History of English amateur cricket

History of English amateur cricket

The history of English amateur cricket describes the concept and importance of amateur players in English cricket. The amateur was not merely someone who played cricket in his spare time but a particular type of first-class cricketer who existed officially until 1962, when the distinction between amateur and professional was abolished and all first-class players became nominally professional. [It may be more accurate to say that the former Gentlemen were in theory amateurs.] Within the scope of this article is the development of cricket in schools, universities and other centres of education, both as a curricular and extracurricular activity. The schools and universities formed the "production line" that created nearly all the first-class amateur players.

Amateurism in cricket

The amateur was, by definition, not a professional. In theory, the amateur received expenses for playing cricket, whereas the professional was paid a wage or fee for playing.cn In fact, many leading amateurs were themselves "well paid" for playing and the greatest "amateur" of them all, W G Grace, made more money out of playing cricket than any genuine professional.cn

The real distinction between amateurs and professionals was social status.cn Amateurs belonged to the upper and middle classes; professionals invariably came from the working class.cn The title of the famous Gentlemen v Players fixture states the difference precisely: the amateurs were all perceived to be "gentlemen", most of whom played primarily for enjoyment; the professionals were simply "players", most of whom took the game very seriously indeed.cn

Originally, all cricketers were amateurs in the literal sense of the word.cn The sport changed in the wake of the Restoration in 1660.cn Gambling interests became involved and the traditional parish teams started to be augmented by star players from elsewhere in the county, or even the country. Some of these star players received fees and bonuses for services rendered to their patrons and it was from this development that the professional player evolved.cn

Consequently, the word "amateur" took on a peculiar meaning of its own in cricket terms that was redolent of social status. It was respectable to be an amateur because that meant you were a "gentleman" and not one of the "roughs" who needed the money.cn But cricket, for all its social distinctions in this respect, has been common ground for both the gentry and the workers since the early 17th century at least.cn The gentlemen were not entirely comfortable with that situation and many of their non-cricketing relations and associates were appalled by it. But the sporting types among the well-to-do relished the competition and the opportunity to play against the best performers, who tended to be working class professionals.cn To compensate for their embarrassment, the amateurs invented a status for themselves that was clearly expressed in terms of separate dressing rooms and the use of "Mr" or a more aristocratic title on the scorecard.cn [For example, an amateur would be listed on the scorecard as "Mr PBH May" or "PBH May, Esq."; a professional as "Laker" or "Laker, JC".]

On a personal level, amateurs would refer to their professional colleagues by surname only, while the professionals were required to called the amateurs "sir".cn This was not specific to cricket as it was the normal nomenclature used between middle and working class associates during the 19th century.cn The "Gentlemen and Players" distinction was a reflection of the higher status officers above other ranks in the British Army, or between employers and the workforce in industry. It therefore seemed natural to most English people of all classes to have a similar distinction in sport. The Gentlemen v Players matches were a highlight of the English cricket season, although the Players could usually put a much stronger side into the field than the Gentlemen.cn

This perception of amateurs as officers and gentlemen, and thereby leaders, meant that any team including an amateur would tend to appoint him as captain, even though some or all of the professional players might be more skilled technically. The idea was applied to Test cricket from 1888.cn Some English touring teams to Australia until then had been all-professional, but England did not appoint another professional captain until Len Hutton in 1952.cn It should be pointed out that many of the amateur captains (e.g., C B Fry) were unquestionably worth their place in the side in terms of technical ability.cn In the 1930s, Walter Hammond switched from professional to amateur so that he could captain his country. [Gibson, p. 164.]

The abolition of amateur status in 1962 was partially the result of long-established disillusionment with a hypocrisy that has been termed "shamateurism", whereby some "amateur" players were given a largely nominal job as "club secretary" and there were sometimes allegations that a few were paid surreptitiously, over and above the "bona fide" travelling and hotel expenses that they were entitled to claim.cn The underlying reason was the tide of social change in the wake of the Second World War with the growth of both a more egalitarian society in general and a demand for dedicated professionalism in sports such as cricket and football that became increasingly conscious of their business obligations and the need to generate income through success on the field.cn

Co-development of amateur and professional cricket to 1800

Cricket probably began in England during the medieval period but there is no definite reference to it until the 16th century. The earliest known reference concerns the game being played c.1550 by children on a plot of land at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, Surrey.cn It is generally believed that cricket was originally a children's game as it is not until the beginning of the 17th century that reports can be found of adult participation.cn

Growth of cricket in the schools and universities

There are few 17th century references to cricket being played at or in the vicinity of schools. It would seem that the sport was played by pupils at Eton College and Winchester College (i.e., Wykehamists) by the time of the Commonwealth.cn There is an apparent reference to the game at St Paul's School, London about 1665 concerning John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who studied there.cn

