Overview of English cricket from 1816 to 1863

This article presents an overview of English cricket from 1816 to 1863. For more detailed coverage of the period, see the series of season reviews in Category:English cricket seasons from 1816 to 1863.

Although the article mentions some events in other countries, these are connected with the introduction of cricket from England and into those countries. For additional information about the development of the game in the main cricket-playing countries outside England during the period, see:

The Napoleonic Wars had deprived cricket of investment and manpower, particularly after 1810 as the conflict in the Peninsular War reached its height and the invasion of France followed. A recovery began in 1815, the year of the Battle of Waterloo, and a more widespread return to normality can be observed from 1816, although it was not until 1825 that inter-county matches were resurrected when Kent played Sussex.


MCC and its problems

By 1816, the present Lord's Cricket Ground had become the sport's major venue and was the home of the premier club, MCC. MCC, since it was founded in 1787, had gradually increased its influence and its control, especially in its role as the guardian of the Laws of Cricket. During the 19th century, it made efforts to suppress the gambling that had underwritten and sometimes blighted cricket in the past.

But MCC was by no means in total control of events. It was the subject of bitter controversy in the post-war period, largely because of the activities of Lord Frederick Beauclerk, one of the sport's more dubious personalities who effectively "ran" the MCC Committee for many years.

In 1825, the club almost foundered in the face of a dual crisis. First, on the night of Thursday 28 July following a schools match at Lord's between Harrow and Winchester, the pavilion burned down with the consequent loss of valuable scorecards, records and trophies. Thomas Lord claimed he lost £2600 in paid subscriptions, none of which were ever recovered.

Then William Ward, who was a rich banker as well as a good batsman, had to step in and purchase the lease of Lord's ground to save it for cricket. Thomas Lord had been proposing to build houses on the land which brought cries of outrage from the gentlemen players.

Even so, it was many years before the famous ground's future was secured. The lease was transferred to James Dark in 1835 and he retained proprietary till 1864. Then, in 1860, the freehold was sold by the Eyre Estate to a property speculator for £7,000 and MCC did not bid! In 1864, MCC finally did purchase the freehold but paid £18,333 6s 8d for it with money advanced by William Nicholson. The lease expired same year and so, at last, Lord's was owned in its entirety by MCC.

Roundarm to overarm

During the post-war years, there was a discernible shift towards the adoption of roundarm bowling and questions about legalisation of roundarm dominated the sport for thirty years.

At the end of the period, bowling reached the final stage of its evolution as overarm began with the same sort of controversy that had accompanied the introduction of roundarm. But this time the controversy was short-lived and overarm was rapidly adopted and legalised between 1862 and 1864.

Schools, universities and the amateur gentleman

The importance of cricket in the public schools and universities cannot be overstated, especially the influence of public school cricket and its Victorian ethics upon the growth of the British Empire and the spread of industrialisation. The period saw an increasing number of good amateur players come through the education system and make their mark in first-class cricket.

For more information, see : History of English amateur cricket

Equipment and fashion

Changes in fashion affected the sport and a reaction to the virility cult espoused by Beauclerk and his ilk brought about the introduction of safer equipment such as padded leg-guards and padded gloves. Wicketkeeping gloves were first mentioned about 1820 and were in general use by 1850. Batting pads had been proposed much earlier, particularly by Robert Robinson, but it was not until the horrific leg injury suffered by Alfred Mynn in 1836 from a ball by Sam Redgate that pads were seen as an essential item of equipment.

Curiously, whereas Sam Redgate was viewed with trepidation in terms of his pace, he was very much a reactionary in fashion terms. Among professionals in the 1830s, he was said to be the last to discard breeches in favour of trousers! Trousers have existed since ancient times but never became fashionable until the sans-culottes of the French Revolution. In England, they began to replace breeches during the Napoleonic War and were widely in use by 1815. Redgate was not alone in his preference for breeches: the Eton and Harrow teams still wore them in 1830.

With trousers came the belts with metal clasps that remained popular until well into the 20th century. Many professionals preferred braces.

Wigs went out with the 18th century and men followed the lead of Napoleon Bonaparte by having their long hair cut short. The Hambledon players had worn hats when playing and this fashion persisted except that the style of hat changed dramatically. By 1830, the tall "beaver" hats familiar in pictures of William Lillywhite and Fuller Pilch had become common. These would be either black or white. Many players preferred a straw hat based on the rural style but these were replaced by white bowler hats, first worn by I Zingari in 1845, which were usually adorned with a ribbon in club colours.

