The earliest definite mention of cricket is dated Monday, 17 January 1597 (i.e., a Julian date which is 1598 by modern reckoning under the Gregorian calendar). The reference is in the records of a legal case at Guildford re the use of a parcel of land c.1550 and John Derrick, a coroner, testified that he had at that time played cricket on the land when he was a boy. Cricket may have been a children's game in the 16th century but, about 1610, the earliest known organised match was played and references from that time indicate adult participation. From then to 1725, less than thirty matches are known to have been organised between recognised teams. Similarly, a limited number of players, teams and venues of the period have been recorded.
Having originated in England sometime before c.1550, cricket's introduction to other lands began in the seventeenth century, reaching India for example by the early eighteenth century. The earliest matches played by English parish teams are examples of village cricket. Although village matches are now considered minor in status, the early matches are significant in cricket's history simply because they are known. There were no newspaper reports of matches until the end of the seventeenth century and so the primary sources are court records and private diaries, hence games were rarely recorded.
In the course of the seventeenth century, cricket in London and the south-eastern counties of England evolved into a popular sport, staging lucrative eleven-a-side matches featuring the earliest professional players. The information is subject to change in the light of ongoing research.[fc 1]
Known organised matches (1611–1725)Edit
The table below is fully chronological. It summarises all of the 27 known organised matches from 1611 to 1725 and does not separate matches by form or status. It therefore includes examples of both "important" and "minor" matches, bearing in mind that some minor matches are historically significant. Unless specified as such, "impromptu" games amongst friends, practice matches, etc. are excluded.[fc 2] Although single wicket was in vogue at the time, the earliest definite record of a single wicket match is in 1726.
|unknown date, c.1610||Weald and Upland v Chalkhill||Chevening||result unknown|||
The earliest known village cricket match; and the earliest known organised match in Kent, in England and in the world. Deduced from a 1640 court case which recorded a "cricketing" of "Weald and Upland" versus "Chalkhill" at Chevening "about thirty years since" (i.e., c.1610). As with the 1597 reference (see "Other events" below), the case concerned the land on which the game was played.
|28 August 1624 (Sa)||Horsted Keynes v West Hoathly||Horsted Keynes||result unknown|||
The earliest definite mention of cricket in Sussex is dated 1611 but this is believed to be the earliest known organised match in the county. Knowledge of it stems from the death thirteen days later of Jasper Vinall, on whom an inquest was held. He had suffered a head injury during the game when accidentally hit by the bat. As Vinall came from West Hoathly, it is assumed that the event was a village cricket match between the two parish teams.
|c.30 June 1697 (W)||"A Great Match"||Sussex||result unknown|||
A historically significant event which is recorded by numerous sources, starting with G. B. Buckley in his FL18C, but has been ignored by CricketArchive. It is the world's earliest known important cricket match (possibly Sussex v Kent or Surrey) and, as Buckley said, "the earliest record of an eleven a side match". Following the decision of the English government in 1695 to allow freedom of the press (i.e., they decided not to renew the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 which had inhibited the scope of publications), it was possible for sporting events to be reported; however, it was a long time before editors gave sport any priority so coverage remained low key and infrequent for several decades. The 1697 match was reported in a periodical called the Foreign Post and described as "a great match at cricket" that was played "the middle of last week" in Sussex with "eleven of a side" and "they played for fifty guineas apiece". The stakes on offer indicate the importance of the fixture and the fact that it was eleven a side suggests that two strong and well-balanced teams were assembled. There is no scorecard and hence no statistics, so the match is outside the scope of the sport's statistical record, but it is the earliest-known example of an important match in the historical record.
|1 April 1700 (M)||series of ten-a-side matches||Clapham Common, near Vauxhall||results unknown|||
The participants were all "gentlemen" though "others" could attend as spectators. Classification is uncertain, though it must presumably be viewed as a minor event given the limited social status of the participants, the relatively low stakes (£10 and £20 are mentioned in the newspaper report) and the ten-a-side teams. It is nevertheless the earliest known organised match in Surrey; the earliest definite mention of cricket in the county was the 1597 court case in Guildford.
