10th August 1787. Cricket Lovely Cricket.
Cricket has been played since medieval times, deriving from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘cric’, a curved stave used as a shepherd’s crook, with Umpire being Norman-French for ‘odd man’ out or ‘non-pair’. He is now an official in a game first recorded in 1598 as ‘crickette’.
The game became important in 18th century, southern England, when it was played by all classes, with The Times in 1787 noting that horse-racing in France was losing its popularity compared with cricket, so the Duke of Dorset recommended taking a touring side across the Channel.
However when Today the side was due to cross from Dover, it was thwarted, as the French Revolution had broken out and, who knows, is probably the reason why the game never developed in France.
The period saw the settlement and revision of The Laws of Cricket at the Star and Garter, Pall Mall, London on 25th February 1774, chaired by Sir William Draper with a Committee comprising, John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, (one of the first members of the MCC), and the Earl of Tankerville, along with ‘other noblemen and gentlemen’ of Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and London.
One of the ‘gentlemen’ drawing up the laws was Harry Peckham KC (1740-1787), when the Leg Before Wicket (LBW) Law was introduced. The famous diarist, Parson, James Woodforde, refers to Peckham playing cricket at Oxford University as early as 1760.
The noblemen of the 18thc were mad on gambling, of all kinds, which included cricket, so it was to their interest to acquire and retain the best players, many of whom were the local lads. Blacksmiths with their strong arms, were obvious candidates.
The Earl of Tankerville for example, retained the service of Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevens as a gardener on his Walton-on-Thames estate along with another player William Bedster as his butler. Stevens accuracy was so great it led to the inclusion of a middle-stump; before 1776 there were only two.
In the late 1780.s the Earl of Winchilsea transferred his backing from the legendary Hambledon Club to the new ground soon to be opened by Thomas Lord, originally in Dorset Square, London, in 1787.
Not until 1814 was the ground moved to St. John’s Wood, now the famous ‘Lords’, a Test Match ground, and since 1877 the home of Middlesex Cricket Club. It was also the HQ of the controlling council of cricket, The Marylebone Cricket Club, termed MCC when England played abroad. It is now prosaically called the Cricket Council.