The tall hats were replaced before 1850 by the flannel cap which tended to be either white or chequered. Then the familiar cricket cap began to appear. The schools adopted these first: Eton (light blue) and Winchester (blue) in 1851; Harrow (striped) in 1852. The blue caps worn by Cambridge and Oxford date from about 1861 and 1863 respectively. The county clubs gradually introduced their own caps thereafter though the amateurs still tended to wear their school caps.

Coloured shirts were worn in the middle years of the century as team uniforms, though all were a pattern on a white background (e.g., the All-England Eleven wore white shirts with pink spots). The frilled shirts of Georgian times were replaced by plain cloth. Some players wore high collars and many used a rather large bow tie.

Footwear was almost universally confined to the black "Oxford" shoe.

A kind of short white flannel jackets had originally been mentioned as early as 1812 and this was probably an early form of blazer.

County clubs and the spread of cricket

After the foundation of Sussex County Cricket Club in 1839, several more county clubs were created to replace the loose organisations that had managed county teams formerly.

The formation of William Clarke's All-England Eleven and its successors gave cricket a new direction and helped to develop the geographical spread of the game throughout England. This process was facilitated by the "railway boom", the growth of the railway network permitting matches between widely separated opponents.

Cricket achieved even a greater geographical spread through the first overseas tours from England to North America in 1859 and Australia in 1861-62. The first international match had taken place in North America in 1844, between Canada and United States. First-class cricket began in Australia in 1850-51 and the beginning of first-class cricket in each of India, New Zealand and the West Indies was imminent.