In his "Social History of English Cricket", Derek Birley comments that school cricket was "alive and well during the interregnum" (1649-1660). He speculates that the game "must have been known to every schoolboy in the south-east" of England. However, he doubts that the sport at this time was part of any school's curriculum. Apart from Eton and Westminster School, all schools in the 17th century had local intakes and no class segregation. Therefore, the sons of rich and poor families played together. Legal cases before the Civil War have shown that cricket was played jointly by gentry and workers.cn

In 1706, William Goldwin (1682-1747) published his "Musae Juveniles", which included a Latin poem called "In Certamen Pilae" (On a Ball Game). This has 95 lines and is about a rural cricket match. Goldwin himself attended Eton and then graduated to King's College, Cambridge in 1700. It is almost certain that he encountered cricket at both establishments. There is a reference to cricket at Cambridge University in 1710cn while Samuel Johnson recorded that he played cricket at Oxford University in 1729.cn In 1760, the Reverend James Woodforde played for "the Winchester against the Eaton ("sic")" at Oxford.cn

In 1726, Horace Walpole entered Eton and later wrote that "playing cricket as well as thrashing bargemen was common".cn The Sackville family which produced the Dukes of Dorset, most notably the 3rd Duke, sent its sons to Westminster. The 1st Duke was there at the end of the 17th century. It was surely through playing cricket at school that the game became a Sackville family tradition.cn

The spread of cricket to the northern counties by 1750 was partly due to "its transmission by interested clergy, schoolmasters and others educated at southern boarding schools" [Birley, p.29] . In the middle part of the 18th century, games involving teams of "alumni" became popular. These fixtures ranged from a team of Old Etonians playing the Gentlemen of England in 1751 to a game at the new Lord's Cricket Ground in 1788 which was entitled "Gentlemen Educated At Eton "versus" The Rest Of The Schools".cn Westminster School played its games at Tothill Fields, which was where Vincent Square now stands. It is known to have played matches against Eton in 1792 and 1796.cn

Birley recorded that the "sharpest rivalry" in the middle to late 18th century was between old boys of Eton and Westminster, as these were the two oldest public schools.cn Notable cricketing patrons who attended those schools include the 3rd Duke of Dorset (Winchester), the 4th Earl of Tankerville and the 9th Earl of Winchilsea (both Eton).cn Their fellow patron Sir Horatio Mann was an Old Carthusian, which indicates that cricket was gaining acceptance at many other schools.cn By 1800, cricket was firmly established in all public and most grammar schools.cn

The most important of these "many other schools" was unquestionably Harrow, which would develop a great cricketing tradition during the 19th century and produce numerous quality players.cn Harrow had formerly been a grammar school but by the end of the 18th century it had become a public school. Cricket was welcomed at Harrow as elsewhere because it was seen as a useful method for keeping the boys occupied and out of mischief, this despite its strong gambling associations.cn

Gambling and patronage

In the great upsurge of sport after the Restoration, cricket flourished because so many people had encountered it as children and, perhaps especially, at school. But what created major cricket was gambling.cn There is no evidence of any kind of "representative" cricket before the English Civil War, only references to parish or village cricket.cn These games are believed to have been similar to the village cricket of today in that most if not all players were resident in the village whose team they played for. The Restoration kickstarted the entertainment industry again after the restrictions imposed by the Puritans during the Commonwealth. Gambling became rife and cricket, along with horse racing and prizefighting, soon attracted the attention of those who were seeking to make wagers.cn

Cricket matches could not be reported by the press until 1697 because of the prohibitive Licensing Act that was at last repealed in 1696, but there is clear evidence of major matches being played from that time and there can be no doubt that these contests had been going on for many years already, albeit with no reports being published.cn To boost their chances of winning their wagers, some of the biggest investors began to look beyond the nominal parish XI that they were backing and persuaded good players from other parishes to join a team that soon acquired county strength. The incomers would have been paid a fee and this was the beginning of professionalism.cn It was also the beginning of major and first-class cricket in the sense of teams that were representative of a whole county such as Kent, Surrey or Sussex.cn

The early reports confirm that many of the main patrons took part in the matches themselves.cn The likes of Edward Stead, the Duke of Richmond and Sir William Gage all captained the teams they patronised. It was gentlemen like these, and the friends whom they invited to play, who began cricket's amateur tradition. Thus, a Sussex team of the 1720s might be captained by Richmond and include not only additional amateurs like Gage but also professionals like Thomas Waymark; and this was the pattern of first-class English teams for a period of 300 years from the 1660s to the 1960s.cn

Waymark was employed by the Duke of Richmond as a groomcn and this became a common arrangement between patron and professional. Later in the 18th century, professionals like Edward "Lumpy" Stevens and John Minshull were employed by their patrons as gardeners or gamekeepers.cn But in the longer term, the professional became an employee of his club and the beginnings of this trend could be observed in the 1770s when Hambledon paid match fees to its players. ["Barclays World of Cricket", Collins, 1980, ISBN 0 00 216349 7, pp 3-5.]