|unknown date, 1702||1st Duke of Richmond's XI v Arundel||Sussex||result unknown|||
Verified by a receipt for the purchase of brandy which describes the purpose of the transaction (i.e., to celebrate a cricket match). The venue was probably either Goodwood, where Richmond had his estate, or Arundel, possibly on Bury Hill which was used for cricket in later years. Arundel was a prominent centre of cricket in the 18th century.
|7 August 1705 (Tu)||West of Kent v Chatham||Maulden (sic)||result unknown|||
The primary source gives the venue as "Maulden" which must have been a typeset error as there is no such place. It was possibly Maidstone or Malling. The title "West of Kent" suggests a team representative of several parishes, so this is arguably the earliest known important match in Kent. There were several matches throughout the 18th century involving teams called "West Kent" and "East Kent". Chatham was a prominent centre of cricket in the 18th century.
|26 June 1707 (Th)||London v Mitcham||Lamb's Conduit Field, Holborn||result unknown|||
The earliest known important match in Middlesex and possibly the earliest known to involve the original London Cricket Club, though the date of the club's formation is uncertain and the team here might have been an ad hoc London XI. Interestingly, given the "All England" term used later in the century, the source calls the team "All London". Mitcham Cricket Club, which is extant, was founded in 1685.
|1 July 1707 (Tu)||Croydon v London||Croydon, possibly Duppas Hill||result unknown|||
The earliest known important match in Surrey. As with the previous match, it is not known if the teams at this time represented formally constituted clubs and it is possible that both were ad hoc teams drawn from local residents. Croydon and London both had important teams in the first half of the 18th century.
|8 July 1707 (Tu)||London v Croydon||Lamb's Conduit Field, Holborn||result unknown|||
A return match to the one on 1 July above. There has been some confusion about the date following a misreading of the original source by H. T. Waghorn, who was the first modern researcher, but Tuesday, 8 July is believed to be correct.
|23 June 1708 (W)||A Canterbury team v Ash Street||venue unknown||A Canterbury team won|||
Probably a minor match only but it illustrates the popularity of cricket in Kent. The original source is the diary of one Thomas Minter, a Canterbury resident, who wrote: "We beat Ash Street at Crickets (sic)".
|29 June 1709 (W)||Kent v Surrey||Dartford Brent||result unknown|||
This match is the first in which counties are known to have been used as team names although it is generally believed that the earliest "inter-county matches" were really inter-parish matches involving two villages on either side of a county boundary. Dartford was an important club in the first half of the 18th century and its team at this time featured William Bedle. The match is the earliest known mention of Dartford Brent as a venue.
|31 May 1717 (F)||"A cricket match"||Sussex||result unknown|||
Thomas Marchant, a farmer from Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, first mentioned cricket in his diary. He made numerous references to the game, particularly concerning his local club, until 1727. His son Will played for "our parish", as he invariably called the Hurstpierpoint team. In total, his diaries mention 21 village matches and the entries provide evidence of the widespread popularity of cricket in Sussex.
It is from 1717 that a continuous history of English cricket by season is possible, although the details in most seasons through the 18th century remain sparse.
|1 Sept 1718 (M)||London v Rochester Punch Club||White Conduit Fields||match abandoned|||
This match is the earliest known mention of White Conduit Fields as a venue. The game was abandoned on Monday, 1 September 1718, because three Rochester players "made an elopement" in an attempt to have the game declared incomplete so that they would retain their stake money. London was clearly winning at the time. The London players sued for their winnings and the game while incomplete was the subject of a noted lawsuit in which the terms of the wager were at issue. The court ordered that the match must be "played out" (see next entry).
|early July 1719||London v Rochester Punch Club||White Conduit Fields||London won by 21 runs|||
The continuation of the September 1718 match (see above entry), which was abandoned by the Rochester players. Following a legal action in which the London players sued for their winnings, the court ordered that the match must be "played out". The exact date in July 1719 is uncertain but it was before the 4th. Rochester with four wickets standing needed 30 to win but were all out for 9. It is not certain if 30 was their overall target or if they needed thirty more in addition to runs scored in the original encounter; equally, it is not known if 9 was the innings total they achieved or if they added nine more to their "overnight" score. London's 21-run victory is the earliest known definite result of any cricket match.
|19 August 1719 (W)||London v Kent||White Conduit Fields||Kent won|||
Reportedly played for "a considerable sum of money". There is an insight into the priorities of early 18th century cricketers as the contemporary report concludes with: "The Kentish men won the wager" (i.e., the wager was more important than the match).
