A sudden flowering of new clubs was proof All England’s green fingers induced vigorous growth. Of course cricket did not blossom in a wilderness. Clarke was shrewd but could not foresee his venture would coincide with three major socio-economic factors in the north-east. The readiness is all. Durham’s population trebled in the first half of the century. Wherever a coal-owner sunk a shaft 5,000 souls soon occupied a grid of grey-slated cottages within lurching distance of thirty beer shops. Strong economic growth was a second factor. The two provided clubs with natural resources : people and money.
A third factor, less easy to quantify, was the spread of evangelicalism. Firmly established by 1825, evangelicals were soon central to life in the coalfield. Their influence was considerable, a hewer of coal as likely to be converted as the colliery owner. Evangelicals actively promoted cricket, perceived it an ideal school in which to learn fair play and observe rules, a playground where society could mix. Integration was increasingly possible as a reduction in working hours made cricket more accessible to working men. One aim of Norton’s 1847 reformation was to “bring together on one common and friendly footing the different classes of Society.” Many of lower status were indifferent to the movement but accepted its moral code once integrated into cricket’s ethos. Anglican influence, less marked, was manifest in the appearance on the field of ‘muscular Christians’. Clergymen formed clubs, donated equipment, worked religiously in committee. Less altruistic, Canon Firth and Rev Lowes were match pros. Such pecuniary peculiarities apart, Gospel influence helped reduce gambling and improve behaviour. The term ‘it’s not cricket’ became a euphemism for unfairness. There were still occasional outbreaks of unruliness but generally a more edifying spirit prevailed. Clergy and two army generals were among spectators at Bishopwearmouth in 1848. Twenty-five years later those watching Haswell play Lizzie Colliery were mostly miners whose conduct was “courteous and harmonious”. A far cry from the “savage ignorance” of the colliers noted by Wesley.
Clubs began the season with a field day, usually a Married v Single match. Play in the 1840s began at nine and continued until eight. Two decades later ten until seven was the norm. By the 1870s it was mid-day until six. In twenty-five years the hours of play reduced by half. It became difficult to complete two-innings-a-side so incomplete matches were decided on first innings totals. A match might drift aimlessly when it was clear neither side could complete a second innings. Gradual acceptance of half-day Saturday working in the 1850s opened the way for Saturday cricket. Within a decade it was the norm.
Victorian leisure pursuits had to be uplifting and edifying; had to promote strength of character to serve the national need. When Stockton Institute formed one newspaper hoped they would “eschew match playing, which is the bane of nearly all cricket clubs, and entails a great loss of time and money to no useful purpose”. It urged them to concentrate on theory and practice so “the judgement and the faculties of the mind will be exercised and the health of the body ensured”. Fortunately this stultifying concept did not prevail. However it is worth noting some Victorians believed you could play cricket without one side being pitted against another. There was still a random element about cricket, it had yet to establish a firm pattern.
A splendid welcome awaited a visiting side. On a bright morning in 1849 Thornley were met by their hosts on the leafy outskirts of Sedgefield. A brass band and banners led them to the ‘Dun Cow Inn’ where breakfast of chops, kidneys, ham and sausages awaited their attentions. Dinner was served in a tent on the ground at two. Food was a major ingredient of their day, particularly after an arduous journey. Take Darlington at Durham City in 1850. Having breakfasted at five, batted once and fielded through two City innings, they refused to go in a second time because they “wanted their dinner”. (It was half-past five, after all.) On reaching a nearby tavern “all idea of coming to a lingering death by starvation was speedily dissipated.” So, too, any idea of Darlington batting a second time. It was not unknown for over-indulgence to produce listless afternoon cricket. Match over, they gorged more food, quaffed more ale before the evening was given over to recitations, song or dancing if ladies were present. A fracas marred one evening at Bishopton when local roughs set upon a visiting player with fire-irons. The home players used their bats to repel the attack. A quaint example of the unifying influence of cricket.