Lord's and the MCC

A great watershed in cricket history was the opening of the original Lord's Cricket Ground in 1787. Although Lord's quickly became the sport's greatest venue, it was originally intended to be the private preserve of a gentlemen's club.cn Members of the White Conduit Club in Islington were uncomfortable with easy public access to their venue at White Conduit Fields and wanted somewhere private to play in peace and quiet. As a result, they contracted one of their own professional bowlers, Thomas Lord, to find such a venue.cn Lord did so, the club moved in and, when Lord was twice obliged to relocate, the club followed him. Soon after moving to Lord's, the club reconstituted itself as the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).cn Originally, only a gentleman could become a member but the club from its very beginning employed or contracted professionals.cn Lord's immediately began to stage major cricket matches and these attracted the crowds that some members had apparently sought to avoid. MCC teams soon adopted the now age-old pattern of "gentlemen" and "players" in the same team.cn

The rise of amateurism from 1805 to 1863

chools cricket from 1805 to 1863

Eton and Harrow definitely played each other in 1805 and there is evidence suggesting a game in 1804, perhaps sooner.cn Lord Byron played for Harrow in 1805 and may even have hired the venue, which was Lord's. The game seems to have been organised by the boys themselves, not by the schools.cn

These two schools developed a fierce rivalry that has become the schools cricket equivalent of Cambridge v Oxford or Yorkshire v Lancashire. Eton and Harrow did not meet again until 1818 (twice); then in 1822. After that, the fixture has occurred annually except for 1829-1831, 1856 and in wartime.cn James Pycroft in "The Cricket Field" commented on the betting at the 1825 game.cn But by 1833 the match had become a social highlight and "The Times" noted "upwards of thirty carriages containing ladies".cn Also by this time, the main public schools had grouped themselves into an elite circle and all other schools were decidedly viewed as second class by comparison. The elite were Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Westminster and Winchester.cn

Among prominent amateurs of the Napoleonic period, E H Budd was an Etonian and William Ward was a Wykehamist. Other noted "old boys" were Edward Grimston, Charles Harenc, Charles Wordsworth (all Harrow), John Kirwan, Herbert Jenner (both Eton) and William Meyrick (Winchester).cn

Ward's old school of Winchester was the main challenger to Eton and Harrow. Harrow v Winchester was first played in 1825 and Eton v Winchester in 1826. Winchester won both of those games convincingly.cn H S Altham records that "there was a great public school festival at Lord's until its demise in 1854" which involved Eton, Harrow and Winchester.cn Of 234 "blues" awarded by Cambridge and Oxford from 1827 to 1854, 140 went to pupils of these three schools.cn

According to Pycroft, Winchester had the best players in the 1820s and 1830s.cn At Oxford, their former pupils challenged and defeated the rest of the university and they also won a match against the combined universities at Lord's.cn Six Wykehamists played in the inaugural varsity match in 1827 but the main participants in this were Charles Wordsworth of Harrow and Herbert Jenner of Eton.cn Charles Harenc of Harrow became the best amateur bowler of the 1830s. Notable Etonians of the time include Harvey Fellows and the fearsome pace bowler Walter Marcon.cn

The 1820s and 1830s saw the beginning of "Muscular Christianity" in the public schools. Dr Thomas Arnold at Rugby is often considered the "founder" of this movement but in terms of cricket it was at Winchester that the best effect was achieved, especially in their athletic approach to fielding.cn Although this was hyped as something new, there are plenty of references to outstanding athletic fielders in the 18th century such as Thomas Waymark, John Small, Tom Taylor and William Yalden.cn

The earliest references to cricket at Rugby School and Charterhouse date from the 1820s. Other schools that gained mention in the 19th century include Addiscombe Military Academy, Cheltenham College, Clifton College, Malvern College, Marlborough College, Merchant Taylors' School, Repton School, Shrewsbury School, Tonbridge School, Uppingham School, Wellington and Whitgift School.cn

Gentlemen v. Players from 1806 to 1863

The fixture that became the definitive expression of a cricketing class divide was first contested in 1806 when the two teams met twice.cn Even then, the amateurs realised they were at a real disadvantage and so their team in the inaugural match at Lord's included two of the greatest professional players, William Beldham and William Lambert as "given men". Lambert made 57 out of 195 and, given the support he received from T A Smith, who scored 48, his contribution ensured that the Gentlemen won by an innings and 14 runs. The Gentlemen team was actually quite good as it also included the notorious Beauclerk, the controversial John Willes, Edward Bligh, George Leycester and Arthur Upton.cn In the second match, Beldham went back to the Players and only Lambert was a given man. Lambert again had an outstanding game and the Gentlemen won by 82 runs, though it was Beauclerk's first innings score of 58 from only 96 that was decisive.cn

