Wisden Cricket Records says 1815. The Association of Cricket Statisticians said that it should be from the first Gentlemen v Players match in 1806. Stumpsite always maintained that it should be 1772 and that, of course, ties in with the founding of the Hambledon Club. It is this date that has been accepted and acknowledged by cricket historians and statisticians.
Cricket matches had been played before this date by many of the players in this match, but 1772 is the first year for which scorecards have survived and this match is the first one of three in that year. There is general confusion as to whether the team playing in this match was Hambledon or Hampshire and even the eminent writers on the history of the game cannot agree. Hampshire is recorded as playing matches before the formation of the Hambledon Club in May 1772. Further on June 2, 1772 a match is recorded at the Artillery Ground, London between five of Kent and five of Hampshire. The five of Hampshire were also all playing in the Broadhalfpenny match. Evidence does, therefore, lead to the team being Hampshire. The Hampshire team had two given men in John Edmeads and William Yalden from Chertsey. Both these gentlemen later played in matches for Hampshire. The team was captained by Richard Nyren, known as “The General”, who was the landlord of the Bat and Ball, Hambledon (previously known as the Hut). His first reported match was in 1759 and his last in 1784. The team contained the following regular Hampshire/Hambledon players:
Thomas Brett said to be the fastest and straightest bowler of his generation;
John Small generally regarded as the greatest batsman of the 18th century and as such was included in John Woodcock’s “100 Greatest Cricketers of All Time in 1997. He went on to the score the first first-class century in 1775 against Surrey and played his last match in 1798 at the age of 61;
Tom Sueter who was the team’s wicket-keeper and a proficient left-handed bat;
George Leer whose speciality was fielding at long-stop behind the wicket-keeper, especially to the bowling of Thomas Brett;
Peter Stewart (also known as “Buck” as he was a natty dresser) was a good batsman, especially on the off side and had a wicked sense of humour;
Edward Aburrow a decent batsman and useful change bowler. He played for All-England against Kent in 1744;
William Hogsflesh known as a medium pace bowler;
William Barber was a fast round-arm bowler with a high delivery and a free hitter. He took over the Bat and Ball, after Richard Nyren, which he ran for twelve years, being also the groundsman on Broadhalfpenny Down.
A formidable team, even without the given men. Their opponents were England (sometimes referred to as Kent, Middlesex and Surrey). From Kent were:
John Frame. A bowler of great renown who played for Surrey at the age of sixteen in 1749. He played for Kent in the five-a-side match along with May (Richard), Miller and Minshull. Nyren wrote that “he was an unusually stout man for a bowler”. He subsequently played two matches for Hampshire in 1773.
James Fuggles. A batsman who played in the three first-class matches in 1772 and a further one in 1773. His name does appear several times in the press recording matches in the 1760’s.
Richard May and his brother Thomas May. The brothers played a lot of matches together. Richard was a noted bowler, who later played one match for Hampshire in 1776. He was a yeoman and gamekeeper at Bourne Park who died in a drunken fit. Thomas was a batsman who is known to have played for Kent in the 1760’s and 1780’s.
Joseph Miller. Miller’s first name is confusing as records refer to him both as Richard and Joseph. He was one of the best batsmen in the 18th century and played against Hampshire in the two other first-class matches in 1772. Nyren stated him to be “firm and as steady as the Pyramids”, adding, “he and Minshull were the only two batters the Hambledon men were afraid of.”
John Minshull (sometimes referred to as John Minchin). He was employed by the Duke of Dorset as a gardener and playing for the Duke’s XI in August 1769 scored 107 against Wrotham. This is first definitely known century in any class of cricket. He also played in the other two matches in 1772. Nyren described him as “a capital hitter and a sure guard of his wicket” although his style was “both awkward and uncouth”.
William Palmer. He was a noted batsman who played for Coulsdon Cricket Club in Surrey who were Chertsey’s great rivals. Most of his career was in the 1760’s and 1770’s before statistical records began. He continued to play till 1776.
