Cricket events from 1601 to 1700

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Following the earliest known reference to cricket at Guildford in 1597, the seventeenth century saw the transition of the sport from a children's game to a professional game via the evolutionary processes of village cricket and county cricket, the key developments being the interest taken by the gentry as patrons and occasionally as players; and their recognition of the opportunities for gambling that the game affords. This escalated in the years following the Restoration, when investment in cricket created the professional player and the first major clubs, thus establishing the sport as a popular social activity in London and the south of England. Meanwhile, English colonists had introduced cricket to North America and the West Indies; and the sailors and traders of the East India Company had taken it to the Indian subcontinent.


The first definite mention of cricket in Kent comes from a court case in 1640 which records a "cricketing" of "Weald and Upland" versus "Chalkhill" at Chevening "about thirty years since". As in 1597, the case concerned the land on which the game was played. It is the earliest known organised match anywhere in the world and is the known beginning of village cricket.[1]


The first definite mention of cricket in Sussex relates to ecclesiastical court records which state that Bartholomew Wyatt and Richard Latter, two parishioners of Sidlesham in West Sussex, failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined 12 pence each and made to do penance.[2]

A French-English dictionary was published by Randle Cotgrave. The noun crosse is defined as "the crooked staff wherewith boys play at cricket". The verb form of the word is crosser, defined as "to play at cricket". It is interesting that cricket was defined as a boys' game in the dictionary, as per the Guildford schoolboys of the sixteenth century, but that adults were playing it in Sussex at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It almost seems as if Mr Cotgrave was "overtaken by events" here. No sooner did he publish his dictionary than his definition was updated by the involvement of adults in cricket.[3][4]


A court case recorded that someone was assaulted with a "cricket staffe" at Wanborough, near Guildford.[2]


John Bullokar (1574–1627) was the author of An English Expositor, in which he defined cricket as "a kind of game with a ball".[5]


James VI and I issued the Declaration of Sports (also known as The Book of Sports) which listed the sports and recreations that were permitted "on Sundays and other holy days". Initially, the declaration was effective in Lancashire only, partly as a reaction to Puritan suppression there of football (i.e., "mob football" in those days), blood sports and other activities which encouraged gambling. In 1618, the declaration was issued nationally and then reissued by Charles I in 1633. Cricket is not mentioned, although its near relation bowls is on the prohibited list. The omission of cricket provides evidence as such that it was still an obscure regional activity.

The Declaration of Sports was strongly opposed by the Puritans, then an increasingly influential sect. Although the stated purpose of the declaration per se may seem sinister to our eyes, it was in fact an attempt to rebuke Puritans and prevent them from interfering in the people's lawful recreations. It had limited success until the Civil War began in 1642. The Puritans were by then in control of Parliament which closed the theatres and issued sanctions against other recreational activities although, again, there was no mention of cricket except when individual players were accused of "breaking the Sabbath". The manuscript was publicly burned by order of the Puritan Parliament in 1643.[6][7]

Meanwhile, the future leader of the Puritans, 18-year old Oliver Cromwell, was reportedly playing cricket and football in London, where he was training at one of the Inns of Court. This is the earliest known reference to cricket in London.


Introduction of Gunter's chain, 22 yards long, for purposes of land survey. It was designed by English mathematician Edmund Gunter (1581–1626). Gunter's chain was probably adopted at a very early stage by cricketers for measuring the length of the pitch. The pitch length was specified as 22 yards in the first known code of Laws in 1744 and it must have been a firmly-established rule long before then. Having a set length for the pitch probably enabled cricketers to determine some of the other rules which are related to the length, position and usage of the pitch. For example, the origin of the over is completely unknown, as is the practice of switching ends between overs but, from time immemorial until 1889, the over always consisted of four deliveries (it was increased to five in 1889 and to six in 1900).