|6 July 1720 (W)||Kingston v Richmond||venue unknown||Kingston won|||
The secondary source is uncertain about the date due to a slight ambiguity in the primary source, a contemporary newspaper published Saturday, 16 July, which refers to "Wednesday last". The date of the match must therefore be either 6 or 13 July. The source says 5 or 12 July but this is an error as those dates were Tuesdays. Kingston and Richmond both had important teams in the first half of the 18th century.
|9 July 1720 (Sa)||London v Kent||White Conduit Fields||London won|||
Two London fielders were seriously injured by a clash of heads when chasing the ball. Waghorn speculated that their injuries may have caused a perception that the sport is "dangerous" as the next report he could find was for a match in 1726. If there was a lapse in cricket at this time, the more likely causes would be either: (a) the South Sea Bubble which ruined many investors and so could have reduced cricket patronage; or (b), as Waghorn himself mentions, "the (news)papers were small, and space limited, the advertising and reporting (of) matches ceased".
|unknown date, 1721||English sailors||Cambay, India||result unknown|||
Not a match in England, but one involving English sailors of the East India Company, who played a match at Cambay, near Baroda. It is the earliest known reference to cricket being played in the Indian sub-continent. One of the players wrote: "When my boat was lying for a fortnight in one of the channels, though the country was inhabited by the Culeys (sic), we every day diverted ourselves with playing Cricket and to other Exercises, which they would come and be spectators of".
|18 July 1722 (W)||London v Dartford||venue unknown||result unknown|||
The subject of a letter in The Weekly Journal dated 21 July 1722. It is believed the match took place somewhere in the Islington area, so the exact venue may have been White Conduit Fields. The match was abandoned following a dispute. The letter said: "A Match at Cricket was made between the little Parish of Dartford in Kent, and the Gentlemen known by the name of the London Club". Teams styled "London" were already in existence, as above, but this is the first actual reference to a "London Club".
|unknown date, 1723||Surrey v London||Moulsey Hurst||result unknown|||
The source states that "XI Gentlemen of Surrey played XI of London at Moulsey Hurst during the summer". It is the earliest known mention of Moulsey Hurst as a venue for cricket.
|unknown date, 1723||Dartford v Tonbridge||Dartford Brent||result unknown|||
The subject of a diary entry by Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, who wrote: "At Dartford upon the Heath as we came out of the town, the men of Tonbridge and the Dartford men were warmly engaged at the sport of cricket, which of all the people of England the Kentish folk are the most renowned for, and of all the Kentish men, the men of Dartford lay claim to the greatest excellence".
|11 June 1724 (Th)||Dartford v London||Dartford Brent||result unknown|||
This match is a recent discovery so the next match, which has been in the records a long time, was actually a return.
|18 June 1724 (Th)||London v Dartford||Kennington Common||result unknown|||
The earliest known match on Kennington Common and a return match to the one on 11 June above.
|10 August 1724 (M)||Penshurst, Tonbridge & Wadhurst v Dartford||Penshurst Park||result unknown|||
Recorded in a diary entry by one John Dawson, who may have attended, and described as "a great match". Other sources have mistakenly given the venue as "Islington" but contemporary newspapers confirm that it took place at Penshurst Park.
|unknown date, 1724||Edwin Stead's XI v Chingford||Dartford Brent||result unknown|||
Dartford Brent is assumed to have been the venue because of the wording used by a primary source (see below). If, however, the venue was in Chingford, then this is the earliest known match in Essex. In an attempt to nullify the wagers, the Chingford team refused to play to a finish when Stead's team had the advantage. A court case followed and, as in the London v. Rochester match in 1718, it was ordered to be played out so that all wagers could be fulfilled. Lord Chief Justice Pratt presided over the case and he "referr'd the said Cause back to Dartford Heath (i.e., Brent), to be played on where they left off, and a Rule of Court was made accordingly". The game was completed in September 1726. The final result is not on record, and there is no confirmation that Stead's team held their advantage and won.