Before the notion of the declaration was conceived improved batting skills (and a few pitches) resulted in sides batting all match. The Northumberland hunted leather all afternoon while Durham School amassed 353 in 1871. Arthur Bartholomew, a master at the school, made a “magnificent” 166 in three hours. Barnard Castle suffered more than most. Inside five years they conceded 465 for 9 to Middlesbrough, 402 for 7 to Darlington, and 359 for 9 at North Durham. Not a ball was struck in reply. It was dispiriting but with no concept of a declaration what else could locals do? In First-class cricket pragmatic captains foreshortened an innings by ordering their batsmen to hit their wicket. The trend continued until 1888 when the county committee, anticipating next year’s MCC reform, passed a resolution to allow clubs declare their innings closed.
A comparison of pre-1847 totals with those in 1847-73 confirms improving batting skills and pitches that, until 1849, were neither swept nor rolled during a match. Totals of 30-or-less decreased from 24% to 19%. Three-figure totals increased from 6% to 25%. Stockton made 250 in 1850 which Darlington raised to 312 before Durham School’s 353. Obviously, individual scores increased in ratio. The first recorded 50 was in 1836. “Dangerous hitter” Tom Darnton scored the first known century in 1856, Tom Hornby the second in 1862. Three weeks later William Halton took five hours to score 125, all run. Outstanding feats when only one side in eight reached a hundred. Bartholomew’s 166 remained the highest for twelve years. It would take an England batsman to surpass it.
The concept of batting averages dates back to 1793. Stockton’s 1853 batting averages were printed in Bell’s nine years after the newspaper began to publish them. The local press printed Durham City’s 1868 batting averages. Not outs were deemed completed innings. Averages were not expressed as a decimal. After computing the average whole number, the ‘remainder’ was shown in a separate column. There were no statistics for the poor trundler.
Professionals advertised their services in Bell’s Life and Lillywhite kept a register of those seeking an engagement. Pros were given a benefit, gifts and talent money. Their number in the north-east was sufficient in 1867 to form a Pro XI minus Stockton’s ‘cracks’. One club fielded four pros in 1850. This was too much for the high-minded. They did not mind a professional teaching the young. On the field, however, they dominated, stifled the involvement of club players and “destroyed the power of self-reliance so essential to a cricketer”. Clubs sucked a professional’s last drop of blood in return for his hire. Jack Jones, FA Cup medal winner with non-league Spurs in 1901, was paid £1 a week by Stockton in 1893. Apart from taking wickets, Jones had to cut and roll the field as directed, maintain fencing and seating. He had to ensure nets, practice wickets and quoits ground were in good condition each evening. He had to prepare match wickets, roll them during intervals, look after the bats and lay on fresh water, soap, towels, brush and comb for visiting teams and members. For away matches he had to pack players’ bags and send them to the station. Oh, and look after the horse.
A number of Clarke’s men were engaged. Tom Hayward, uncle of future England batsman of the same name, was at Bishop Auckland. Frail-looking Tom did not enjoy the best of health but he was the finest English batsman of his day, a graceful driver and quick on his feet. Durham University hired ‘Foghorn’ Jackson as tutor. Anderson and Iddison were at Stockton, Martin McIntyre at Sunderland and Luke Greenwood at Darlington. Other First-class cricketers included David Eastwood, William Copeland (both Sunderland) and Harry Reynolds (Darlington). David Buchanan, leading amateur slow bowler and a founder of Warwickshire, was at Sunderland in 1880.
Scores and Biographies states Joy was engaged for 18 years by Stockton, probably on a match basis. Born of farming stock in 1826 at Preston Bottoms, Knaresborough, Joy was six feet tall with classical features and dark hair sweeping to the nape of his neck. Clubs that barred him from playing against them were quick to invite him to play for them. Joy, who played eight times for Yorkshire, was a shrewd cricketer who dismissed the best with fast right-arm delivered from a low action. Seventy per-cent of his victims against touring sides were bowled. Joy could score quickly, particularly against slow bowling, was strong on the leg and drove powerfully. He once hit a ball such an immense distance downwind they ran seven. Joy retired when ironmaster Tom Vaughan, patron of Middlesbrough CC, appointed him keeper at Gunnergate Hall in 1865. Admirers presented “good old Jonathan” with £121 and a gold watch.
Engaging a professional was no affront to Victorian respectability. The work ethic was central to their thinking. Most were labouring men and ideal for arduous trundling. There was no shortage of applicants for they could earn more from a summer engagement than a year’s mundane toil. Clubs were coy about payments and many engagements were cloaked under the term ‘ground-keeper’. Bishop Auckland denied Kaye was pro but “being a working man the club pays for his services in a match”. Professionals earned a reputation for squandering their wages on drink. Early Durham pros seem exempt from the charge though there were later exceptions. Barnard Castle terminated Jim Martin’s contract “owing to his unsatisfactory and unaccountable conduct”. South Shields sacked Dennison for going “absent without leave” and Colquhoun for “verbal assault on two members”.
