My Research So Far
So far my research has consisted mostly of trawling local newspapers, consulting the wonderful Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library, and reading any book that I think may contain relevant information. Some of this has been courtesy of the Cambridge University Library, which also houses the fascinating Cambridge University CC archives. This page is a very incomplete representation of my research. The whole website provides a better picture.
Cambridgeshire Cricket 1700-1848
Pre 18th Century – a first possible reference to cricket in Cambridgeshire:
1616 – Oliver Cromwell went up to Sidney College Cambridge in 1616 where he is said to have “spent much of his time……at foot-ball,cricket and other robust exercises, for his skill and expertise in which he was famous.” (From A New and General Biographical Dictionary; containing An Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons in every Nation; Particularly the British and Irish […] Vol. III. London. Printed for T. Osborne […] M DCC LXI, quoted in Ian Maun “From Commons to Lord’s”(Roger Heavens 2009) .
This observation was published nearly 150 years after the event. It is therefore hard to tell whether it was based on pure assumption, on the general knowledge that cricket had been commonly played at around 1616, or on a more specific reference to either Cromwell or his fellow students playing the game at Cambridge University. Nevertheless it presents an impression that the game had a presence within the University for many years before anything as formal as a match was recorded. As to whether the same can be said for Cambridgeshire in general is less clear. The lack of evidence does not preclude the existence of informal or unrecorded cricket in the county before the 18th century. We just don’t know.
The first clear reference to cricket being played in Cambridgeshire comes from 1710 when a record of a dispute at Trinity College Cambridge mentions the game as one of several student pastimes. Cricket seems to have continued within the university but has not been found in records in the form of organised matches until 1754. A report in 1755 concerned four matches reported as between Cambridge University and Eton in 1754/55. These seem most likely, however, to have been many internal University matches between ex-Eton scholars and the Rest, reportedly a regular fixture in the 2nd half of the 18th Century.
By that time the game had at least been played between the north Cambridgeshire towns of Wisbech and March in 1744. The rest of the century appears to have seen more obvious development of cricket in the county as a whole than within the university, although there was evidence of the game becoming established in Cambridge town. By the year 1799 cricket had been played in or by teams from March, Wisbech, Cambridge, Royston, Chatteris, Newmarket and Manea as well as one match in Newmarket in 1791 billed as a county match between Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
See the “18th century” page for details of 18th century cricket in Cambridgeshire.
In order to make sense of Cambridgeshire’s cricket history it has been necessary to identify which clubs were involved rather than assume that accepted secondary sources such as “Scores and Biographies” were completely accurate. This is particularly relevant to Cambridge clubs throughout the first half of the 19th century which tended to be called Cambridge Town Club retrospectively. Here is a list of the principal Cambridge clubs from 1801-1861, many of which have erroneously been referred to as “Cambridge Town Club”.
1800-1826 Cambridge Cricket Club (CCC) All matches attributed to Cambridge Town Club during these years were played by the CCC and possibly some before. The terms Cricket Club and Town Club may well have been interchangeable in common conversation.
1822 – 1837 Cambridge Castle CC – A club based at the Castle Inn which began life as a junior club but was soon on an equal standing with Cambridge’s other pub clubs, which between them revived the town’s cricket. The 1828 matches against March were played by the Castle Club.
1822 – 1831(33?) Cambridge Union CC – A club based at the Union Tavern on Quayside which played, amongst other matches, the annual Town v University match and 4 prestigious matches against Islington Albion.
1827 -1830 Cambridge Hoop CC Another pub club based at the Hoop Inn which played several out of town matches, including one against Swaffham in 1830 (called Cambridge Town Club v Norfolk by Haygarth). The fourth of the main pub clubs was the Fountain CC based just along the road from the Castle at the Fountain Inn. Unlike the other three the Fountain only played local opposition and was therefore never given the title of “Cambridge Town Club”. F P Fenner debuted in the Fountain’s last match (1827)
1830 – 1837 Cambridge Town Not a club at all (as far I can tell), but an occasional team of the Town’s best which contended the annual Town v University matches and the 1832 match on Parker’s Piece against the MCC. In standard this team was a step up from the pub clubs.
1832 and 1834 Cambridgeshire – two matches , home and away were played against MCC(1832) and Nottingham/shire (1834). these have been stubbornly called Cambridge town club when their makeup of players clearly draws from at least Chatteris and Cambridge. the home match against MCC was played at Chatteris, not Cambridge.