Several parishioners of Boxgrove, near Chichester in west Sussex, were prosecuted for playing cricket in a churchyard on Sunday, 5 May. There were three reasons for the prosecution: one was that it contravened a local bye-law; another reflected concern about church windows which may or may not have been broken; the third was the now legendary charge that "a little childe had like to have her braines beaten out with a cricket batt"!! This latter situation was because the rules at the time allowed the batsman to hit the ball twice and so fielding near the batsman was very hazardous, as two later incidents drastically confirm.[8]

This is the earliest reference to the cricket bat. The term "batt" was peculiar to Kent and Sussex where coastal smugglers were known as "batmen", because of the cudgels they carried. The earliest reference to a "flat-faced" bat (i.e., with a flat surface at the bottom of the stick in ice hockey style) also occurs in 1622 in the files of the Sussex Records Society (see Terry, note 23). The term "bat" remained comparatively rare until about 1720. The terms in more general use were "staff", "stave" or "stick". These tended to have regional usage: for example, "stave" was used in the Gloucester area and "batt" in the south-east; while "staff" and especially "stick" were more widely used. "Bat" is derived from the French battledore, shaped like a table tennis bat, which was used by washerwomen for beatinbg their washing! See the OED for "battledore".


Saturday, 28 August 1624. Horsted Keynes v West Hoathly (result unknown) was the earliest known match in Sussex.

Friday, 10 September 1624. Cricket's earliest known fatality occurred as a result of an incident at Horsted Keynes. Jasper Vinall of West Hoathly, while fielding, was struck on the head by the bat of Edward Tye, who was trying to hit the ball a second time to avoid being caught. Afterwards, Vinall went home to West Hoathly but became increasingly ill and died nearly two weeks later. A coroner's inquest was held on the 12th and returned a verdict of death by misadventure.[9]


An ecclesiastical case is preserved that relates to a game at East Lavant, near Chichester, being played on a Sunday. Two defendants, Edward Taylor and William Greentree, were charged with playing cricket at the time of evening service. Taylor argued that he had not played during evening prayer time but only before and after. It did him no good as he was fined the statutory 12 pence and ordered to do penance. Doing penance involved confessing his guilt to the whole East Lavant congregation the following Sunday.[10]


Henry Cuffin, a curate at Ruckinge in Kent, was prosecuted by an Archdeacon's Court for playing cricket on Sunday evening after prayers. He claimed that several of his fellow players were "persons of repute and fashion". His statement is the first evidence of cricket achieving popularity among the gentry and the well-to-do. It was the gentry who introduced large-scale gambling into cricket and some of these gamblers subsequently became patrons by forming select teams that would improve their chances of winning, but this did not happen for a long time yet and the earliest known instance of gambling on cricket was in 1646.

Although Cuffin effectively claimed that his game was classless, it sets a historic marker for the beginnings of cricket's social division between amateurs and professionals, from which the annual Gentlemen v Players contest ultimately evolved. At this time, there were no professionals and the gentry were simply indulging themselves, so it was all a bit of fun. The serious stuff came much later.


In a court case concerning a tithe dispute, a witness called Henry Mabbinck testified that he played cricket "in the Parke" at West Horsley in Surrey.[11]


Another ecclesiastical case records parishioners of Midhurst, west Sussex, playing cricket during evening prayer on Sunday, 26 February (Julian date).[12]


The Honourable Artillery Company obtained the land in Finsbury that would eventually become known as the Artillery Ground.


Richard Culmer (1597–1662), a prejudiced Puritan clergyman who had been suspended from his duties in 1635, was restored to the clergy in 1638 as a curate, assisting the Reverend Austin in Harbledown, near Canterbury. Known as "Blue Dick" because he always wore a blue gown, Culmer was especially vindictive towards drunkenness and Sabbath sports. The Harbledown parishioners provoked him by "crickit playing before his door, to spite him".[13] Having failed to stop cricket in the village by private remonstrances, Culmer in 1640 publicly denounced the sport as "profane", especially if played on a Sunday. Another religious maniac made a similar denouncement at Maidstone same year.[14]


Parliament passed an Act to close all theatres, which had met with Puritan disapproval. Although similar action would be taken by Parliament against certain sports, it is not clear if cricket was in any way prohibited, except that players must not "break the Sabbath". References to the game during the time of Oliver Cromwell do not suggest that it was subjected to any punitive action.

