If the game vaguely resembled Hambledon cricket there was no Nyren to record it. A county that reared Bede, father of medieval historical writing, had not even a hack to chronicle local deeds. Not a word appeared in the dozen years after 1814. Post-Waterloo depression is likely reason although some said the game had died. It had not. Silence broken, it lacked status. Was disapproved in some quarters. One reader wrote to complain about a newspaper’s “silly, inflated, egotistical account” of a match where once he read of Nelson’s heroism. The Church voiced opposition. Surgeons diagnosed the game too violent, objected to treating cricket injuries. History, and a chill north-east wind, had hardened Durham hearts. They did not succumb to prejudice.
On the contrary. Interest increased. Not least through gambling. Bets were placed during matches rather like spread betting today. “Before pitching the wickets, the betting ran at from 15 to 10, and 7 to 2, in favour of Lumley; but after the first innings it changed to 6 to 4, and 2 to 1, in favour of Durham.” Bishopwearmouth players lost all their money at Norton. The home secretary kindly offered to loan their coach fare home. “No, thanks. Our secretary will see us through. He always wraps his sovereigns in five pound notes!” Stakes of £50 and £100 are known but £10 and £20 were most common. Higher stakes indicate matches between clubs of better ability as well as greater wealth. A club’s improvement could be gauged by a corresponding increase in amounts staked. Thus newly-formed Gateshead Borough crossed the coaly Tyne to play Newcastle Standard for £5 a side. Then downriver “past a grenadier rank and file of chimneys” to beat South Shields Independent. Next, the formidable Northumberland (a club not the county) for £10 before losing a £50 stake to all-conquering Bishopwearmouth. Vaulting ambition proved costly.
Neutral venues enabled clubs meet “strangers” from distant parts. Bishopwearmouth met Yarm at Castle Eden, mid-way between the 20 miles that separated them. Yarm had “challenged nearly all clubs in their neighbourhood without having been so fortunate as to meet with customers”. Yarm’s hustlers won and pocketed 40 sovereigns. Not all wagers were for cash. Bishopwearmouth played Durham City for dinner and a bottle of wine each. Stockton’s butchers and publicans for Rumps and Dozens – beef steaks and a dozen clarets. The tipplers of Ryhope staged a Married v Single match for “a skinfull”.
The opening of the Stockton-Darlington railway in 1825 signalled momentous social change. Speed and progress, symbols of the age. Horizons widened. Crowds increased. Clubs travelled further afield. As many as four booths were erected on the field to accommodate the various parties. Press references to ‘rapid progress’, to ‘superior’, ‘scientific’, ‘severe and well-contested’ play, suggest that techniques improved through playing different, often better, opposition. Press reports were more analytical – spiced with gems like “we would advise Mr Wetherell not to jerk his balls so much”. All confirm growing zest for the game :
The note of preparation for the exercise of the manly and truly English game of cricket has been sounded and its hardy votaries are now lifting their bats out of lavender, looking at the state of their stumps, and examining the stitches of their balls.
(Bell’s Life in London, 1838)
A carnival atmosphere awaited Gateshead at Alnwick long before the two were linked by rail. A band played before 3,000 spectators “of whom at least one-half were of that sex that lends grace to every scene.” Alnwick Moor blushed with colour. Ladies in bonnets and glint taffeta; gentlemen in top hats, frock coats and gay, satin waistcoats. Dinner was served in a large marquee on the field. Gracious in defeat, the homesters led the victorious visitors in procession about the town with the band blaring See The Conquering Heroes Come.
A day at cricket meant a whole day. Bishopwearmouth rose with the larks to start at 9.30 against Newcastle Albion on the Town Moor in 1834. Match over, they made their way into the city to the Eldon Coffee Rooms where “the evening was spent with a feeling of good fellowship and hilarity, enlivened by some excellent songs from members of both clubs.” On their first meeting that year 35 sat down to dinner at the Cottage Tavern, Hendon. Such gatherings were the rule rather than exception.