Childs. Little is known about Childs not even his initials. This is his first known recorded match and he played four first-class matches for Surrey in 1773. That same year, in August he returned to Broadhalfpenny Down, along with Palmer, White and Stevens, to play for Surrey against Hambledon Town and in September against Hampshire. The Surrey men then played on the Down again in 1774 for England v Hampshire, but Stevens was playing for Hampshire in this match.
Thomas White. He was a genuine all-rounder being successful as a batsman and change bowler. Like most of the others he started playing in 1760’s but he is best known playing in a match for Chertsey against Hambledon in 1771 when he appeared at the crease with a bat that was as wide as the wicket. Naturally the bowler, Thomas Brett, objected and a formal protest was made leading to a change in the laws to set the maximum width at four and a quarter inches.
The England team were also allowed a given man from Chertsey, Edward (Lumpy) Stevens. Stevens was recognised as probably the best bowler of his era. In 1775 playing John Small in a single wicket match he beat Small three times with the ball going straight through the stumps. This led to the introduction of a third stump.
This leaves one player by the name of Gill. This is his only recorded first-class match. He was previously recorded as playing two matches for All-England against Dartford in 1759 and described as a wicketkeeper from Buckinghamshire. Unfortunately Middlesex does not have any records from this period, so it cannot be established that he was from that county.
The match was played for a stake of 500 guineas. There were four balls per over and no extras were recorded. The bowlers and the forms of dismissal were not recorded nor was there any report on the match. Hampshire scored 146 in their first innings, thanks to John Small who made 78, over half the runs. England were all out for 109; their highest individual score being 35 by Thomas White. In their second innings Hampshire scored 79, again mainly due to John Small who made 34. They then got England out for 63, winning by 53 runs. Later that month, on June 30th, the first fully documented meeting of the Hambledon Club took place in the Broadhalfpenny Hut. The other two matches of the season for which records survive were also Hampshire versus England. The first was in July that year played at Guildford Basin, in Surrey which Hampshire won by 62 runs. The second was the following month at Bourne Paddock in Kent when England achieved their first victory by two wickets. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Laws of Cricket
The origins of cricket are unknown. During the early eighteenth century it was a rustic game mainly played by children that slowly advanced to a sport patronised by the aristocracy. The patronage of the aristocracy was for their own benefit in that they placed significant amounts on the outcome of matches. The game that we are celebrating this year was played for 500 guineas (£83,000 in today’s money). With such sums involved there had to be some rules.
There was a version of such rules that appeared in the November 1752 issue of New Universal Magazine as a code of rules under the title “The game at Cricket, as settled by the Cricket-Club in 1744, and play’d at the Artillery Ground, London”. The first published laws of the game were produced on 15 May, 1755 when a booklet was advertised for sale by the Fleet Street bookseller W. Reeve entitled “The Articles of The Game at Cricket, as settled by the several Cricket-Clubs, particularly at the Star and Garter in Pall Mall”. It contains a complete set of rules that regulate every aspect of game and is basically the same as the earlier publication. Possibly a formalisation of “The Laws of Cricket”.
The Articles are set out in six sections, paraphrased below:
The pitching of the wicket. Determined by the toss of a piece of money. Popping crease three feet ten inches from the wicket. The other wicket directly opposite at twenty-two yards difference. Popping crease three feet ten inches before it. The bowling creases must be cut in direct line from each stump. Stumps twenty-two inches long and the bail six inches. The ball must weigh between five and six ounces.
Laws for the bowlers. Four balls per over. No-ball if the bowler’s hinder foot is over the bowling crease.
Laws for the strikers. If the wicket is bowled down it’s out. Covers hit wicket, stumped, hindering a catch, run outs, handled ball. All very similar to the present.
Bat, foot or hand over the crease. Dead ball rule. Stop ball hitting wicket. If the bail does not fall, not out.
Laws for the Wicket-keepers. Shall not move till ball is out of the bowler’s hand. Shall not by any noise, incommode the striker and if his hands, knees, foot or head be over or before the wicket, though the ball hit it shall not be out. No sledging in those days!