The cricket references thus far indicate that inter-parish matches were being played before the Civil War began but there is nothing to suggest that any teams representative of counties had been formed. There is no evidence of large scale gambling or patronage prior to the war and it was those factors which drove the formation of "representative" teams in the eighteenth century. It must be concluded, therefore, that the cricket being played before the war was still of a minor, inter-parish standard.


Friday, 29 May 1646. In a match on Coxheath Common, Kent, a Coxheath team defeated one from Maidstone. The match has the added interest of being an "odds" game in that Samuel Filmer and Thomas Harlackenden of Coxheath played as a pair, and won, against four of Maidstone (Walter Franklyn, Richard Marsh, Robert Sanders and William Cooper). It is the earliest known "odds" match and possibly, if it could be proved, the earliest known single wicket match. The participants included members of the local gentry: further evidence of the sport's growing affluence.[15]

A court case followed the match at Coxheath, concerning non-payment of a wager that was made at the game. During the Commonwealth, gambling was, of political necessity, low key. This is the earliest known instance of gambling on cricket and, curiously, the wager was for twelve candles.[16] Imagine the confusion if it had been four candles!


A fatality was recorded at Selsey, West Sussex, when a fielder called Henry Brand was hit on the head by the batsman Thomas Latter who was trying to hit the ball a second time. It was obviously a recurrance of the Horsted Keynes incident in 1624. Thomas Latter may have been a relative of Richard Latter, one of the defendants at nearby Sidlesham in 1611.[17]

A Latin poem by Robert Matthew contains a probable reference to cricket being played by pupils of Winchester College on nearby St Catherine's Hill. If authentic, this is the earliest known mention of cricket in the county of Hampshire.[11]

There are few seventeenth century references to cricket being played at or in the vicinity of schools but it was noted at Eton College and Winchester College by the time of the Commonwealth. 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. He doubts, however, that the sport at this time was part of any school's curriculum. Apart from Eton and Westminster, all schools in the seventeenth century had local intakes and no class segregation. Therefore, the sons of rich and poor families played together. As evidenced by the legal cases of 1629, 1646 and 1652, cricket was played jointly by gentry and workers.


Roy Webber, in his Phoenix History, states that the half-century from 1651 to 1700 seems to be the time when the game "took a real grip" with cricket centred mainly in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. Rural Surrey should be added, if not London, but the point is that the game expanded in earnest during those years and especially after the Restoration in 1660. Webber thinks the game saw "a real development" during the Commonwealth and at first glance this looks unlikely but Webber upholds a theory about the behaviour of the nobility during the Commonwealth. This states, correctly enough, that the nobility withdrew to their country estates until the Restoration enabled them to return to London. While they were living in the country, Webber holds that they watched cricket being played on village greens and some will have taken part, as indicated above by the "persons of repute and fashion". Then, says Webber, what could be more natural than that they should take their cricket to London with them in the 1660s?

The logic is excellent for, as Webber also points out, several members of the nobility were involved in the earliest matches on record. Harry Altham names them on page 23 of his history as the Sackvilles of Knole Park and the Richmonds of Goodwood but he is premature here for these families originated with Charles II and Webber's generic view of the nobility is to be preferred. Altham agrees with Webber's view of the return of the aristocrats to London in 1660 and makes the additional point that they would have brought some of their local experts with them (i.e., the first professionals).


