Chapter Four……….Mid-nineteenth century The All-England masters arrive

William Clarke founded the All England Eleven (hereafter AE XI) in 1846. Its effect upon English cricket was profound, not least in far flung Durham. Like green-fingered gardeners the All England men sowed seeds of willow and cherry, tended their saplings toward maturity. A conversation between Clarke and James Dark, owner of Lord’s, neatly captures the ethos of the venture. Hearing Clarke had made a match against “some side in Newcastle”, Dark scorned the idea saying the region “had no players at all fit to stand against the All England team.”

“Never you mind,” retorted Clarke. “I shall play sides strong or weak with numbers or bowlers given, and shall play all over the country too – mark my words – and it will be good for cricket.” Hard-headed, businessman Clarke lined his pockets on the way. He negotiated guaranteed match fees of £70 as insurance against bad weather; paid each player a match fee of £4 to £6 out of which they had to find board and lodging. Entrepreneurs were alert to the benefits of the venture. Printers, caterers and traders in marquees and cricket equipment made sufficient profit to drop ‘presents’ Clarke’s way. If a match was nearing conclusion on the second day they would draw stumps early “to leave something like a day’s work” on the third to attract extra revenue. Cricket commercialisation had arrived.

AE XI’s opponents could field up to twenty-two players but stronger sides were restricted to twenty, eighteen or sixteen. The match at Newcastle was against Twenty of Northumberland. Five days later, on 23 September 1847, AE XI took on Twenty-two of Stockton strengthened by Yorkshire ‘cracks’. Men were employed for several weeks improving Murray’s Field in preparation for a large crowd. Stockton Corporation donated £25 towards expenses. It was a social event of great moment, the elegant High Street a stately promenade. “Four or five hundred ladies in their gayest attire” were among 3,000 who attended over three days. Players dined on game, poultry and home-brewed ale, all available to the public at two shillings a head. Match profits enabled Stockton plan a new ground that would be stage for an era of marvellous success.

All England, if aging, were very strong. They had master batsmen Parr, Mynn, Pilch and the inimitable ‘Felix’; great bowlers Clarke, Hillyer and William Lillywhite who once said : “If I was to think every ball, they would never get a run!” Interest in the match was high. Literally for young shoemaker Hutton who shinned up a flag-pole for a better view, clapped over-excitedly, fell and broke an arm. Asked to bowl uphill into a gale, 22-year-old Jonathan Joy responded heroically with match figures of 10 for 59 off 307 balls. Hillyer said that, in the conditions, he could not have maintained Joy’s pace and precision. AE XI were 55 all out. XXII of Stockton replied with 56 and eventually needed 118 to win. Joy was absent on Saturday morning. He visited friends in Redcar the previous evening, missed the early-morning train and walked eight miles to the ground. Hillyer and Lillywhite “shivered” Stockton’s stumps and AE XI won by 44. The scorecard had a lesson for the locals. AE XI delivered two wides, Stockton 33.

AE XI made two visits in 1848. Some 6,000 saw XXII Bishopwearmouth overwhelmed by 157 at Hendon. Parr thrilled spectators with trade-mark leg-hits. Harry Redshaw (Durham City) took three hours to score 4, illustrating his dogged resistance and high-quality bowling. Scoring was slow. AE XI rarely managed 25-an-hour in Durham. Of course pitches were poor and they were ringed by twenty fielders. Strokes safe against eleven fielders were risky against twenty. After the match each side nominated a player for a ‘throwing the cricket ball’ contest, the losers to pay for wine at dinner. Marsh, six-feet-four tall in stocking feet, threw for the hosts. He lumbered into his first ungainly throw and, it is said, hurled the ball 150 yards. AE XI conceded immediately and bought the wine.

Next day they met XXII Darlington. The start was delayed because AE XI, aggrieved by lbw decisions at Hendon, insisted two of their men be umpires. The hosts agreed. Just as well considering what happened on the morning of the match. Darlington saturated the uneven pitch to make it level but ignored the sun’s intense heat. It created a bowler’s paradise, and everlasting fame, for Mr Prince Stockdale whose left-arm lobs claimed seven of the first eight wickets. AE XI were 44 all out and Darlington gained a lead of 13. The giant Stockdale took his thirteenth wicket as AE XI succumbed for 79 and lost by nine wickets. Jubilant locals ended their day of glory jostling in the shadows of dim-lit market-stalls consuming pig’s fry, pork pies and pickled herring. Then to Dennison’s hostelry to toast their heroes with his celebrated bump Number Twenty.

AE XI played XXII Durham City in 1849. The county’s great and good were match patrons of another financial success. Friday’s sun encouraged 2,000 to attend. Tickets cost half-a-crown, rail parties of ten-or-more paid only single fare. The scene was engraved by an artist from Pelaw Wood. It accurately mirrors press reports so is the first definitive image of cricket in the county. Seven-feet-high canvas walled three sides of the field. Enclosure was completed by a ladies’ stand and range of snow white marquees along the south ridge. Three tents flying colourful pennants and flags were for use of City, University and AE XI. A fourth housed Lillywhite’s printing press that issued scoresheets at the fall of each wicket. Joy injured an ankle while bowling and needed a runner. Rev Ford “ran for Joy and very shortly ran out for him.” The Twenty-two lost by 42.

All England were plagued by cholera and injury when visiting Stockton’s new ground in 1849. Parr made 59 but XXII Stockton replied with 184 to lead by 23. Anderson, a young discovery from Bedale, took 12 wickets in the match, five stumped by dexterous George Morton, another Bedale man. AE XI “muffed” its batting and Stockton needed 55 to win. Locals were left crestfallen when AE XI quit at six o’clock to catch a train to Birmingham for their next match. Clarke, his solitary eye roving for talent, signed up Morton and Anderson. Tall George Anderson, “clean as a new-scraped carrot”, went to Australia with England XI in 1863-4. A final link was yet to be forged between Morton and Clarke. The last ball Clarke delivered ended a match in 1856 – the batsman stumped by Morton.