Laws for the umpires. To allow two minutes for each man to come in and ten minutes between each hand. To mark the ball that it may not be changed. Allow retired hurt striker to return. Sole judges of all decisions. When both umpires call Play three times they that refuse to play forfeit the game.
It is these Laws under which the original First Class crickety match was played at Broadhalfpenny Down in 1772. Cricket bats at that time were curved rather like a hockey stick. This required the batsman to stand to the side of the wicket in order to hit the ball. John Small, the eminent batsman of the age, who was a bat maker designed a straight bat. However, this bat required the batter to stand in front of the stumps in order to hit the ball.
In a match between Chertsey and Hambledon in September 1771 Thomas White of Chertsey appeared at the crease with a bat as wide as the wicket. Thomas Brett, the Hambledon bowler, objected and supported by his captain Richard Nyren and John Small a protest was raised.
These two developments led to a meeting on 25th February 1774 at the Star and Garter in Pall Mall of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and London and they produced the 1774 Laws of Cricket. Interestingly of the twelve members of the committee six were members of the Hambledon Club.
The last three “laws” concerned betting. These laws brought in the leg before wicket rule and fixed the width of the bat at four and quarter inches. That it is still the case today. The weight of the ball was stipulated at not less than five and a half ounces, nor more than five and three-quarter ounces. Also the case today.
The following year, 1775, playing in a match between five of Kent and five of Hambledon, John Small came in last for Hambledon when they required fourteen runs to win. Lumpy Stevens beat Small’s bat but the ball went through the wicket without dislodging it. This happened twice more before Small scored the runs to win the match. As a result of this the third (middle) stump was added.
Richard Nyren was born in Eartham, Sussex in 1734. The Nyren family can be traced back in Eartham to the Rev. Jasper Nyren who was Curate of Eartham in the seventeenth century. Richard’s father (Richard) married Susannah Newland of Slindon (two miles away) in 1733. Susannah’s younger brother Richard Newland lost his wife after a couple of years of marriage in 1747 and his only child a few weeks later. He then basically became a second father to Nyren.
Richard Newland and his two brothers were the mainstays of Slindon Cricket Club, which preceded Hambledon by many years. In 1740 they beat All-England in a match played on Merrow Down near Guildford. Richard Newland was captain of the club, and went on to captain “England” teams. In 1742 Slindon won forty-two of the forty-four matches that they played. It was Richard Newland, a left-handed batsman, who taught Richard Nyren to play and instilled in him the love of the game. It was, no doubt, a result of this tutoring that Richard Nyren also became a left-handed batsman.
Richard married Frances Pennicud at Slindon in 12 November 1758 and four years later the Nyrens moved to Hambledon and Richard took over as landlord of The Hut, as the Bat and Ball was then called. Their son John was born in 1764.
In the same year it is known that Richard was captain of the Hambledon team that defeated Chertsey. He was referred to as “The General”. Cricket matches were hardly ever recorded in these times and his only recorded appearance before moving to Hambledon was for the Rest of England against Dartford in 1759. From records that have been located he is known to have played in 51 matches between 1764 and 1784 for Hambledon/Hampshire. He played in the 1772 match and is recorded as playing 49 first-class matches scoring 1026 runs at an average of 12.98. He also took 104 wickets with his left-arm fast-medium underarm bowling. He was secretary of the Hambledon Club from 1779 to 1788.
In 1772 Nyren took over the George Inn in the village of Hambledon, a larger inn with stabling, which he ran for twenty years before moving to London. The Bat and Ball was taken over by his cricketing companion William Barber. Nyren also owned a small farm with 40 sheep and 8 cows on the outskirts of the village.
He died on 25 April 1797. His widow, Frances, moved back to Hambledon to live in a house provided by her son and died in 1808 but was buried in the family grave in Bromley Churchyard.
John Nyren was born in Hambledon on 15 December 1764 and brought up initially in the Bat and Ball Inn which, inevitably, involved him in the Hambledon Club. He was also a left-handed bat but his cricketing career was not distinguished.
