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Cricket in Bedfordshire

"Hail, Cricket. Glorious manly, British Game. First of all Sports, be first alike in Fame".

This famous little bit of doggerel was written by James Love in 1744. At about the same time, the picture in this article was drawn and put on the front of an exercise book [Ref: R5/4793/17] used by the Russell estate. Sadly, the book does not record scorecards of matches in that far-off era but rather details logging operations in Thornhaugh Wood from Winter 1752 to Summer 1754.

This is the only reference in the archives to cricket in the eighteenth century. There are, however, a number of references to cricket in the early nineteenth century. To stay with the Russell connection, we have a letter of 1840 [Ref: R3/4289] in which Lord Charles' cricketing obsessions are deplored: "I should be sorry to do anything to annoy Lord Charles in his amusement, but he is inconsiderate and no one knows but those who experienced it how objectionable it is". It has ever been thus amongst the desk-bound killjoys who will never know the thrill of wielding the willow, or hurling the leather.

It is a sad reflection of our times that personal belongings left in the pavilion whilst their owner indulges in the noble game might suffer the ravages of the nimble-fingered. Or is it? Apparently not, since the Quarter Sessions records for 1822 [Ref.QSR1822/534] tell the sorry tale of George Clark and Edward Taylor who each had a shoe stolen (by a one-legged man, presumably) whilst playing at Luton. Six years before, just a year after the battle of Waterloo, a cricket match was played on Biggleswade Common [Ref: QSR1815/245-7] and a bolt of cloth used to construct a booth (perhaps used for betting, all the rage in those days) was purloined.

Some time before 1864 a fascinating little book was written by someone calling himself An Old Batsman. This booklet [Ref: X704/237] contains a brief description of the game and notes on how to play it. As well as helpful hints on cricket, a section at the back will tell you how to make a rocket, one up on drums and beer cans.

The archives can help researchers on five aspects of cricket history: national, county, town, and works elevens as well as the ultimate grass roots of the game - village teams. Space is too limited to give a comprehensive list, but look in the searchroom index under SPORTS & PASTIMES: CRICKET, and, of course by searching under subject in our online catalogue. The records of town, works and village clubs are varied in quantity and quality but may include material such as scorebooks, minutes or photographs. Again, the range of teams is too great to list here, but the indexes to the Bedfordshire Mercury, c.1858-1889, in the parish indexes may provide references to town and village games.

Anyone interested in the history of the Beds County Club will find a wealth of information, particularly on the early years. The present club was founded in November 1899, but there had been a Bedfordshire club well before then, as a scorebook from June 1879 - August 1882 [Ref: X188/1] demonstrates. Figuring prominently are the three Tylecote brothers from Marston Moretaine, including E.F.S. Tylecote who played for Kent and in six tests for England, as a wicketkeeper, from 1882/3-1886. There are other scorebooks covering the periods 1922-1939 [Refs: X188/8-9] and 1959-1961 [Ref: X188/11]. Most interestingly, we have a scrapbook covering the period 1899-1911 [Ref: X188/7] which includes scorecards and correspondence about the refounding of the club. It also includes a great prize, a handwritten and signed letter from the Champion, W.G. Grace himself, soliciting the position of secretary for a friend of his (who did not get it). We also have minute books for 1899-1936 [Refs. X188/3-5].

MCC Cricket bat manufacturing

Did you know that there used to be a batworks in Bedford (above)? The works was started by a Mr. A.E. Trimmings in c1903 at 73, Tavistock Street and then taken over by the M.C.C. Bat Company c1908, closing in about 1970.

Finally, a mention of perhaps the most valuable source of all for cricket history: local newspapers. The Beds. Times, Beds. Standard, Northampton Mercury, Bedford Mercury and other "locals" have printed scorecards of games. A word of warning, however, early accounts were most unfair to bowlers, only batsmen's scores (sometimes with the method of dismissal), extras and the totals being given, no bowling analyses. Still, there are often potted accounts of games that will mention outstanding "bits of bowling".