Few pros were Durham men. Darnton a notable exception. Of others Tommy Murdock’s bowling, as mean as it was lethal, was “dreaded for many years”. In 1876 he sent back seven batsmen in 25 balls to rout Durham City for nine. A mason by trade, Murdock’s reputation for arrogance and vociferous appealing probably says more about his ability than temperament. Tommy Reah, “very useful left-handed bowler” at Durham City and Barnard Castle, got wickets with what local scribes termed ‘peculiars’. Bob Proctor was expert at the north country game of knurr and spell, an even better bowler. City were forced to engage him in 1868 to retain his services.
What shall we say of Proctor? He is the perfect cure,
Who has won us many a victory by bowling swift and sure.
His fame has travelled far and wide; he won his spurs that day
When he played against All England, and hit Freeman’s balls away.
Over-arm bowling was legalised in 1864. The introduction of boundaries twenty years later resulted in an immediate decline in fielding skills. When all runs had to be run out clubs practised fielding seriously. Absence of practice nets concentrates a fielder’s mind wonderfully well for a well-struck cricket ball travels a long way if no hedge halts its progress.
According to Tom Hornby most fields were “rough, ragged and grass grown”. Newcastle Town Moor was cut up by artillery and galloping horsemen. “Cricketers have to look all over the moor to find a suitable pitch, or one where they are not likely to get half-killed on account of the bumpy ground”. Having found a good pitch it was used until bare. There were fearful injuries. When Rev W.A.Hunter was hit on the nose a piece of bone “was found embedded three-eighths of an inch in the leather”. Gloves were not commonly used until the 1870s yet Darlington presented gloves to their top batsman in 1849. Keeping wicket was equally dangerous. Clubs unable to afford gauntlets had no specialised wicket-keeper. When a bowler finished his over he did wicket-keeping duties from a prudent distance. This explains why scorecards credit bowlers with wickets and stumpings. Long-stop was crucial to restrict the number of byes off balls that darted or lifted venomously. North Durham pro James Robinson bowled so fiercely that even two long-stops failed to prevent a large number of byes. Morton apart, other noted wicket-keepers were Edward Rake (Durham City), Blythe (Darlington) and Halton who, according to Lillywhite, “ought to have been at the top of the tree”.
Players’ subscriptions in the 1860s ranged from 5/6d to a guinea. Stockton had over 100 members in 1853 and Sunderland had 275 in 1868. Extra revenue was raised from sports meetings and concerts but clubs still relied heavily upon patronage. The nobility gave land or paid field rent. Quaker Charles Pease gave generously to Darlington, paid extra if no liquor was sold on the ground. Clubs, in turn, were charitable and compensated members out of work.
Wider public appeal forced clubs to adopt a broader, more liberal structure. Senior sides now fielded at least half who were skilled workers. When Chester-le-Street re-formed in 1865 the majority were working men and their rules were “slightly amended in favour of young members”. Of course the affluent retained control in what Henry James called “the essential hierarchical plan of English society”. Chester’s match with Whitburn in 1867 provides example. It was staged at Lambton Park “by kind permission” of the Earl of Durham whose family sat alongside the family of Sir Hedworth Williamson, MP, captain and benefactor at Whitburn. Arrangements were supervised by “obliging house-steward” Mr Wrotton. Domestics and estate workers mingled among spectators. Sir Hedworth requested an extension of play. All agreed. Match over, Chester gave three cheers for Sir Hedworth; the whole assembly did likewise for the Earl. Order prevailed. Proceedings were ritualised and the dramatis personae knew their lines to perfection.
Clubs with professionals, if not always successful, at least maintained status. Stockton far exceeded that. Dr Richardson led a cricketing Odyssey on which they conquered clubs from Bradford to Edinburgh. Success was costly. The argosy foundered and sank into a sea of oblivion.
Stockton bred exceptional cricketers. Their Juniors (equivalent to a 2nd XI today) humiliated Hartlepool by an innings in 1853. T.W.Hornby, then 21, scored 69 and took all ten wickets.