Chronology of important events: 1816-1863

  • Formation of Manchester Cricket Club which took part in a number of important matches until Lancashire CCC was established in 1864. Manchester was representative of Lancashire as a county in the same way that Sheffield and Nottingham represented Yorkshire and Notts.
  • Sussex v. Epsom at Lord's was a five-day match. William Lambert guested for Sussex and scored two centuries (107* & 157) in the match, the first player to achieve the feat in top-class cricket.
  • First recorded instance of the Cambridge University v. Cambridge Town Club fixture that became almost annual until the 1860s. It was also the earliest major match to involve either team.
  • There was a very fine line between Cambridge Town Club and Cambridgeshire, the one dovetailing with the other. Similar scenarios were Nottingham/Notts, Manchester/Lancashire & Sheffield/Yorkshire.
  • A Northants CCC was possibly founded this year. A substantially reorganised and reformed club established in 1878.
  • Earliest mention of wicket-keeping gloves.
  • William Ward scored 278 for MCC v. Norfolk at Lord's, the first known double century.
  • First century in scored in a Gentlemen v Players match was 113* by Thomas Beagley.
  • In the MCC v. Kent match at Lord's, John Willes of Kent opened the bowling and was no-balled for using a roundarm action, a style he had attempted to introduce since 1807. Willes promptly withdrew from the match and refused to play again in any important fixture.
  • Roundarm was a natural reaction to the growing predominance of batsmen over the age-old underarm style of bowling. Its adherents argued that the legalisation of roundarm was essential to restore the balance between batting and bowling. However, high-scoring matches were still comparatively rare owing to vagaries in pitch conditions.
  • Thurs 28 July. A schools match at Lord's between Harrow and Winchester had just concluded and then, during the night, the pavilion burned down with the consequent loss of valuable scorecards, records and trophies. Thomas Lord claimed he lost £2600 in paid subscriptions, none of which were ever recovered. Which raises the questions of why it wasn't in the bank and why he apparently wasn't insured!
  • William Ward purchased the lease of Lord's ground from Thomas Lord, who retained freehold. Lord had been proposing to build houses on the land which brought cries of outrage from the gentlemen players. Ward, a rich banker as well as a fine batsman, stepped in and bought the leasehold to save the ground for cricket.
  • Even so, it was many years before the famous ground's future was secured. The lease was transferred to James Dark in 1835 and he retained proprietary till 1864. Then the freehold was sold in 1860 to a property speculator called Isaac Moses for £7,000 and MCC did not bid! In 1864, MCC finally did purchase the freehold but paid £18,333 6s 8d for it with money advanced by William Nicholson. The lease expired same year and so, at last, Lord's was owned in its entirety by MCC.
  • Charles James Barnett became the first (i.e., the first known) president of MCC in 1825. This is an annual appointment and he was succeeded by Lord Frederick Beauclerk for 1826. There may have been earlier presidents but there is no record of them, perhaps because the records were lost in the fire.
  • A significant event that would in time accelerate the spread of cricket throughout England was the passage of an Act of Parliament on Friday 5 May that authorised creation of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway and effectively began the railway boom.
  • The Lord's pavilion had been rebuilt in time for MCC's annual dinner on Thurs 11 May.
  • First recorded century in a school match: 146* by W Meyrick for Winchester v Harrow.
  • Arthur Haygarth closed his Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 at the end of the 1826 season.
  • The roundarm controversy came to a head before the 1827 season and MCC agreed to the staging of three trial matches between Sussex and All-England. Roundarm's supporters made the grandiose claim that their campaign was a march of intellect. It is difficult to discern anything intellectual about propelling a cricket ball with arm outstretched vis-à-vis propelling it with hand below elbow, but there we are. What the bowlers were really after was of course to claim an advantage over the batsmen.
  • No firm conclusions were drawn in the immediate aftermath of the trials and it was many years before roundarm was formally legalised. But, in practice, roundarm was adopted in 1827 as its practitioners, especially William Lillywhite and Jem Broadbridge of Sussex, continued to use it with little, if any, opposition from the umpires.
  • Underarm bowling did not cease, even if it had been superseded. In fact, underarm survived roundarm. Underarm as a tactical alternative to overarm continued into the 20th century.
  • Following the Sussex v. England roundarm trial matches in 1827, MCC modified Rule 10 to permit the bowler's hand to be raised as high as the elbow.
  • Earliest reference to cricket in New Zealand is in a churchman's diary.
  • 5 September. A notice in the Colombo Journal calling for the formation of a cricket club is the earliest reference to cricket in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The Colombo Cricket Club was formed soon afterwards and matches began in November.
  • First use of Yorkshire as a team name (instead of Sheffield).
  • John Nyren published The Cricketers Of My Time and The Young Cricketer's Tutor. These works were written from Nyren's recollections by Charles Cowden Clarke and had been serialised in The Town during the previous year.