The fixture was tried again in 1819 without much success and then, to quote Birley, it "struggled on".cn One of the least auspicious occasions was in 1821 when the Gentlemen "gave up" after they had scored only 60 and the Players had reached 270-6. Birley states that this was a Coronation Match to celebrate the accession of the much maligned King George IV and that "it was a suitably murky affair!"cn

In 1822, the Gentlemen did manage to win on level terms thanks to their triumvirate of great batsmen: Beauclerk, Budd and Ward. Budd scored 69 out of 138 in the first innings; Beauclerk and Ward built an unbeaten partnership in the second to secure the six wicket win; and really the Players were rather let down by their batting.cn Having good batsmen and ordinary bowlers was to become a Gentlemen tendency. The Players on the other hand were usually strong in bowling and generally good in batting.cn

From 1824 to 1837, the fixture was usually an odds match, the Gentlemen having as many as 18 in 1836. In two matches, the Players were handicapped by different stump lengths.cn In 1835, the Gents had Sam Redgate as a given man and he caused a stir by clean bowling Fuller Pilch twice for nought.cn In 1836, the great Alfred Mynn played for the Gents for the first time along with Alfred "Dandy" Lowth. Lowth was another noted speed merchant even though he was still a 17 year old Winchester school boy; his promising career was cut short due to failing eyesight.cn

By 1841, the fixture was in disrepute and MCC refused to organise it. It was only through the efforts of C G Taylor and the Hon. F Ponsonby that the game could take place. They opened a subscription list to avert its collapse.cn

University cricket from 1827 to 1863

The first University Match between Cambridge University and Oxford University took place at Lord's on 4 June 1827. The result was a draw. The captains were Charles Wordsworth (Oxford) and Herbert Jenner (Cambridge). It became an annual fixture in 1838.cn

Cambridge and Oxford were the only English universities until 1828, when the first college at London University was founded. Durham University was the fourth in 1832 and the first "redbrick" was Owens College at Manchester in 1851.cn

About the early days of the two university clubs, H S Altham (himself an Oxford "blue") states that OUCC played on "that part of Cowley Common that was called the Magdalen Ground, so-called because it had been appropriated by the Magdalen College Choir School, whose headmaster made it over" (to OUCC). Cowley Common is in fact some distance from the University itself and so "the cricketers used to enjoy a ride out across the fences!"cn OUCC moved to The Parks, its present venue, in 1881.cn

Altham says that CUCC began at a huge public area called Parker's Piece but then became tenants at Fenner's in 1846.cn The club secured the lease of Fenner's in 1873.cn Francis Fenner had been a bowler with the Cambridge Town Club (CTC) and had acquired his land in 1846, perhaps for the express purpose of leasing it to CUCC. CTC and the subsequent Cambridgeshire CCC also played on Parker's Piece.cn

Playing standards at the two university clubs were ordinary until the 1860s. Altham admits that many CUCC and OUCC players were selected for the Gentlemen but points out that this owed "less to the strength of the universities than to the weakness of amateur cricket as a whole".cn

Noted CUCC players of the period include: C G Taylor; Robert Broughton, who was an outstanding cover point; George Boudier; Robert T King, an all-rounder who had an outstanding season in 1849; Hon. F Ponsonby; Joseph McCormick; Joseph Makinson, who played for Lancashire CCC; George Edward Cotterill; Herbert Marshall; Arthur Daniel; Hon. C G Lyttelton; Edward Sayres; John Kirwan; Edward Blore; Robert Lang.cn

Noted OUCC players of the period include: Hon. Robert Grimston; Villiers Smith; Charles Coleridge; Reginald Hankey; Charlton Lane; the twins Arthur and Alfred Payne; Walter Fellows; Richard Mitchell, an outstanding batsman at Oxford who went on to greater things as coach at Eton in the 1870s; Alfred Lowth; George B. Lee; Henry Moberly; Charles Willis; Gerald Yonge; C. D. B. Marsham.cn

The All-England Eleven

In the middle of the 19th century, William Clarke's All-England Eleven (AEE) was a highly successful all-professional venture which did much to popularise the game.cn The earliest overseas tours were also all-professional affairs. [Gibson, chapter 1.] It was not long before amateurs became involved in the AEE.cn

ee also

* Gentlemen v Players
* Amateur and professional cricketers


Citation sources


External links

* [http://www.jl.sl.btinternet.co.uk/stampsite/cricket/main.html From Lads to Lord's; The History of Cricket: 1300 – 1787]

Further reading

* Rowland Bowen, "Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development", Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
* James Pycroft, "The Cricket Field", Longman, 1854
* David Underdown, "Start of Play", Allen Lane, 2000

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