The Stockton XI (eight being striplings) formed a great contrast to the tall, well-whiskered Hartlepool XI, and it appeared almost absurd for them to oppose such stalwart-looking men, but
the match showed clearly what regular practice, on a good ground, will do.
Tom Hornby, an auctioneer, was one of the legendary ‘Three Toms’. A slightly-built, free-hitting left-hander, he was master of the draw to leg and “wonderfully clever in placing the ball”. Flaxen-haired Tom Darnton, who opened against UE XI when just 17, thrilled with bold batting. He was persistently criticised in Lillywhite for a favourite lofted shot and was mainly engaged as a bowler. Their career achievements ran parallel. Both played at Lord’s against MCC in 1861 and for an England XI v Surrey in 1864; both were born in Durham and represented Yorkshire. The third Tom was Robinson, a bluff, hearty butcher and powerful hitter. For all his bulk he was swift between the wickets and reputed to bowl as fast as ‘Foghorn’ Jackson. A fine innings at Edinburgh earned him an inscribed bat that Gilbert Robinson presented to the club in 1953.
All three were protegés of Tommy Marshall. So was Edward Barratt, slow left-arm with an immense break. Ted, not surprisingly as the sixth of eight children, was a late developer. He was 26 when he stunned AE XI with 7 for 24 in 1870. Hayward, Anderson, Tom Emmett and Bob Carpenter each succumbed to his guile, the latter brilliantly caught and bowled off “a regular burster”. Barratt was engaged at Longsight, Manchester, then was taken onto Lord’s ground staff. He had a sensational First-class debut with 8 for 60. He moved to The Oval and captured 790 wickets, 176 in 1883. Barratt was the first Durham cricketer to attain national acclaim by taking all ten Australian wickets in 1878, a feat that earned £5 out of the ‘gate’ receipts.
Success was inevitable with such high quality players. Oozing confidence bubbled into arrogance as Dr Richardson taunted Parr that Stockton “had licked Eleven of All England.” The doctor ruffled more than Parr’s feathers as success fermented into heady thoughts of infallibility. Stockton protested angrily when time was called when in a strong position against Yarm. Yarm were disgusted by the behaviour of “the principal supporter of Stockton [who] had bet a few paltry half-crowns on the issue”. Stockton did not turn up for the return thereby leaving Yarm with a heavy financial loss. Matters came to a head in 1864 at Portrack Lane where fencing behind the bowler’s arm was coated with tar. The Northumberland made 104 before dinner. They took the field to discover that, while dining, each end had been whitewashed so the home batsmen could get a clearer sight of the ball. Stockton were castigated for “this dirty business.” Their decline coincided with that moment.
Stockton were snared by their own success. Local clubs were reluctant to play them so they sought matches further afield. The second of two single wicket matches against Cambridgeshire was for £200-a-side. More match professionals were needed to operate at that level. They cost money. As did extra travel. Dr Richardson spoke of club debts in 1857. Finances were said to be “healthy” in 1864 but little cricket was reported. The ‘crack’ players departed and the club was defunct in 1869. Brickmakers took over the ground. Eighteen months later Dr Richardson died.
Darlington began to dominate in 1862 when John Berry was pro alongside W.A.Chamberlain, the Waltons, burly Bill Smith and young Harry Thompson. When Reynolds was engaged in 1871 the side included three Mewburns, the youngest destined for fame. Durham City’s early success did not last. Second Durham City emerged in 1862 through the initiative of Dick Weatherall, verger at Durham cathedral. The two clubs amalgamated as Durham United City in 1863. Proctor, Tom Hutton (jnr), Donald McLean and John Adamson ensured a brighter future. A 60-line burlesque on “the doings of the cracks in eighteen-sixty-nine” was recited at the end-of-season dinner.
…To beat our wicket-keeper, all England will defy,
For the gloves are worn by Donald, so quick of hand and eye;
Tynemouth will long remember his score of eighty-four,
His prowess with the willow increases more and more.
A rising bat is C. E. Barnes, although without a doubt
Our ‘Better late than never’ friend too often has been run out.
Of maiden overs many a one bowled Adamson last year,
But now another maiden has bowled him off – that’s clear.