1837/38 – 1843 Cambridge Town CC Usually called Cambridge Town Club (CTC). This was an attempt to formalise the Cambridge Town team and expand on its success and range of opponents.
1838, 1840 and 1843 Cambridge Town and Gown or University with professionals v MCC at Lord’s. These teams appear to be Cambridge University and ground teams, containing just a few town players. They were called Town and gown teams in the Cambridge press bt Cambridge town Club by Haygarth. A fourth similar match in 1839 was attributed to Cambridge University.
1844 – 1847 Cambridge Town & County CC (CT&CC). A revised CTC which had County Club pretentions. Rowland Bowen called this the County Club although it never quite managed to become so, despite its huge success against other towns, Norfolk and Suffolk, the MCC and even the Gentlemen of England.
1848 – 1849 Cambridge Town No CTC existed at this time.
1849 Cambridge Town with Cambridge University. One-off match against the All England Eleven.
1851 Cambridge Town & County Club. A reformed CT&CC.
1852-1855 Cambridge Town
1856 (-57?) Cambridge Town & County Club Another reformed CT&CC.
1857- 1860 Cambridge Town
1861 Cambridge Town Club – Formed in response to complaints at there being no County Club. Organised at least one match with Kent which has ever since been regarded as a full county match even though at the time it was not one.
This was a period of conspicuous success for the Cambridge Cricket Club (CCC), which may have been in existence prior to these dates but only sporadically.
In the first twenty years of the 19th century the Cambridge Cricket Club dominated Cambridgeshire cricket as well as much of East Anglia, defeating St Ives, Saffron Walden, Royston, Biggleswade, Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Bishop Stortford. It’s peak of success was in 1816.
From 1817 the CCC had a less consistent run of results against the likes of Holt of Norfolk, Biggleswade, Newmarket, Cambridge University, Peterborough, and Bury St Edmunds, but the opposition was good. Matches had stakes as high as £100, considerable press coverage and a festival atmosphere.
It was not until 1822 after the University club had obtained a private ground and probably deprived the CCC of considerable financial support that a rapid decline set in.
Cambridge players from this period included Bell, W & H Bird, George Fenner, W Martin, Medlicot, H, J & M Page, D & J Scott & J H Dark. Newmarket players included W Chiffney, Hilton, Sankey, Tilbrook, J & W Weatherby. Several of the latter had horseracing connections.
By 1821 cricket had been played by teams or individuals representing Wisbech, Cambridge, Chatteris, Manea, Newmarket, Thorney, Royston, March, Newton, Leverington, Murrow, Parson Drove, Bentwick, Doddington, Ickleton, Kingston,Wimblington, Sutton, Emneth, Ely, Bassingbourn, Tholomas Drove, Wisbech St Mary’s, Bottisham and Fulbourn. The game was most active in Cambridge, closely followed, for a while at least, by Newmarket.
After the reports of 1755, no more was heard of formal Cambridge University sides until 1801 when Cambridge University appear to have beaten Ipswich Town by 60 runs. As far as we know there was nothing again until 1814, when a Cambridge University team beat St John’s Wood by an innings and 11 runs at Lord’s. By 1816 the annual Eton v the Rest match was again being reported in the local press and a year later the University brought the Cambridge Cricket Club’s apparent 10 year unbeaten run to an end. Thus began a fifty year plus series between Town and Gown and the relationship was to ebb and flow between co-operation and open conflict. For now, however, the two shared Parker’s Piece, still a relatively rough area complete with the ridge and furrow of previously ploughed land, as their ground.
See the “1800-21” page for details of the matches during this period.
The Re-establishment of Cambridge cricket 1822-37
In 1822 the University Club moved to a private ground, a turn of events which seems to have completely taken the wind out of the Cambridge Cricket Club’s sails. This was possibly because the Town club had previously relied on financial support from the University, much of which was now needed by the University Club. Fortunately the Town’s pub cricket clubs were waiting in the wings and over the next 10 years successfully re-established the game in the town – the Union, the Fountain, the Castle and the Hoop.
Those clubs’ need for decent opposition cemented new contacts with teams in the north of the county such as March and Chatteris and eventually to the Union Club playing London club Islington Albion and the Hoop taking on Norfolk’s Swaffham.
Elsewhere cricket spread to more and more villages throughout the county. Thus was the ground prepared for the concept of Cambridgeshire cricket as, at least slightly, a more unified entity rather than the earlier pattern of scattered but isolated pockets of the game.
Fuller Pilch of Norfolk, Kent and Cambridgeshire
Copied from The IIlustrated London News, July 15th 1843.