Until the late 1850s matches were staged on Mondays, a favoured day for sport, and Fridays. Often into late October. Stronger clubs met over two days. Matches were proposed by letters of challenge. Three Bishopwearmouth men travelled to meet Newcastle Albion a few days before their proposed match to finalise terms. Bargaining was hard to obtain the best possible advantage :
Resolved that the club play on their conditions, ie to debar the following members from playing – Messrs Coates, Moon, Clayton, Wray, Wells, Truss, Smith, Hall and Hudson but provided Mr Vaux is unable to play then to play Mr Moon or Mr Hudson in his place.
During their arrangement, matches were said to be ‘in treaty’; ‘came off’ when actually played. The terms highlight the complex logistics. Travel was onerous and expensive. Handbills had to be printed and displayed. Catering requirements had to be firm if an innkeeper was to kill the fatted calf and lease a field. It all took time and explains why few matches were played during a season. Their relative rareness, however, heightened anticipation and excitement.
Only the worst weather could ruin such protracted preparations. If play was abandoned they could hardly wait to finish the contest and, more important, settle stakes that could not be given up until a match was concluded. Brancepeth met Esh in 1834 but “with night coming on” play stopped. They completed the match the following week and straightway commenced another. Their enthusiasm was stirred by wagers as much as passion for the game. Rain fell heavily throughout their first meeting that year. The drenched scorers slipped away unnoticed and a squabble developed over the result. Who could rule to settle the stakes? The umpires? MCC? Neither. They put their faith in the hands of the only sporting authority they trusted – the gambling fraternity. Match details were sent to the editor of Bell’s Life in London who ruled in favour of Esh. Bell’s, a Sunday newspaper first published in 1822, originally covered country sports and the turf. It later incorporated Cricketting [sic], became an accepted authority on betting and made a significant contribution to the game’s popularity. Tommy Marshall, for one, filed every copy.
Matters of dispute varied but money was usually at the root. Composition of an opponent’s team caused much ill-feeling. Clubs wanted to field their strongest side, win the match and pocket the stakes. Bishopwearmouth arranged to play Cockerton for 20 guineas and dinner for both parties. The match did not even start :
The Sunderland gentlemen accused their opponents of having acted unfairly, in bringing to the field, from distant parts, some veterans who were not members of their club – this the Cockertonites
indignantly denied, asserting that every man they had brought was a member, and that none of them lived at a greater distance than five miles from Cockerton.
(Durham County Advertiser, 3 Oct 1829)
Bowling actions caused controversy during the transition from under-arm. Hambledon barred their own Tom Walker for “throwing”. John Willes’ round-arm bowling at Lord’s was condemned as “throwing”. Further confusion followed the round-arm revolution led by Lillywhite and Broadridge. The Law was altered in 1835. “The ball must be bowled. If it be thrown or jerked, or if the hand be above the shoulder in the delivery, the umpire must call No Ball.” All this was background to Robinson being no-balled for “throwing” by Bishopwearmouth’s umpire in 1838. Darlington’s umpire disagreed. An angry dispute ensued, the home players accusing Robinson of “pelting” and threatening “now for broken legs”. The match was abandoned. Darlington “sneaked off the ground” with £8 expenses “which they had got possession of before the commencement of the contest”. Bishopwearmouth later announced intention to appoint a joint referee whose decision would be final should umpires disagree.
Bowlers faced a rare dilemma during the transition to round-arm. They risked mocking cries of “No skittles!” if they persisted with under-arm, loss of effectiveness if they changed. Tom Hutton’s under-arm was so fast some doubted its legality. In those days Durham City wore black waistcoats. Stockton insisted Tom’s elbow be covered with chalk and, if his waistcoat was marked during delivery, he would be barred from the match. Tom took seven wickets. Not a speck of chalk on his waistcoat. Though disgusted by the affair Hutton immediately took up round-arm.
Press reports often complimented umpires on their control. Since each club supplied its own umpire and a club official supplied reports, the compliments probably contained an element of flattery, even fawning. When umpires’ decisions went against them they usually objected “in a coarse and offensive manner”. There were frequent accusations of bias and mistakes. Some with foundation. One match was completed without umpires noticing Gateshead had twelve fielders. Chester-le-Street were rather peeved with a Lumley umpire who sought the opinion of Lumley fielders before giving each verdict. With money at stake umpires were clearly pressurised by their own team.