In spite of this mis-chance, he’s played when’er he could
And in the latest of our games last at the stumps he stood…..
“A feeble ditty” admitted the author yet it provides glimpses of their frailties and abilities. One imagines the ‘Dun Cow Inn’ and autumn sun sliding below a window vaguely discernible through a haze of tobacco smoke. A haze in which all sobriety will pall. At each successive line a face flushes with embarrassment. Ruddy cheeks fall back laughing like so many Toby jugs. Innocent pleasures of blushing boys in men’s bodies, distilling forever the spirit of cricket. An elixir to warm the heart through old age.
Bishopwearmouth merged with, and moved to the field of, Hendon Terrace in 1850 to become Sunderland CC. Ground rent was £12 a year and it cost 25 shillings “to mow, chain and remove grass, and roll”. Club strength lay with Paul Smith, J.W.Peacock and Tom Sharpe, said to be second-fastest in England when appointed pro in 1862 at thirty shillings a week. Yorkshire players Eastwood and Bob Clayton were match pros in the 1870s alongside John Cummings, Charles Jopling and Harry Squance. Eastwood, Harry Scurr and T.K.Veitch, later at Surrey, were selected for England Colts.
Sunderland left the Blue House Field, moved to Holmeside then Chester Road, one of many grounds built by Silas Usher who laid out Ashbrooke, the crown of a distinguished career. By then Sunderland wore the black, red and gold of I Zingari instead of blue. Holmeside was near a railway. Story has it that players used to scramble through a hedge to take a short cut along the line to the station. Rumour reached the station-master they did this to avoid paying for a ticket. Indignant players resolved to scotch the lie. They arranged for the secretary to buy tickets for their next away match. They took the short-cut as usual and boarded the train at the last moment. When the engine chuffed into motion they leaned out of the window and jeered the station-master who immediately blew his whistle to stop the train. It reversed into the station. When he strode to their carriage, cheering heads popped out waving their tickets at him!
Clubs had to contend with varied problems to get established. South Shields formed in 1850. Early years were blighted by lack of funds and the nuisance of Durham Rifle Corps doing drills on their field. One arrogant officer galloped on the wicket after £200 was spent on re-turfing. Irate members hurled balls and strong language to drive him off. George Stoddart handled negotiations for the move in 1868 to Westoe where his son Andrew learned to bat. The family left when Andrew was nine. Fifteen years later A.E.Stoddart was England’s most stylish batsmen. Westoe lost £30 in its first season. To raise funds they let the ground for sheep-grazing but proudly refused a fee from the Rifle Corps to hold a parade on the ground.
Barnard Castle moved from the Albert Ground to Woolhouse shortly before cholera claimed 143 souls in 1849. After moving to Baliol Street in 1863 they took advantage of the new cross-Pennine railway to play annual matches at Kirkby Stephen and Appleby. The matches were later staged at Great Musgrave on the occasion of the village rush-bearing ceremony. “A great throng attended the match” once the floral procession was over. It was a wonderful country occasion spiced by traditional ginger-bread tea, wrestling, pony racing and dancing.
Chester-le-Street endured a sickly infancy. Laid-up for five years, they re-organised in 1856 and played spasmodically until 1863. Time enough for the club image to be tarnished by daubing Houghton’s carriage with filth and pelting them through the streets with stones and dirt. Under the Earl of Durham’s patronage they returned in 1865 to the enchanting surrounds of Lambton Park beneath the grandeur of Lumley Castle. They were successful, too. Late at night after one victory “a splendid band marched before [the players] up the street which was crowded with people”. ‘Cestrians’ returned to Mr Lowes’ old field in 1876 when their spectators were threatened with trespass.