Fuller Pilch is best known for his appearances for Kent and in various “great matches” of the mid 19th century. Perhaps less well known are his connections with Cambridgeshire.
Having apparently severed his connections with the Bury St Edmunds club around 1831 he appears to have had connections with Cambridge in the early 1830s, possibly as an engaged professional with the university or town team or both.
More surprisingly, also in 1832, Pilch played one match for a Cambridge Town side and two for a Cambridgeshire side, as a given man, all against the MCC. The latter two matches are almost certainly early representative Cambridgeshire sides and his inclusion alongside William Caldecourt, definitely a Cambridge University professional, is probably explained by already being in the town. Cambridgeshire won these two matches thanks mainly to Pilch’s efforts. See below and “The first Cambridgeshire sides” for more details of his Cambridgeshire connections in 1823,-32 and -35.
1823 – Fuller Pilch played on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge for Bury St Edmunds against Biggleswade. The latter complained about this hitherto unknown (to them) player being included as a bowler and he was apparently prevented from bowling in that match.
1826 – The CCC played its last match having only played the odd match per season over the previous few years.
1828 – by 1828 the CCC had been replaced by the Union, Castle, Fountain and Hoop clubs which were all based at Cambridge pubs.
1824-36 – The pub clubs followed in the CCC’s footsteps by playing old opponents such as Saffron Walden, Biggleswade and Newmarket and trod new ground by taking on such teams as Swaffham of Norfolk, Chatteris, March and Islington Albion.
1832 – A Cambridgeshire side, including players from Cambridge and Chatteris, Sir St Vincent Cotton, playboy and MCC member, from Madingley and given players Fuller Pilch and William Caldecourt, defeated the MCC twice. A Cambridge Town side, including Pilch and Caldecourt, defeated the same opponents. These victories were in large part thanks to the performances of Fuller Pilch who scored: 50 and 41 not out in the first Cambridgeshire match, as well as taking 5 wickets and a catch; 28 and 6 wickets in the 2nd match; and 18 and 2 not out with 5 wickets and a catch for the Town side.
Sir St Vincent Cotton
The nearest 19th century Cambridgeshire cricket had to noble patronage was Sir St Vincent Cotton of Madingley Hall just north of Cambridge. He was also a player, renowned for being a hard-hitter,although in 68 innings played for a variety of teams including Gentlemen v Players, Clarence Club, MCC and Cambridgeshire he made only 4 innings of over 15 runs, top score 34. The rest were mostly in the low single figures. He also took 5 wickets in an innings just once. His appearances in Scores and Biographies run from 1829-35. Curiously two of his highest scores were made on Parker’s Piece – 19 for MCC v Cambridge Town in 1833 and 34 for MCC v Cambridge University in 1835. An early chronicler of the game, the Rev John Mitford, had this to say:
“There are some exceedingly good players who occasionally appear in the field……and some very bad ones, who too often are seen, as Sir Vincent Cotton…..”
By 1844 he was no longer playing but was president of Cambridge Town and County Club for the first three years of its existence, but if the new club were expecting financial
Copied from Sporting Magazine 1863
help from his patronage they were probably disappointed. He was a profligate gambler who spent most of his mother’s money. He is said once to have bet £1,000 on a snail race.
In his younger days Cotton had been a crony of fellow sportsman and gambler George Osbaldeston and had tried his hand at billiards, riding and boxing as well as cricket.
As his debts mounted he turned to driving horse-drawn coaches. In 1836 he bought “The Age”, driving it between London and Brighton to supplement his income, sometimes under the name of Sir Vincent Twist. In sporting circles this appears to have been seen as a noble enterprise although not everyone agreed. In 1834, following an accident to the “Cambridge Star” driven by Cotton, the following comment was made in a letter from “A Traveller” to the Cambridge Chronicle: “I have no such confidence in Sir St Vincent Cotton; and I consider the lives of our fellow-townsmen too serious a concern to be put to hazard for the gratification of the ambition of him or any other amateur whip who may wish to try experiments of his own skill at other people’s expence.”
1834 – A similar Cambridgeshire side to the 1832 ones, but without Pilch and Caldecourt, was twice beaten easily by a Nottingham side featuring the fast round arm bowling of Redgate and Barker.
1835 – Single wicket match on Parker’s Piece. Charles Parnther, Wm Caldecourt and Samuel Redgate v Frank Fenner, Saunders and Fuller Pilch. The former team won by 25 runs.
– Dan Hayward senior and West scored 112 and 105 for Chatteris v St Ives.