|15 July 1725 (Th)||Sir William Gage's XI v another XI||unknown venue||Gage "shamefully beaten"|||
Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond wrote to Sir William Gage in July 1725 and issued a challenge for a match to be played at Goodwood. Gage replied to him by letter on 16 July and confirmed that his team would play the Duke's on Tuesday, 20 July (see below). Gage then stated that he is "in great affliction from being shamefully beaten yesterday the first match I played ys (sic) year". He went on to wish the Duke success in everything except his cricket match.
|20 July 1725 (Tu)||2nd Duke of Richmond's XI v Sir William Gage's XI||Bury Hill, Arundel||Richmond's XI won by "above forty (runs)"|||
The subject of Gage's letter to Richmond on 16 July (see above). Richmond had challenged Gage to a match at Goodwood. However, the report in the Daily Journal newspaper on 21 July confirms Bury Hill (then called Berry Hill), near Arundel, as the venue. The match, played before "a vast Concourse of People", was hosted by Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk who gave a ball at Arundel Castle in the evening.
The earliest definite mention of cricket is in the records of a legal case at Guildford, concerning ownership of a parcel of land, and confirms that the sport was played there by schoolboys c. 1550.
The match at Chevening is tentatively dated c. 1611 and it is in the records of that year that two definite and key references are found. First, a French-English dictionary was published by Randle Cotgrave who defined the noun crosse as "the crooked staff wherewith boys play at cricket". The verb form of the word is crosser, defined as "to play at cricket".
Secondly, although cricket was defined as a boys' game in Cotgrave's dictionary, as per the Guildford schoolboys in the sixteenth century, it was at this time that adult participation is known to have begun. The first definite mention of cricket in Sussex was also in 1611 and relates to ecclesiastical court records stating that two parishioners of Sidlesham in West Sussex had failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined 12 pence each and made to do penance.
Oliver Cromwell, then aged 18, went to London and trained for a time at one of the Inns of Court. William Dugdale later recorded that Cromwell played cricket and football there. This is the earliest known reference to cricket in London.
Introduction of Gunter's chain. The pitch has been 22 yards long (i.e., a chain) since the first known code of laws in 1744. It is believed this length had been in use since the introduction of Gunter's chain.
Several parishioners of Boxgrove, near Chichester in West Sussex, were prosecuted for playing cricket in a churchyard on Sunday, 5 May. The record of this case at Boxgrove contains the earliest reference to the cricket bat.
Henry Cuffin, a curate at Ruckinge in Kent, was prosecuted by an Archdeacon's Court for playing cricket on Sunday evening after prayers. He claimed that several of his fellow players were "persons of repute and fashion". This statement is the first evidence of cricket achieving popularity among the gentry.
A Latin poem contains a probable reference to cricket being played at Winchester College; if so, it is the earliest known mention of cricket in Hampshire. There are few 17th century references to cricket being played at or in the vicinity of schools but it was noted at Eton and Winchester by the time of the Commonwealth. A comment by Horace Walpole confirms that cricket was being played at Eton during the first quarter of the 18th century.
A case at Cranbrook against John Rabson, Esq. and others referred to "a certain unlawful game called cricket". Rabson was evidently a member of the gentry but the other defendants were all working class.
Three men were prosecuted at Eltham in Kent for playing cricket on a Sunday. Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate had been established the previous year, but the defendants were charged with "breaking the Sabbath", not with playing cricket. There is no evidence that cricket, unlike the theatres and other forms of entertainment, was banned by the Puritans.
The Gaming Act 1664 was passed by the Cavalier Parliament to try to curb some of the post-Restoration excesses, including gambling on cricket, and it limited stakes to £100. That was equivalent to about £16,000 in present-day terms. It is known that cricket could attract stakes of 50 guineas by 1697 and it was funded by gambling throughout the next century.
In May, Sir Robert Paston of Richmond wrote a letter to his wife mentioning "a game of criquett (sic) on Richmond Green" which is the first reference to cricket at Richmond Green, a popular venue for important matches during the 17th and 18th centuries.
A man called Edward Bound was charged with playing cricket on the Sabbath and was exonerated: an indication that attitudes were changing in the wake of the Restoration. The case was reported in Shere, Surrey.
Accounts of Thomas Lennard, 1st Earl of Sussex, include an item which refers to £3 being paid to him when he went to a cricket match being played at "ye Dicker", which was a common near Herstmonceux in East Sussex.
