Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cricket in England across the centuries

Walter Hawkesworth Fawkesby (British artist, 1769-1825) The Boy with the Bat c. 1760

Cricket began as a children's game.  Presently, the earliest written evidence of the game of cricket is found in a 1598 court case concerning an ownership dispute over a plot of common land in Guildford, Surrey. A 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he & his school friends had played "creckett" on the site 50 years earlier, when they attended the Free School.  Derrick's account proves, that the game was being played in Surrey circa 1550.  The 1st reference to cricket being played as an adult sport was in 1611, when two men in Sussex were prosecuted for playing cricket on Sunday instead of going to church. In the same year, a dictionary defined cricket as a boys' game, suggesting that adult participation may have been a recent development.

Francis Cotes, (English painter, 1726-1770) 1766 Chales Collyer as a Boy with a Cricket Bat

After the Civil War ended in 1648, the new Puritan government clamped down on "unlawful assemblies," in particular the more raucous sports such as football. Their laws also demanded a stricter observance of the Sabbath. As the Sabbath was the only free time available to the lower classes, cricket's popularity may have waned during the Commonwealth, but it did flourish in public fee-paying schools such as Winchester & St Paul's. There is no printed evidence that Oliver Cromwell's regime banned cricket specifically, & there are references to it during the interregnum. Some believe that the nobility in general adopted cricket at this time through involvement in village games

Unknown artist after Louis-Philippe Boitard An Exact Representation of the Game of Cricket 1760 

Cricket thrived after the Restoration in 1660, attracting gamblers making large bets at this time. In 1664, the "Cavalier" Parliament passed the Gaming Act 1664 which limited stakes to £100, equivalent to about £13 thousand in present day terms. Cricket had grown into a significant gambling sport by the end of the 17C. There is a newspaper report of a "great match" played in Sussex in 1697 which was 11-a-side and played for high stakes of 50 guineas a side. With freedom of the press in 1696, cricket could be reported in the newspapers. During the 1st half of the 18C; however, press reports tended to focus on the betting rather than on the game.

 Unknown British artist, The Game of Cricket

The basic rules of cricket such as bat & ball, the wicket, pitch dimensions, overs, how out, etc. had developed as the game progressed. In 1728, the Duke of Richmond & Alan Brodick drew up Articles of Agreement to determine the code of practice in a particular game, & this became important to determining payment of stake money & distributing the winnings in gambling.  In 1744, the Laws of Cricket were codified, & amended in 1774. These laws stated that the principals shall choose from among the gentlemen present two umpires who shall absolutely decide all disputes. 

The game of cricket

A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy, and Pretty Miss Poll by Isaiah Thomas, Worcester, Massachusetts 1787.  

This book is intended for children in the new republic formed from the British American colonies.  Cricket & baseball had been played side by side in England, & both sports had been eagerly exported to the New World. Well into the 19C, cricket was a popular American game.  The first international cricket match was between the United States & Canada in 1840. In 1859, an England XI set sail for New Jersey to play a match against the Americans before a crowd of 24,000 (England won). But ever since the revolution, America had begun to break free from Britain’s gravitational pull. And so baseball, losing popularity in England, had already started its slow ascent to popularity. By the end of the 19C, there was no debate as to which sport had won American hearts.

 Richard Heber by John Singleton Copley c. 1782

Nuns and Monks playing an early form of cricket. The Ghistelles Hours, 14C Flemish

A woman about to bowl in a medieval sketch  Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Cricket match played by the Countess of Derby and other ladies (1779) 1st recorded woman's game in England was in 1745.

Lewis Cage, The Young Cricketeer by Frances Cotes 1768

In the 1800s, The Level was reportedly the only public space in Brighton to allow ball games.  George Henry Phillips (fl. mid 19th Century) - Colored mezzotint after William Drummond & Charles J. Basebe "The Cricket Match between Sussex and Kent at Brighton"

Solomon Alexander Hart (British artist, 1806-1881) The Cricketers, Southsea

Samuel Bough (British artist, 1822-1878) Cricket Match at Edenside, Carlisle 1844

Robert Finlay McIntyre (British artist, 1846-1906) The Cricket Match, Gospel Oak Fields 1885

John Westell (British artist) Tooting Common with a Cricket Match 1887

 19C Cricket Match

19C Cricket Match

John Robertson Reid (British artist, 1851-1926) A Country Cricket Match.

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