1822-37 – Cambridgeshire based players from this period included John Boning, John Crouch, Davies, David Bush Edwards, F P Fenner, J & W Hall, and Sussums from Cambridge and Dan Hayward, West Fryer and Glasscock from Chatteris.
1837 – Cambridge Town Club (CTC) formed to formalise the Cambridge town team which had represented the town since 1830.
See “1822-37” and “villages 1822-48” for details of matches during this period.
Following a period in which Chatteris appear to have been effectively challenging Cambridge’s dominance, the latter again took the lead through the town team that evolved first into the Cambridge Town Club and then the Cambridge Town and County Club in 1844.
1838-43 – First of 4 joint Town and University sides which played MCC during a period of close co-operation between the two clubs. The Cambridge Town Club, established at the second attempt in 1838, had some success but did not play many matches.
1844 – Cambridge Town and County Club (CT&CC) formed in order to improve the administration and performances of the CTC. This was not strictly a county club but seems to have had ambitions to be so.
1844 – Charles Pryor scored 103 for CT&CC v CU in the Town and County’s debut match.
1844-7 – the Cambridge Town and County Club was phenomenally successful for four years, playing 26 matches and winning 19, including matches against Norfolk, the Auberies, Gravesend, MCC and Gentlemen of England among their defeated opponents.
1844-47 – players for CT&CC included Charles Arnold, Fred Bell, John Boning, Henry Cornwell, Alfred “Ducky” Diver, F P Fenner, Israel Haggis, Dan Hayward, RT King, OC Pell, Charles Pryor, Robert Ringwood, and Thomas Snow. FP Fenner was the club’s major all-rounder, Captain and Secretary.
1846 – Earl of Stamford and Lord Burghley opened a private ground behind Cambridge Town Gaol. One of the matches played on this ground was an early match of I Zingari. Arrowsmith and Hill, in their “History of I Zingari” refer to there being a, probably local to Cambridge, professional called Magniac who was down to play in this match, but did not, in the event do so. From what I can tell there was no professional cricketer called “Magniac”, but there was a Bedfordshire family of that name known for its business dealings in China. It is possible that a member of that family was known to Stamford and Burghley and had originally agreed to play, “Scores and Biographies” has the name Magniac at number 11 but given as “absent”. A report of this match in “The Anglo American” gives Magniac the title of “Mr” which again suggests that he was not a professional cricketer.
1847 – Lord Fitzwilliam ans T M Townley took on the private ground used by some university students.
1847 – Nicholas Wanostrocht, known as Felix, painted a picture of the Cambridge Town and County Club and University teams. (See picture at head the home page.) The picture looks unfinished, which may be due to the collapse of the town and county Club the following year.
1848 – By 1848 the Cambridge University club was also reasonably strong and some of its members asked Fenner to develop a private ground. F P Fenner extended the field behind the gaol, combining two adjacent fields. This became Fenner’s Cricket ground the home of the CU Cricket Club.
1848 – The CT&CC refused Fenner’s offer to play on his ground and folded without playing another match.
Rereading Pycroft’s Cricket Field I came across a reference to Cambridge’s Charles Winterton who played for the Cambridge Town and County Club, Cambridge Town Club and Cambridge Britannia Club from the 1840’s through to the ’60’s, although he did not go on to represent his county. Pycroft confirms the impression from Felix’s picture above ( Winterton is standing fourth from right with bat in hand) that the Cambridge wicket-keeper was “not much less” than 20 stone in weight. More interesting, perhaps is Pycroft’s apparent reference to Winterton as “a certain infant genius……of good Cambridge town”. At the time of this edition (1851) Winterton was 29, although he had, to be fair, made his debut for the town at the age of 16. Unfortunately for him, he was replaced in the successful Town and County side by Dan Hayward, who was the better batsman – some things never change.
1822-48 – During this period cricket was played for the first time in or by Little Abbington, Walton & Walsoken, Bourn, Long Stowe, Duxford, Linton, Chesterton, Whittlesey, Caxton, Elm, French Drove, Fordham, Ashley, West Wratting, Borough Green, Balsham, Soham, Sawston, Comberton, Haslingfield, Barrington, Melbourne, Willingham, Swaffham, Parson Drove, Haddenham, Chippenham, Kirtling, Granchester, Over, Shepreth, Littlington, Swavesey, Foxton, Fowlmere, Harston, Thriplow, Elsworth, Toft, Cheveley, Guilden Morden and Hinxton.