The earliest known reference to the wicket is contained in lines written in an old bible which invited "All you that do delight in Cricket, come to Marden, pitch your wickets". The wicket until the 1770s comprised two stumps and a single bail.
Mitcham Cricket Club was formed, the club playing on what is today known as Mitcham Cricket Green. The site has hosted cricket matches ever since. Mitcham is believed to be the world's oldest cricket club as there is no evidence of any other club being founded before 1685. Croydon, Dartford and London had all been founded by the 1720s but their dates of origin have been lost, although there was an actual reference to a London Club in 1722.
Parliament decided against a renewal of the 1662 Licensing Act and so cleared the way for a free press on the Act's expiry in 1696. It was from this time that cricket matters could be reported in the newspapers, but it would be a very long time before the newspaper industry adapted sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, reports.
The Artillery Ground in Finsbury was first mentioned in cricketing terms when meeting minutes of the Honourable Artillery Company referred to "the abuse done to the herbage of the ground by the cricket players". London Cricket Club became chiefly associated with the venue through much of the 18th century.
As illustrated by the table of matches above, little is known of organised cricket to 1725 and equally little of clubs and teams, players and venues. There is a shortage of references from the latter part of the 17th century due to the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 which imposed stringent controls on the newspaper industry and sport, including cricket, was not reported. The few surviving references have been found in official records, such as court cases, or in private letters and diaries.
The four bulleted lists below summarise the known participants to 1725 under each heading. The earliest important match that is designated inter-county was in 1709 and the traditional county soon became the key unit of organisation. Until 1725, only nine counties had been mentioned in connection with cricket and the earliest mention of each is summarised below. In addition, London has on occasion been equated in status with the counties of Middlesex and Surrey for cricketing purposes. All the counties are in the south-eastern quarter of the country. In a similar vein, although not always in association with one of the above matches, those players, venues, clubs and teams known to have been active or in use by 1725 are also listed.
The first definite mentions of cricket in the following traditional counties occurred between 1597 and 1724:
- Cambridgeshire – 1710 at the University of Cambridge
- Essex – 1724 re the Chingford-Stead match
- Hampshire – 1647 at Winchester College
- Kent – c.1611 re the match at Chevening
- London – 1617 re Oliver Cromwell
- Middlesex – 1680; also the first mention re umpires
- Oxfordshire – 1673 at the University of Oxford
- Surrey – 1597 re John Derrick and the Guildford court case; the world's earliest definite mention of cricket
- Sussex – 1611 re an ecclesiastical court case
Clubs and teamsEdit
With the exception of Mitcham, club and team foundation dates cannot be determined, but it is known that the following clubs or teams were active during the period:
- 1st Duke of Richmond's XI
- 2nd Duke of Richmond's XI
- Edwin Stead's XI
- Kent (pre-county club)
- Mitcham (1685)
- Penshurst, Tonbridge & Wadhurst
- Rochester Punch Club
- Sir William Gage's XI
- Surrey (pre-county club)
- West Kent
The contemporary sources rarely mentioned players by name but it is known that the following were active during the period:
- Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond (Sussex)
- William Bedle (Dartford and Kent)
- Edwin Stead (Kent)
- William Goodwin (Sunbury and Middlesex)
- Sir William Gage, 7th Baronet (Sussex)
- Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond (Sussex)
- Edmund Chapman (Chertsey and Surrey)
The following venues are known to have been used during the period:
- Surviving match records as late as 1825 are incomplete and, for example, any statistical compilation of a player's career to then can only be based on known data. Match scorecards have survived from 1744 but were not always created, or have been lost, and the matches themselves were not always recorded in the press or other media. Well into the 19th century, scorecard data was not comprehensive: e.g., bowling analyses lacked balls bowled and runs conceded; bowlers were not credited with wickets when the batsman was caught or stumped; in many matches, the means of dismissal were omitted.
- First-class cricket was officially defined in May 1894 by a meeting at Lord's of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the county clubs which were then competing in the County Championship. The ruling was effective from the beginning of the 1895 season. Pre-1895 matches of the same standard have no official definition of status because the ruling is not retrospective and the important matches designation, as applied to a given match, is based on the views of one or more substantial historical sources. For further information, see First-class cricket, Forms of cricket and History of cricket.
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- In a letter to The Weekly Journal (London) dated 21 July 1722.
- McCann, p. xli.
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