Increased press coverage reflected, and stimulated, cricket’s growth. Bell’s Life printed the first known local scorecard, Bishopwearmouth v Yarm, in 1828. Within six years scoresheets were in common use and Newcastle Journal printed scorecards in full. Local scorers regularly began to credit bowlers with dismissals other than bowled in 1845, nine years after it was the custom nationally. An intriguing element of early scorecards is the absence of a regular batting order. A captain arranged his troops according to the state of battle.
…never put in all your best men at first and leave a ‘tail’ to follow… And take care that you put good judges of a run together…a good off hitter and a good leg hitter in together…A good arrangement of your men according to these principles will make eleven men do the work of thirteen.
Clubs had rules for order of batting and bowling, a convention strange to us when ability and form decide. Low scores meant ‘form’ was different to our understanding. To reach double-figures was invaluable on rough pitches and long outfield grass; scoring 25 was exceptional. During this period 60% of known team totals were under 50; only 20% exceeded 70.
Single wicket matches were played in the south long before recorded in Durham. They were long-drawn affairs. The ball had to be struck with at least one foot behind the popping-crease and no runs accrued for hits behind the wicket. Most were stern contests between prominent players although Hartlepool’s George Treloar, a professional from Cornwall, had a chastening experience. The pro gave Mr Bulmer ten runs start in each innings, made only 3 and 1, and Mr Bulmer won without batting.
Darlington champion George Laws lost a major challenge to odds-on favourite Paul Smith who, with Harry Sampson, had just won ‘the championship of Yorkshire and Lancashire’. Betting favourite William Williamson lost a clash of Durham stalwarts by an innings. He failed to score in his first ‘hand’. William Mather made 15. Pride dented, Williamson objected to the width of Mather’s bat and refused to bat a second time. He relented when Mather threatened to submit to Bell’s for a ruling. Williamson registered another nought. Leaving nothing to chance Mather went in again and scored a single. To rub salt into open wounds he used Williamson’s bat. It was an eighth-of-an-inch wider than Mather’s. “North Country champion” Tommy Tilly met arch-rival Charlie Thompson in 1842 in a tense struggle at Plawsworth. Tilly marched to the field surrounded by boisterous supporters who were his umpire, scorer and fielders. Optimism ebbed when Tommy made nought between Charlie’s two and five, rose as he inched to seven. A wide from Thompson ended the match, “Tilly carrying out his bat amidst the cheers of the Durhamites.” His umpire, Joseph Atkinson, played in the first known single wicket match at Durham in 1829.
A challenger’s money was always ‘ready’ at an alehouse. Indeed a surfeit of ale provoked many a match. George Renwick of Winlaton challenged “the great Smith of Newburn for £50. If he does not accept this challenge, Renwick will play any man in England.” Two weeks later Renwick was challenged to a bare-fist fight for £100 because he had “barked so often without biting.” Not a wise move. Renwick was a noted pugilist. A gentleman’s courage was known as ‘bottom’. Bottom challenged, spleen inflamed. Mr Beldon and Mr Hudson staged a slanderous skirmish via the press :
the friends of Mr Beldon would recommend [Mr Hudson] to mind his own business for the future, and not challenge gentlemen through the public papers, when he does not mean playing.
Most major clubs emerged during the first half of the nineteenth century. Particularly after 1832 when the Reform Act and local government reform loosed the power previously held in the hands
of the privileged few. The rise to prominence of Bishopwearmouth, a team with a lawyer, schoolmaster and shipbuilder, owed much to far-sighted Thomas Coates. Coates left the south in 1824 to manage Low Street gasworks. Player and chairman for 36 years, he ran the club with integrity. A new constitution, drawn up on 10 May 1834, explains the order of batting and bowling. Appropriately, the constitution had 22 rules one of which shows that, like farmers, cricketers made the most of daylight :
2. That the times of playing be Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
3. That the hour of meeting both for morning and evening be six o’clock.
5. That the sum of 1d per game each person be paid for each morning, and on Thursday evenings the sum of three pence…
7. That persons go in, in the order in which they are chosen in the first innings.
8. That the two persons tossing for choice of sides be put at the bottom of the list.
9. That the two persons first chosen to be the bowlers for the first innings.
10. That the two persons last in the first innings to bowl and go in first in the second innings.
11. That at the second innings the list of players to be reversed so that those last chosen go in just after the bowlers.