A case at Cranbrook against John Rabson, Esq. and others refers to "a certain unlawful game called cricket". It is interesting that the game was described as "unlawful" and that Rabson was evidently a "gentleman" whereas the other defendants were all working class.[18]

Cricket has long been recognised as the sport that bridged the class divide but, in time, the cricketing gentlemen came to be called "amateurs" to emphasise the distinction between themselves and the professionals who belonged to the lower social classes, mostly to the working class. 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. In terms of remuneration, amateurs claimed expenses for playing while professionals were paid a salary or fee. Amateur cricket was an extension of the game played 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.


Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611–1660), translating the works of François Rabelais (c.1494–1553), described Gargantua as "playing cricket".[3]


Three men were prosecuted at Eltham in Kent for playing cricket on a Sunday. As the Puritans were now firmly in power, Cromwell's Protectorate having been established the previous year, the penalty was doubled to 24 pence (two shillings).[19]


The defendants in the 1654 case were charged with "breaking the Sabbath", not with playing cricket. Cromwell's commissioners in Ireland did ban sport in 1656 but not cricket. They were concerned as always with "preventing unlawful assemblies" in Ireland and sport was held to be that. The sport in question was hurling. Cricket had probably not reached Ireland at this time. Bowen, on page 267, records 1792 as the date of the earliest known match in Ireland.


The "cricket ball" was first referred to as such in a book by Edward Phillips, who was a nephew of John Milton. In Mysteries of Love and Eloquence, a female character worries that a day will come when her beloved will say: "Would my eyes had been beat out of my head with a cricket-ball the day before I saw thee!"[3]


The Restoration of the monarchy in England was immediately followed by the reopening of the theatres and so any sanctions that had been imposed by the Puritans on cricket would also have been lifted. Although there are only a few references to the game in the time of Charles II, it is clear that its popularity was increasing and that it was expanding. The Restoration was effectively completed during the spring of 1660 and it can safely be assumed that, in the general euphoria which both accompanied and followed these historic events, gambling on cricket and other sports was freely pursued. It is logical to assume that the large amounts at stake will have led some investors to try and improve their chances of winning by forming teams that were stronger than your typical parish XI. By 1697, "great matches" were being played with huge sums of money at stake and, although details continue to be conspicuous by their absence, it is reasonable to assume that this scenario first existed in the aftermath of the Restoration.


Harry Altham says that, within a year or two of the Restoration, "it became the thing in London to make matches and to form clubs" and adds that "thus was inaugurated the régime of feudal patronage which was to control the destinies of the game for the next century and more". By 1662, although you would not read about it in the state-controlled press, cricket was very much in vogue and the nobility were employing professionals for the first time.[20]


A Gambling Act was passed by the "Cavalier Parliament" to try and curb some of the post-Restoration excesses. It limited stakes to £100 which was in any case a fortune at the time.[21] It is known that cricket could attract stakes of 50 guineas by 1697 and it was funded by gambling interests throughout the next century.Buckley, p. 1.</ref>


John Churchill (1650–1722), the future 1st Duke of Marlborough, was attending St Paul's School, London, at this time and is known to have played cricket there, as recorded in the 1963 Wisden on page 178. Following the first re Cromwell in 1617, the second known reference to cricket in London concerns another famous future general.


A letter by Sir Robert Paston of Richmond, Surrey refers to a game on Richmond Green, which became a noted venue in the eighteenth century.


Cricket was again mentioned in a court case as being played at Shoreham in Kent.

Saturday, 28 March 1668. A quarter sessions at Maidstone ruled that customs and excise could not claim excise duty on alcoholic drinks sold at a "kricketing"; it was further ruled that a match promoter had the right to sell ale to spectators, though presumably after having first obtained a necessary licence. As John Major suggested, this dealt a massive blow to so-called Puritan morality (aka hypocrisy), and it could have been the beginning of the long-term relationship between sport and alcohol. Major also suggested that the relationship between sport and gambling was beginning too but, as we saw in 1646 and 1664, gambling had already arrived.[22] Derek Birley's comment on the excise ruling was that cricket's connection with public houses is "historic in every sense of the word". In his view, the sport had "arrived" because the brewery trade was the earliest and strongest sponsor of popular sport.[23]