Bishop Auckland had sufficient funds in 1857 to engage Tom Hayward, sufficient courage to challenge Stockton supremacy. It was an ‘important’ match and surprisingly omitted from Scores and Biographies but, of course, it was difficult to get match details from distant parts. Stockton swaggered in with seven who had defeated Bradford by an innings. Bishop Auckland called up reinforcements : a pair of warring Reverends, Daniel Hayward, Iddison and ‘Tearaway’ George Tarrant, one of England’s fastest. They made 71 against Darnton and Joy. Stockton’s fielding was tight; not a bye conceded. Hayward and Iddison dismissed the visitors for 36. Bishop’s fielding was tighter; not an extra conceded. Bishop advanced toward checkmate. Stockton’s agitated attack grew ragged, sent down 13 wides. Needing 189 to win, Stockton were a perilous 32 for 4 when time was called. The quality of the match was underlined three weeks later when all but two ‘cracks’ joined forces in XXII Stockton’s emphatic win over England XI. XXII Bishop Auckland defeated Cambridgeshire by 8 wickets in 1861, the first time a ‘crack’ county met a Twenty-two. Next year Bishop Auckland folded. They re-formed in 1863, hell-bent on retrieving former glory, but went a shade too far against Durham United City. First they tried to substitute local registrar J.C.B.Hendy for a player who had already batted. City refused. Bishop countered by replacing their umpire with Hendy who, with his side facing defeat, promptly timed out incoming batsman, coroner Crofton Maynard. Not the behaviour expected of a gentleman. Bishop Auckland waited long to regain prominence.
An unusual artefact was presented at West Hartlepool’s inaugural field day in 1855 : a silver flange with eleven chain links. The flange bears the name of club president, Charles Ward Jackson; each link inscribed with the name of the club’s first eleven quoits champions. It is now in possession of Hartlepool CC, the name adopted when towns and clubs amalgamated in 1967.
William Burn hit so many balls over the north hedge Whickham made a special ladder to retrieve them. Formed in 1860, Whickham were listed in Lillywhite’s Guide of 1862 the year they spent £5 on equipment, twelve shillings on ale. A match with Winlaton that year provides the first reference to coloured shirts. “The gay dresses of the ladies, combined with the white and blue of the cricket, giving the field a picturesque appearance”.
Cricket dress had changed considerably. Minor club players dressed little differently than for work. Senior sides wore neckerchiefs and ties to white or coloured shirts. Trousers were white, some with coloured piping down the seams, and the well-educated sported plain or striped blazers. A variety of headwear included bowler hat, barge cap and the indigenous flat cap. Rev Williams favoured a pith helmet. A short-peaked cricket cap, often with monogram, was common by the 1880s. Fourteen clubs listed their colours in Lillywhite’s Guide between 1868-98. Most wore shades of blue while Sedgefield sported red.
A bizarre costume took the field in 1872. Reduced working hours provided some release from toil. The notion of enjoyment became ‘respectable’. Sedgefield answered demand for entertainment with boomerang-throwing long before aborigine cricketers played at Newcastle. The Clown Cricketers were more popular. Various troupes enlisted pros like Emmett and Murdock. “Amongst their number are very good cricketers and poor clowns, and very good clowns and poor cricketers.” An odd assortment. A one-legged bowler. Odder still, a one-armed wicket-keeper. Clowns played “in all the glory of their costumes and ‘war paint’ and the exceeding grotesqueness of dress gave a very interesting aspect to the ground. Their amusing drolleries and mountebank antics kept the large company in one continued roar of laughter.” They would not have amused Lambert. Nor, one suspects, 82-year-old Tommy Marshall.
Profit was at the root. Spectators loved it. The club secretary clapped his hands along with spectators when 4,000 filled Ashbrooke. Crowds jammed Durham’s narrow streets to see The Clowns led by a brass band to the Racecourse ground. Local tradesmen profited. At a price. Clowns leapt from their brake to ‘blackmail’ them. Edward Castle, butcher, was held to ransom for return of a lump of liver deftly purloined on the end of a stick. Mr Welsh, clothier, forked out to retrieve three fully-attired, tailor’s dummies. The Clowns always staged an entertainment after a match. The day’s proceeds at Durham amounted to £128, a good balance going to the City club.
Historians judge the period relatively happy and harmonious. Mid-Victorians, or at least the more fortunate among them, lived in a world demonstrably getting more comfortable. Cricket was the better for new grounds, improved transport, protective equipment, and the telegram; made more popular by provincial newspapers and photography. Comfort breeds indolence. Durham County Advertiser was alert to the situation : “Whilst clubs are increasing in number, I don’t think there is a corresponding increase in efficiency”. Cricket was in need of a firm prod forward. Better still, a strong drive. Dilution of purpose was stifling the game’s robustness. The combined influences of Grace and his forthright batting, the working man and his abrasive edge, would prevent Durham cricket being a vacuum of hollow contests as pleasant diversion from toil.