His first recorded first-class match was in 1787 and he played sixteen matches scoring 199 runs. He played for the Gentlemen in the inaugural match versus the Players in 1806 with little effect.
In 1791 he married seventeen year old Cleopha Copp with whom he obtained a reasonable fortune. They left Hambledon and settled in Portsea. He was an outfitter for the Royal Navy in partnership with an old school friend James Neale. His wife was of German parentage and highly educated including speaking fluent French, which she used to assist the priests who arrived to Portsea from France. She was also the organist at the local chapel.
The couple had seven children. In 1796 the Nyrens moved to Bromley in Kent where John carried on business as a calico printer and then subsequently to London. John was an accomplished musician both on the fiddle and as a composer. He established a great friendship with Vincent Novello who published some of his works and was organist at St Mary’s, Moorfields where Nyren was the choirmaster for thirteen years.
From 1801 to 1808 he played a further nineteen matches, principally for Homerton Cricket Club. In 1832 he published a series of articles on his reminiscences of the Hambledon Club in The Town. The following year, in collaboration with Charles Cowden Clarke, whom he met through Novello, he published The Young Cricketers Tutor. This is acknowledged as the first book on cricket and it ran to ten editions, with numerous subsequent reprints. It is for this publication rather than the cricketing prowess that he achieved his fame.
The Nyrens moved back to Bromley-in-Bow where Cleopha died on 25 July 1835. John survived her for almost two years dying on 28 June 1837 and was buried with his wife in the family grave.
Richard & John Nyren
First Class Cricketers Buried In Hambledon
Edward Aburrow's father was reputed to be a smuggler by the name of “Cuddy”, who played cricket for Slindon and All England. Edward, junior, was born in Slindon on 24 March 1747. By trade, he was a shoemaker and linen draper in Hambledon. He was a right-hand bat and useful change bowler who played 44 first-class matches for Hampshire between 1772 and 1782. He is sometimes referred to on scorecards by his nickname “Cuddy” Aburrow. He died on 6 October 1835 and was buried in Hambledon with his wife, Elizabeth, who predeceased him in 1831, and their son who died aged six in 1788. Their headstone is the only one of the famous 18th century players to survive and can be located in section F row 383.
George Leer was born in Hambledon in 1748. He played 44 first-class matches for Hampshire in the same period as Aburrow and was known as an excellent long stop behind the wicket-keeper. He was a fine singer and often entertained in the post-match get-togethers. He moved to Petersfield where he was a brewer. He died on 1 February 1812 and his wish was carried out “to be taken” to Hambledon.
Peter Stewart was born in Hambledon in 1730 and was given the nickname of “Buck” as he was such a natty dresser. He worked as a carpenter, shoemaker and finally as the landlord of the Green Man in Hambledon (now a private home listed Grade II). He was known as a humourist, forever cracking jokes. He played 16 first-class matches for Hampshire between 1772 and 1779. He died in 1796 and was buried in the churchyard.
John Goldsmith was born in Hambledon in 1766 and lived at West End, Hambledon where William Cobbett visited and mentioned in his “Rural Rides”. He played one first-class match at Windmill Down in 1792; however, he played for Surrey, against Hampshire, batting at number eleven, probably because they were a man short. He died in 1845 and his headstone together with his wife can be found in section D.
Thomas Sueter was born in Hambledon in April 1750 and was an architect and surveyor. He was a left-handed batsman and a reliable wicket-keeper playing 54 first-class matches for Hampshire between 1772 and 1786. He then played six matches for Surrey in 1788/9. In 1786 on Windmill Down he had the distinction of being the first player given out “hit ball twice”.
In 1788 there was a catastrophic fire at the parish church with the loss of much of the medieval structure and upper stages of the tower. Sueter was involved in the rebuilding and there was a plaque over the door saying: “Thomas Sueter and Richard Flood, Builders, AD 1788”. Sueter was in the church choir and left a sovereign so that an anthem could be sung over his coffin and this was done. He died in Emsworth in February 1827, but is buried in Hambledon. His headstone read: “Sacred to th