Edwin Stead (1701 – 28 August 1735) was a noted patron of English cricket, particularly of Kent teams in the 1720s. He usually captained his teams but nothing is known about his ability as a player. There is uncertainty about his name because his forename has been rendered "Edwin", "Edwyn" or "Edward"; his surname "Stead", "Stede" or "Steed". In the various sources, "Edwin Stead" is the most common version. He was born at Harrietsham in Kent and died in London.
|Full name||Edwin Stead|
Harrietsham, Kent, England
|Died||28 August 1735|
|Domestic team information|
|c.1720–1735||Dartford Cricket Club|
Source: H. T. Waghorn, 31 May 2008
Stead, a landowner, was a compulsive gambler who frequently bet on the outcome of cricket matches. Like other patrons, he sought to improve his chances of winning by underwriting select XIs usually made up of players from several Kent parish teams; his teams were therefore of, or near enough, county strength. Dartford Cricket Club, which featured William Bedle, had arguably the best parish team in the game at the time and it is certain that Stead used several Dartford players in his Kent teams, of which he was also the captain.
Stead's teams are recorded in several significant matches from 1724 to 1731. His first known match was probably at Chingford in 1724 and it became the subject of a court case after the Chingford team refused to play to a finish when Kent had the advantage. The court, presided over by Lord Chief Justice Pratt, ruled that the match must be played out so that all wagers could be fulfilled. The match resumed and was completed at Dartford Brent on 5 September 1726, though it seems that was not the original venue. A week earlier, on 29 August 1726, Kent had played a combined London and Surrey team on Kennington Common for 25 guineas but the result is unknown.
Stead was a strong rival to the two noted Sussex patrons, Sir William Gage and the 2nd Duke of Richmond. He was very successful in 1728 when the report of a game in August said of Kent's latest victory: "the third time this summer that the Kentish men have been too expert for those of Sussex". But Stead was less successful on 28 August the following year when Gage's XI defeated Kent at Penshurst Park, apparently by an innings. There was a return match in September, possibly at or near Lewes, but the result is unknown.
Stead was active in single wicket cricket which became popular during his lifetime. He led a Kent team in three four-a-side matches in 1730. The sources record that "a considerable wager" was at stake in the decider and Kent lost.
The last definite mentions of Stead in a cricket context are in the 1730s concerning his presence at certain matches, although Kent remained prominent in the records for the last five years of his life. Stead's last known involvement in a match was on Saturday, 26 June 1731 when he led a Kent team against Sunbury on Sunbury Common, a game which the home team won.
Personal life and early deathEdit
Edwin Stead was the grandson of Sir Edwyn Stede (sic), who had been knighted by Charles II. He inherited the family estate when he was still only eighteen and became a compulsive gambler, being a keen player of dice and cards in addition to cricket, but John Marshall's summary is that "he is said to have lost heavily at all". John Major wrote that Stead lived the "proverbial short life but a merry one". His recklessness caused him financial difficulties in 1723 and he was obliged to mortgage some of his land to settle his debts. Stead was, nevertheless, a "graceful loser" and Major asserts that "his nonchalance" gained him powerful friends including Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Stead's death on 28 August 1735 was reported in the Grub Street Journal on Thursday, 4 September 1735. The report says there were two accounts of his death: one that he died "near Charing Cross"; the other that he died "in Scotland Yard".
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