AE XI won emphatically at Darlington and Stockton before the notorious rift among leading professionals caused its demise in 1852. All England’s influence went far beyond imparting the skills of batting and bowling. They stirred such excitement, “such holiday-making and high jinks”, that matches were a major topic of conversation long before they took place. More important, they taught the value of ‘headwork’, a priceless ability to analyse strengths and weaknesses of opponents as well as one’s own.

A break-away group was led by John Wisden, a tiny, fast off-break bowler who published his Cricketers’ Almanack in 1864. For two decades United England XI (hereafter UE XI) furthered local education. Durham’s cricket improved while touring sides weakened because leading pros were spread between two factions. A consequence of these linked factors is shown in the following summary :
Played Won Lost Unfinished
All England XI matches played in Durham 1847 – 1851 7 5 1 1
Touring sides matches in Durham after rift 1853 – 1873 15 5 6 4

UE XI endured a baptism of fire at Stockton in 1853. Already trailing by 19, Isaac Hodgson and John Berry shot them out for 32, the tourists’ lowest in Durham. Stockton could afford to send in two local esquires to get the necessary runs. Next year Clarke’s rival England XI beat XXII Stockton by 64. Clarke captured 17 wickets, his last on Durham soil. Strength failing, he did not bowl against XXII Durham City in 1856. Instead spectators saw Edgar Willsher and great, fast bowler ‘Foghorn’ Jackson, so named because he habitually blew his nose after taking a wicket. William Buttress captured nine wickets in the Twenty-two’s 22-run victory. Organisers kept close watch on Buttress, notorious for heavy drinking during matches. Later that year Jackson and Willsher tore through XXII Stockton and England XI won by an innings.

Stockton ranked with the best in the North when they entertained England XI in 1857. They had Yorkshire bowlers Hodgson, Roger Iddison, and George Atkinson plus Morton and Tom Hayward. With Joy, Halton, Coates and ‘The Three Toms’ (Darnton, Hornby and Robinson) it was a strong side without a further eleven club men. If Tommy Marshall was delighted by their resounding 17-wicket victory he must have been ecstatic in 1860 after umpiring Stockton’s most emphatic win against a touring side. ‘The Three Toms’ scored half of Stockton’s 204, highest by a local Twenty-two against the tourists. UE XI suffered the humiliation of following-on and losing by an innings. It was no meek surrender. Their totals of 66 and 107 were made from 673 deliveries.

Earlier that week rain saved UE XI from defeat against XXII Bishop Auckland. Joy’s 43 was followed by a chanceless 78 against UE XI in 1863. An innings defeat signalled the beginning of the end for UE XI and they disbanded in 1869. Even with the help of imported ‘cracks’ there is no denying the locals’ improvement. The pupils had learned well; now practised what was preached to the point of embarrassing their masters. A second feud among professionals resulted in the formation of United South of England XI. United South and the England XI each made four further visits. Superiority was restored partly by restricting the numbers of the opposition. Further testimony to Durham’s rise.

Security men kept night vigil on the ground when Darlington hosted the England XI in 1866. As insurance against bad weather the club offered three-day tickets for five shillings. Shops closed to swell the attendance. Park Street was divided into first, second and third-class sections, evidence that cricket now appealed to a wide section of society. Clarke had died but his ideal lived on. The match was lost but the £100 profit helped obtain a new ground at Feethams. It was no small undertaking. Silas Usher was contracted for £75 to “par and level…stub and cut down all the ridge and all the trees and also cut away a hill on the south side of the ground next to the River Skerne and make that portion of the ground on a level with the ground to be played upon”.

Sun-kissed Feethams was scene of England’s last appearance in 1870. “Looking upon the whispering trees on either side, the fine old steeple of St. Cuthbert’s, the bright costumes of the ladies, and the jolly holiday faces all around, one could scarcely help thinking that no better study for a picture of a cricket match ever offered itself.” United South were next to visit Feethams. A day heightened by the presence of W.G.Grace. ‘The Lion of the North’ had padded purposefully to the wicket for All England in 1847, a thick-set, trim-whiskered farmer’s son : George Parr, greatest batsman of his time. ‘The Champion’ strode imperiously to the wicket for United South in 1873, a muscular, short-bearded doctor’s son : William Gilbert Grace, greatest cricketer of his time.

Harry Reynolds (43) and Harry Thompson (46) helped XVIII Darlington make 197. At a quarter past five silence fell upon the assembly awaiting Grace. It was high noon for Tommy Barnes, a heaven-sent opportunity for Darlington’s pro to make his name. For a time W.G. “did not make much out of the bowling of Barnes”. Spectators sensed a shift in control when Grace, “warming to his work, began to add to the score”. He then aimed a big hit off Barnes and was caught in the outfield. Tommy was crowned with the crest of his career. United South trailed by eight. A larger gathering attended the second day. “He is almost certain to be in again this afternoon,” the press assured. He was not. An even larger crowd filled Feethams on the third day in fevered anticipation. Darlington left Grace a target of 162. He made 57, mostly singles, but the homesters triumphed by 31. Fame was short-lived for 24-year-old Tommy Barnes. Four months later he died of typhoid taking his heaven-sent glory with him. His passing coincided with a new phase in Durham’s history.  An era heralded in by Grace.

Chapter 5

Chapter 3

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