See “1838-48” and “villages 1822-48” for details of matches during this period.
From 1848 on the University Club had principal if not sole use of Fenner’s ground which was at least one factor in its gradual rise to first-class status.
Whilst cricket continued in Cambridge town, university and county it was not until 1857 that what has usually been seen as Cambridgeshire Cricket’s peak period began in the form of a highly successful county side.
In fact there was not one Cambridgeshire County Cricket Club during the period 1857-71 but several different bodies, some formal clubs such as the Cambridge County Club and Cambridge Town Club and some not. County matches across this period were arranged when they could be afforded and a team could be got together. Despite success on the field against the likes of Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Yorkshire this was not a stable time for Cambridgeshire county cricket. The Cambridge County Club had two periods of existence: 1858-62 and 1866-68.
The make-up of the sides varied a little but especially in the early and mid-sixties it was dominated by Cambridge town players such as Robert Carpenter, Tom Hayward, Alfred Diver, Fred Bell, Billy Buttress. Fred Reynolds and George Tarrant. On several occasions the whole side was made up of Cambridge players.
The last of these matches was in 1871, against Surrey, and from then on there appears to have been little chance of a Cambridgeshire CCC reforming.
The next county club was formed in 1891 and joined the Minor Counties Championship.
See the “1857-71” page for a more in depth discussion of the county sides of this period.
Cambridgeshire Sides 1857-71
1857 Cambridgeshire (essentially a University side with some local professionals) v Surrey at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Surrey v Cambridgeshire (as above) at Kennington Oval
1858 Surrey v Cambridgeshire (as above) at Kennington Oval
1861 Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Surrey at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Cambridgeshire (Cambridge Town Club) v Kent at Parker’s Piece, Cambridge
Surrey v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Kennington Oval
Yorkshire and Stockton-on-Tees v Cambridgeshire at Stockton-on Tees
1862 Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Nottinghamshire at Fenner’s Cambridge
Kent v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at New Brompton, Chatham
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Surrey at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Nottinghamshire v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Surrey v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Kennington Oval
1863 Kent v Cambridgeshire (funded largely by Kent) at Mote Park, Maidstone
MCC v Cambridgeshire at Lord’s
1864 Cambridgeshire v Yorkshire at Parker’s Piece, Cambridge
Cambridgeshire v Nottinghamshire at Lord’s
Yorkshire v Cambridgeshire at Bramall Lane, Sheffield
1865 Cambridgeshire v Cambridge University at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Yorkshire v Cambridgeshire at Great Horton Rd, Bradford
Nottinghamshire v Cambridgeshire at Old Trafford, Manchester
Cambridgeshire v Yorkshire at Ashton Club Ground, Ashton-under-Lyne
1866 Yorkshire v Cambridgeshire at Great Horton Rd, Bradford
MCC v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Lord’s
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Cambridge University at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Nottinghamshire at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Middlesex v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Cattle Market Ground, Islington
Nottinghamshire v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Middlesex at Fenner’s, Cambridge
1867 Nottinghamshire v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Nottinghamshire at Fenner’s
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Cambridge University at Fenner’s
Cambridgeshire v Yorkshire at Queen’s Rd, Wisbech
Yorkshire v Cambridgeshire at Dewsbury and Savile Ground, Dewsbury
1868 Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Cambridge University at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Cambridgeshire (County Club) v Kent at Fenner’s, Cambridge
Kent v Cambridgeshire (County Club) at Bat and Ball Ground, Gravesend
1869 Cambridgeshire v Yorkshire at Woodhouse Hill Ground, Hunslet
1871 Cambridgeshire v Surrey at Kennington
Thanks to Nick Arber I have researched a little about the beginnings of the cricketing career of Cambridge born George Arber. Born 1840/41, he appeared very rarely in newspaper reports before 1867, and appeared in a North v South colts match at Lord’s at the age of about 28 years. Local newspaper reaction was enthusiastic, anticipating an auspicious career for George in Cambridgeshire cricket. Unfortunately his timing was appalling as by 1869 Cambridgeshire representative cricket was approaching a 20 year period of inactivity. This reinforces my impression that the break in momentum of Cambridgeshire cricket through the 1850’s brought an end to the process by which cricketing enthusiasm and skills was passed on from one generation to the next. Fortunately for George Arber he made the sensible decision to take up the position of professional cricket coach at Malvern College and proceeded to do pretty well for himself and his family, whereas cricketers who stayed in Cambridge had very little opportunity to ply their trade.
Picture kindly donated by Nick Arber.