  • Powerless to prevent the use of roundarm, MCC finally amended the Laws of Cricket to make it legal. The relevant part of the Law stated: if the hand be above the shoulder in the delivery, the umpire must call No Ball. Bowlers' hands now started to go above the shoulder and the 1835 Law had to be reinforced in 1845 by removing benefit of the doubt from the bowler in the matter of his hand's height when delivering the ball.
  • The Laws included mention of the follow-on for the first time by stipulating a compulsory follow on if 100 behind.
  • Nottinghamshire as a county team, and perhaps also as Notts CCC, played its first inter-county match v. Sussex at Brown's Ground, Brighton on 27, 28 & 29 August. Previous matches involved Nottingham as a town rather than Notts as a county. Notts is recognised as a first-class county team from 1835.
  • The lease of Lord's Ground was transferred to JH Dark, who remained proprietor until 1864.
  • Although Sussex had been a major cricket centre since the 17th century, there had apparently been no move towards a permanent county organisation until 17 June 1836 when a meeting in Brighton set up a Sussex Cricket Fund to support county matches. It was from this organisation that Sussex CCC was formally constituted in 1839.
  • The inaugural North v. South fixture was held at Lord's on 11 & 12 July.
  • It was about this time that batting pads were invented.
  • 1 March. Formation of Sussex CCC out of the Sussex Cricket Fund organisation that had been set up in 1836.
  • Sussex CCC played its initial first-class match v. MCC at Lord's on 10 & 11 June.
  • March/April. Formal creation of Nottinghamshire CCC (the exact date has been lost) although, as noted above, an informal Notts CCC may have been set up in 1835.
  • The Duke of Wellington issued an order that a cricket ground must be made as an adjunct to every military barracks.
  • 6 August. Formation of Kent CCC in Canterbury (reformed as the present club in 1859). Teams representing Kent had been playing regularly in first-class matches since the early 18th century but these were invariably sides raised by wealthy patrons. Kent's Canterbury Week and The Old Stagers were instituted.
  • The new Kent CCC played its initial first-class match v. England at the White Hart Ground, Bromley on 25, 26 & 27 August.
  • Roger Kynaston succeeded Benjamin Aislabie as secretary of MCC (to 1858).
  • 13 March. Foundation of Cambridgeshire CCC which played first-class cricket from 1857 to 1871.
  • 28 August. A match on Hartlebury Common between Worcestershire and a team styled 'Salop' is the earliest known instance of a county team in Worcestershire.
  • Although several earlier county organisations had existed since the 17th century, the present Surrey CCC was formed at a meeting which took place at the new Kennington Oval during a match between two local teams on 21 & 22 August.
  • I Zingari (the Gypsies) formed as a travelling club.
  • The earliest first-class match at The Oval was Surrey Club v. MCC on 25 & 26 May. Only 194 runs were scored in the match with a top score of 13. William Hillyer took 14 wickets to help MCC win by 48 runs.
  • Surrey CCC played its initial first-class match v. Kent at The Oval on 25 & 26 June, winning by 10 wickets.
  • Fenner's was opened in Cambridge and leased by CUCC from 1873 (the freehold was purchased in 1892).
  • The Telegraph Score Board was introduced at Lord's. Scorecards were sold at Lord's for the first time.
  • In the early 1840s, Dr Henry Grace and his brother-in-law Alfred Pocock had founded the Mangotsfield Cricket Club which merged in 1846 with the West Gloucestershire Cricket Club, whose name was adopted until 1867, after which it became the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club.
  • 18 July: W G Grace born.
  • 23, 24 & 25 July. Sheffield Cricket Club versus Manchester Cricket Club at Hyde Park Ground, Sheffield has been labelled Yorkshire v Lancashire and, therefore, the first Roses match. Yorkshire won by 5 wickets. The first match between the two county clubs took place in 1867 after Yorkshire CCC was founded in 1863 and Lancashire CCC in 1864.
  • Re-emergence of Middlesex as a county team, largely through the interest of the Walker family that eventually founded the present Middlesex club.
  • John Wisden bowled all ten batsmen in one innings playing for North v. South at Lord's.
  • About this time the mowing machine began to be used on cricket grounds, but sheep continued to be used at Lord's for many more years.
  • The basic wicket-keeping gloves evolved into the now familiar padded gauntlets.
  • 11-12 February. Tasmania v Victoria at Launceston Racecourse was the initial first class match in Australia. Tasmania won by 3 wickets.
  • Oxford University CC rented the Magdalen Ground at Cowley. They migrated to The Parks in 1881.
  • The United All England Eleven was established as a rival to the AEE. Jemmy Dean and John Wisden were the main organisers and other players to represent the UEE in its early years included John Lillywhite, Tom Lockyer, Jem Grundy, F P Miller, W Mortlock and T Sherman.
  • 27 July. John Sherman made his final first-class appearance for Manchester v. Sheffield at Hyde Park, Sheffield. His career had spanned 44 seasons from his debut at Lord's on 20 September 1809 when he played for Beauclerk's XI v. Ladbroke's XI. His was the longest first-class career span, equalled only by W G Grace.
  • Last of the Public Schools Weeks (Eton, Harrow, Winchester) at Lord's.
  • Follow-on differential reduced to 80 (60 in a one-day match)
  • 26-27 March. Victoria v. New South Wales at Melbourne was the earliest first class match played by New South Wales. They won by three wickets.