Perhaps a sign that the times, post-Restoration, they were a-changing. A man called Edward Bound was charged with playing cricket on the Sabbath and was exonerated! The case was reported in Shere, Surrey.[4]


The earliest reference to cricket at Oxford University is in John Phillips' Duellum Musicum, a 1673 pamphlet concerning music tuition, in which there is a criticism of one Thomas Salmon who "shews but a slender sign of his University-Education (because) he seems to have spent his time rather in the more laudable Exercises of Trap and Cricket, than in any sound Reading".[24] Depending on when Salmon graduated, it would seem that cricket was a normal activity at Oxford for some time before Phillips wrote his pamphlet. The earliest reference to cricket being played at Cambridge University is in 1710.


Saturday, 6 May 1676. A chaplain called Henry Teonge was serving with an English mission at Antioch from 1675 to 1679, having sailed there aboard HMS Assistance, HMS Royal Oak and HMS Bristol. In his diary, Teonge recorded that "at least forty of the English" left the city for recreational purposes and, having found a nice place to pitch a tent for dinner, they "had several pastimes and sports" including "krickett". At six they "returned home in good order".[25] Roy Webber, in his Phoenix History, comments that "the mere fact that this match took place at all shows that cricket must have been popular in England".

By this time, cricket had almost certainly been introduced to India, North America and the West Indies but the first definite references occur in the eighteenth century. It is conceivable that cricket was played in the Americas and India before it had spread throughout the British Isles. There is no record of cricket in Yorkshire, home of the English game's most successful county club, until 1751. The earliest mentions of cricket in Ireland, Scotland and Wales occur even later in the eighteenth century.

While England's seafaring and trading concerns ensured the spread of cricket overseas, at home it relied heavily on ease of transport and communications, most of these being waterborne as long journeys tended to be undertaken using coastal or river vessels. Road transport was slowly improving and the first turnpike trusts were established by Parliament in the early eighteenth century. This arrangement became the common method of road maintenance for the next 150 years and came in time to assist the spread of cricket throughout England.


Accounts of Thomas Lennard, 1st Earl of Sussex, 15th Baron Dacre (1654–1715) include an item which refers to £3 being paid to him when he went to a cricket match being played at "ye Dicker", which was a common near Herstmonceux in East Sussex. Altham referred to Lennard as "Thomas Dacre" but his real name was Lennard and one of his titles was Baron Dacre.[26]


Mention of cricket as "a play" (presumably in the sense of a sport that is played) in a Latin dictionary published by Dr Adam Littleton.


The first entry in G. B. Buckley's Fresh Light on 18th Century Cricket is a reference dated 1680 "that is quite unfit for publication nowadays". It contains, nevertheless, a clear reference to "the two umpires" and this is the earliest mention of the umpire in what seems to be a cricket connection. As Mr Buckley says, the reference also strongly suggests that the double wicket form of the game was already well known in London.[27]

Lines written in an old bible invite "All you that do delight in Cricket, come to Marden, pitch your wickets".[28] Marden is in west Sussex, north of Chichester, and interestingly close to Hambledon, which is just across the county boundary in Hampshire. This is the earliest known reference to wickets. At that time, there were two stumps per wicket with a single crosspiece bail.


Mitcham Cricket Club may have been formed in 1685, the club playing on what is today known as Mitcham Cricket Green. The site has continually hosted cricket matches ever since. Mitcham is believed to be the world's oldest cricket club as there is no evidence of any other club being founded before 1685.


October. The Honourable Artillery Company banned the playing of games on their property. The ban was lifted by the 1720s and the Artillery Ground then became cricket's feature venue for the next 30 years.


