The third in a six-part history of Broadhalfpenny Down from Stephen Saunders
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 Nyren, and his son John, were instrumental in The Hambledon Club's fame and fortunes