  • William Clarke took at least 476 wickets in the season in all matches.
  • The AEE and UEE began an annual series of matches against each other that continued until 1869. The fixture was the most important of the season while it lasted. Two games were played in 1857, both at Lord's and both won by the AEE.
  • UEE players in 1857 included: John Wisden (captain), Jemmy Dean, Jem Grundy, William Caffyn, John Lillywhite, Tom Lockyer, Will Mortlock and Will Martingell.
  • Jem Grundy became the first player to be given out handling the ball when playing for MCC v. Kent at Lord's.
  • The Cricketers Fund Friendly Society was instituted. For ten years the great match between the AEE and the UEE was played in its support. From 1884, until his death, Lord Harris was its president, and the society has done invaluable work for professional cricketers and their dependents.
  • Alfred Baillie succeeded Roger Kynaston as secretary of MCC (to 1863).
The first English touring team pictured on board ship at Liverpool: standing at left Robert Carpenter, William Caffyn, Tom Lockyer; middle row John Wisden, HH Stephenson, George Parr, Jem Grundy, Julius Caesar, Thomas Hayward, John Jackson; front row Alfred Diver, John Lillywhite.
  • 1 March. Formation of the present Kent CCC.
  • The earliest reference to a hat being presented to a bowler who had taken wickets with three successive deliveries, hence hat trick.
  • 21, 22 & 23 July. V E Walker of Middlesex, playing for England v. Surrey at The Oval, took all ten wickets in the Surrey first innings and followed by scoring 108 in the England second innings, having been the not out batsman in the first (20*). He took a further four wickets in Surrey's second innings. England won by 392 runs.
  • 7 September. Departure of cricket's first-ever touring team. A famous photograph was taken on board ship before they sailed from Liverpool. The team of English professionals went to North America and played five matches, winning them all. There were no first-class fixtures. The 12-man squad was: George Parr (captain), Julius Caesar, William Caffyn, Robert Carpenter, AJD Diver, Jem Grundy, Thomas Hayward, John Jackson, John Lillywhite, Tom Lockyer, HH Stephenson, John Wisden.
  • The Eyre Estate sold the freehold of Lord's at public auction to Isaac Moses, a property speculator, for £7,000. MCC did not bid. James Dark retained the leasehold until 1864 when he resigned it to MCC, who subsequently bought the freehold at considerable profit to Mr Moses.
  • 7 March. A Match Fund Committee to run Yorkshire county matches was established in Sheffield, which had been the home of Yorkshire cricket for nearly 100 years. It was from this fund that Yorkshire CCC was founded two years later: an exact parallel with the formation of Sussex CCC from a similar fund (1836-1839).
  • HH Stephenson captained the first English team to tour Australia. No first class matches were played.
  • 26 August. Surrey v. England at The Oval. Edgar Willsher of England was no-balled six times in succession by John Lillywhite (son of William Lillywhite) for bowling with his hand above the shoulder. For some years previously, Willsher and others had bowled in this way and the incident at The Oval put the issue into context. The drama was exaggerated when Willsher and the other eight professionals in the England team walked off the field. Play continued next day but with a replacement umpire. Compared with the introduction of roundarm, this controversy was short-lived and overarm bowling was legalised in 1864.
  • Publication of vols. 1-4 of Scores and Biographies, compiled by Arthur Haygarth. This work recorded the full scores of all discoverable matches from 1744 onwards.
  • 8 January. Formation of Yorkshire CCC out of the Sheffield Match Fund Committee that had been established in 1861.
  • Yorkshire CCC played its initial first-class match v. Surrey at The Oval on 4, 5 & 6 June. It was a rain-affected draw, evenly balanced.
  • 12 August. Formation of Hampshire CCC. A number of previous county organisations including the famous Hambledon Club had existed in Hampshire during the previous hundred years or more, but none had survived indefinitely.
  • 15 December. Formation of Middlesex CCC at a meeting in the London Tavern.
  • It was the hope of Dr Henry Grace that his Gloucestershire club would join the first-class county clubs but the situation was complicated in 1863 by the formation of a rival club called the Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Cricket Club. However, this club was wound up in March 1871 and its chief officials accepted positions in the hierarchy of Gloucestershire, which had by then begun to play first-class matches.
  • Robert Allan Fitzgerald succeeded Alfred Baillie, who resigned due to ill health, as secretary of MCC. Fitzgerald became the first paid secretary from 1 January 1867 and remained in office until 1876.


External sources


  • H S Altham, A History of Cricket, Volume 1 (to 1914), George Allen & Unwin, 1962
  • Derek Birley, A Social History of English Cricket, Aurum, 1999
  • Rowland Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
  • Arthur Haygarth, Scores & Biographies, Volumes 1 - 8 (1744-1864), Lillywhite, 1862-65
  • Fred Lillywhite, The Guide to Cricketers, Lillywhite, 1851 to 1866 (annual)
  • John Major, More Than A Game, HarperCollins, 2007
  • John Nyren, The Cricketers of my Time (ed. Ashley Mote), Robson, 1998
  • Pelham Warner, Lord's 1787 – 1945, Harrap, 1846
  • Roy Webber, The Playfair Book of Cricket Records, Playfair Books, 1951
  • Graeme Wright, Wisden at Lord's, Wisden, 2005

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