Members’ subscriptions were ten shillings and supporters five shillings. Players paid 13 shillings and were fined if late on ‘field days’. Stakes won and lost were included in club accounts. Expenses rose from £24 in 1834 to £53 in 1836. Old balls were re-covered, a mobile score-box built and Mr Clayton purchased bats while in London on business. The batsman with the “highest average number of notches” was presented with a silver snuff box. There was nothing for the bowler. Coates adopted the traditions of the southern men. The club subscribed to Bell’s Life and recorded the editor’s cricket decisions in a book. Nyren’s Young Cricketer’s Tutor was studied and, just as Hambledon wore sky blue coats with black velvet collars, Bishopwearmouth’s flannel jacket was trimmed with purple ribbon.
A revolutionary appointment in 1838 shows Coates’ ambition. Two southern men appeared in their Married v Single match. One, Inwood, was designated a Given Man, a term for a player at a club where he was not a bona fide member. George Inwood, a “celebrated cricketer” in Hampshire, was engaged to oversee the Northumberland ground. The previous year he was at Camberwell where four Lamberts played, one, William Lambert, the greatest all-rounder of his day. The second southern man, also a William Lambert (qv), was engaged to develop Bishopwearmouth’s ground as did Lillywhite at Brighton (1837) and Clarke at Nottingham (1838). The field was levelled and re-turfed for 1838 and, before long, was billed as Lambert’s Ground, “perhaps the finest north of York”.
There is no doubt that Lambert was a good bowler. In fact he was so good that opponents often barred him from playing. He was adept at round-arm, a skill so far in advance of local understanding it provoked an unseemly incident :
The citizens had four good wickets to fall with only six runs needed when Lambert commenced throwing three balls out of six almost above his head. The City umpire seeing this called ‘No ball’.
Lambert then threw down the ball and after indulging in very abusive language to the umpire and others around him drew the stumps without any authority and walked off the field with them.
PRO-FILE (No. 1)
WILLIAM WINDUS LAMBERT
(b. Ware, Hertfordshire c1798; d. Sunderland, 1852)
The first professional in Durham. Engaged to develop Bishopwearmouth’s ground in 1838; played until 1851. That he was from the south may seem extraordinary but there was no local qualified for the rôle. It was a seminal development, a new social phenomenon in the county. He used cricket to prospect a new life at 40. Took over the ‘Cottage Tavern’ and £10-per-annum ground lease from Jane Sutton, his future wife. Lambert exhibited a ‘catapulta’ at the first match he promoted. This prototype bowling machine created great interest in the south a year earlier, proof he was well-connected among “the Southron folk”. Played in prestigious single wicket matches and twice against All England XI. Set up as vintner. Manager of ‘Wheatsheaf Inn’ when he died.
Durham City claimed the match and both parties dined on friendly terms – without a piqued Lambert. Given his experience in the south one senses Lambert’s frustration at local ignorance of the game’s developments. He bowled in the first innings, without complaint, and may have wondered why City’s umpire, George Pybus, waited until his third over in the second innings before calling ‘no ball’. Nor did Darlington object to Lambert’s action when he bowled in the match marred by the Robinson rumpus eight years earlier. Lambert had achieved a club professional’s ambition as manager of a ground and tavern. He was a big fish in a little pond and entitled to expect little fish take heed of his knowledge.
Stockton formed in 1816. On re-forming in 1844 they made astonishing progress under ambitious president Dr William Richardson. The doctor, a towering figure in black frock coat and white stovepipe hat, shared an intense passion for the club with Tommy Marshall who angled a smaller white hat above Scottish tweed.
When all was going favourably, the doctor was brimful of smiles, while the veteran umpire would have his hat cocked at an angle of forty-five; but should Dame Fortune frown on the efforts of the Stockton team, then there was a transformation – the features of the doctor would wear a grim expression…while the old umpire would press his hat well on his head, minus the angle, and look severe.
Norton played on the green at the northern end of a lovely chestnut and elm leafed village. Probably as old as neighbours Stockton, they folded in 1840 but re-emerged seven years later. Formed in 1827, Darlington were known as “the fancy club”, a term with pugilistic connotations. Also gaining prominence were Barnard Castle, formed in 1832; Chester-le-Street, more notorious for petty disputes than victories; and Hartlepool where in 1839 cricket was yet “a novelty” played within eight walled acres of the Town Moor. A Bishop Auckland side, said to be “all show”, lost to Etherley, “all effect”, in 1835.