A match in Sussex was the occasion of crowd trouble and three people were charged with riot and battery. The primary source is a later petition by the defendants to Queen Anne (who did not succeed until 1702) in which they pleaded for remission of fines imposed, they having been "mere spectators" at the game. The defendants were Thomas Reynolds, Henry Gunter and Eleanor Lansford. They were guilty of assaulting one Ralph Thurston at the game but the cause of the affray is unrecorded.[26] John Major opines that it was due to a bet, which is definitely a likely suspect in the prevailing social climate.[29]


Accounts of Sir John Pelham record 2s 6d paid for a wager concerning a cricket match at Lewes.[30]


Parliament decided against a renewal of the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 and so cleared the way for a free press on the Act's expiry in 1696.

In his The World Bewitch'd, the Dutch atheist philosopher Balthasar Bekker (1634–1698) prophesied (perhaps complainingly) that "cricket will be very much in fashion and more tradesmen may be seen playing in the fields than working in their shops".[3]


Freedom of the press was granted by the English government which had already relaxed censorship in the aftermath of the Bill of Rights in 1689. Technically, freedom of the press came about because Parliament decided in 1695 not to renew the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 and this removed the barrier to a free press. It was from this time that cricket matters could be reported in the newspapers, but it would be a very long time before the newspaper industry adapted sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, reports.


The earliest known newspaper report of a match was in the Foreign Post dated Wednesday, 7 July 1697. It describes "a great match at cricket" that was played "the middle of last week" (c. Wednesday, 30 June) in Sussex with "eleven of a side" and "they played for fifty guineas apiece". The stakes on offer indicate the importance of the fixture and the fact that it was eleven-a-side suggests that two strong and well-balanced teams were assembled. Unfortunately, only limited details were given in the report but there is at last some real evidence to support the view that "great matches" played for high stakes were in vogue in the years following the Restoration.[30]

It is reasonable to make three assumptions about this match in the light of events reported during the next ten years. One is that it was a game between two strong teams, perhaps of near-county strength, and could have involved a team from Sussex and one from another county: surely Kent or Surrey. The second is that it was organised by Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond (1672–1723), who was the first great patron of cricket. His son, the famous 2nd Duke, inherited his interest. The third, and much bolder, assumption is that this is the earliest known first-class match.


Monday, 1 April 1700. A series of five matches, to be held on Clapham Common, was pre-announced on Saturday, 30 March by a periodical called The Post Boy. They were to take place on Easter Monday and prizes of £10 and £20 were at stake.[31] The prizes seem low and we should perhaps classify these as minor matches, especially as they were ten-a-side. No match reports could be found so the results and scores remain unknown. Interestingly, the advert says the teams would consist of ten "Gentlemen" per side but the invitation to attend was to "Gentlemen, or others". This clearly infers that cricket had acquired both the patronage that underwrote it through the eighteenth century and the spectators who demonstrated its lasting popular appeal.


  1. Underdown, p. 4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 McCann, p. xxxi.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Altham, p. 22.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Major, p. 31.
  5. Altham, pp. 21–22.
  6. Birley, p. 7.
  7. Major, p. 23.
  8. McCann, pp. xxxi–xxxiii.
  9. McCann, pp. xxxiii–xxxiv.
  10. McCann, pp. xxxiv–xxxviii.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bowen, p. 262.
  12. McCann, pp. xxxviii–xxxix.
  13. Major, p. 26.
  14. Underdown, pp. 11–12.
  15. Major, p. 32.
  16. Bowen, p. 47.
  17. McCann, pp. xxxix–xl.
  18. Underdown, p. 15.
  19. Birley, p. 9.
  20. Altham, p. 23.
  21. Birley, p. 11.
  22. Major, p. 36.
  23. Birley, p. 12.
  24. Maun, p. 15.
  25. Haygarth, page vi.
  26. 26.0 26.1 McCann, p. xl.
  27. Buckley, p. 1.
  28. Waghorn, p. 3.
  29. Major, p. 37.
  30. 30.0 30.1 McCann, p. xli.
  31. Maun, p. 1.


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