Soon after Durham City formed in 1828 chimney sweeps were seen on the streets using a cap for a ball and their brush for a bat. City made rapid strides and cricket was all the rage :
Durham City has been dull so long,
No bustle at all to show;
But now the rage of all the throng,
Is at cricketing to go.
Huzza then for the Durham lads,
They’ve cast their dull array;
They’d not be known by their own dads,
They’re now so bright and gay.
Bold and fearless – there’s the rub –
With challenges to assuage;
And conquer every rival club, –
O cricketing’s all the rage!
City overcame the Northumberland in 1844. Reputedly unbeaten in three years, the visitors blamed a ridge on the pitch for preventing them bowl round-arm to proper effect. Tommy Tilly, then 25 and “a devil of a bowler”, found the ridge ideal for his fast under-arm and his “scientific bowling committed terrible havoc with the stumps.” Tilly once claimed two wickets with one ball. When a batsman tried to steal a single off his bowling, gimlet-eyed Tommy ran out the striker then bowled the ball to the other end to run out a bemused non-striker. Shoemaker Tilly died in poverty aged 86.
The aforementioned town clubs would remain at the forefront and their success generated the birth of others. A patriotic plethora of Victorias, Crowns and Albions emerged alongside a convocation of church sides. Others sprouted in nearby villages. By 1836 cricket was reported close to Durham at Lumley, Brancepeth, Esh, Houghton and West Rainton; around Darlington at Heighington, Cockerton and Aycliffe; near Barnard Castle at Staindrop and Whorlton; and on the outskirts of Hartlepool at Stranton and Greatham. Seaton Carew’s 1869 chairman claimed they had been in existence 40 years. North Durham players watched Gateshead v Alnwick in 1840 but their official formation is 1864. As with Stockton and Norton, a club might fold after a few years and re-form later. We can not presume these clubs had unbroken existence from the foregoing dates.
Bishop van Mildert founded Durham University, third oldest in England, in 1832. University soon had a cricket club. Harry Sampson was engaged in 1845 “for the purpose of instructing the young men in the system of round-arm bowling.” Mighty Northumberland set a stiff examination that the students failed by ten wickets. Sampson proved an able tutor. Defeat was avenged on 9 June 1846 by virtue of a sensational feat that did not merit a single sentence in the press. University were all out for 84. The Northumberland were expected to slaughter their attack. This is what happened :
A. Grote c by Denning, b by Bolland…………… 0
J. Moore b by Bolland………………………………….. .2
W. Clay b by ditto………………………………………… ..9
W. Beldon b by ditto…………………………………….. 4
J. Beldon st by Richards, b by ditto…………….. 0
Thompson c by Larden, b by ditto………………. 0
F. Russell c by Ford, b by ditto……………….. … 20
J. Baskett b by ditto……………………………………. 26
J. Peck not out……………………………………………….. 1
H. de C. Lawson st by Richards, b by Bolland 0
Harle c by Biggs, b by ditto…………………………… 0
Byes 2, nb 2…………………………………………………… 4
No longer was the trundler an anonymous spear-carrier on stage. Now that scoresheets were widely used Bolland became the first known to take all ten wickets. John Bolland was the son of Sir William, a High Court judge from Surrey renowned for transporting early trade unionists. Bolland went to Eton and gained a MA at Durham. Ordained in 1850, he was curate at Morpeth where he lived “piously, soberly and honestly” before missionary work in Bucharest. He died at Hebron, Israel in 1857.
Life had changed since the Raby match, of course. In 1876 coal mines were suggested as ideal places to imprison convicts. Sixty years later mining communities were “emerging from the greatest possible moral and intellectual darkness”. A new morality surfaced that owed something to colliers’ wives fulfilling, what was then considered, their natural rôle : making better homes to make better men. Not for nothing were pits given female names.
An interim report in 1846 might have praised Durham cricket for its vigour rather than skill. Nevertheless the game was played at all age levels. At University; at Houghton School and Durham School, one of the oldest in England; and at clubs where some had memberships large enough to support two elevens. Durham cricketers were ready for secondary education. Their tutors would be the best in the land.