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From Lads to Lord's

The History of Cricket: 1781 – 1786 | Index

1787 – Lord's and the MCC

Thomas Lord | John Nyren


GB18 begins its 1787 notices with the following extract from the Morning Herald dated Wednesday, 25 April:

"The Members of the Cricket Club are desired to meet at the Star and Garter, Pall Mall, on Mon., April 30.
Dinner on table exactly at half past five o'clock.
N.B.The favour of an answer is desired".

There can be little doubt that plans for matches to be played at a new ground in Marylebone were on the agenda.

Thomas Lord

Thomas Lord (1755–1832) was the founder of Lord's Cricket Ground.

His known playing career commences in the 1787 season but he was a professional bowler employed by the White Conduit Club and then by MCC.

He made 83 known appearances in first-class cricket from 1787 to 1815.

White Conduit Club v Middlesex

Lord's Old Ground

Monday, 21 May 1787

result unknown (GB18)

This match was advertised in the Morning Herald on Saturday, 19 May 1787 but not reported afterwards. The historic announcement says:

"A grand match will be played on Monday, 21 May in the New Cricket Ground, the New Road, Mary-le-bone (sic), between eleven Noblemen of the White Conduit Club and eleven Gentlemen of the County of Middlesex with two men given, for 500 guineas a side.
The wickets to be pitched at ten o'clock, and the match to be played out".

As Mr Buckley says, it was "apparently the first match to be played on Thomas Lord's new ground".

It should be remembered that White Conduit Club was named for the fact that its members played on White Conduit Fields, just as MCC was named because the members now had a venue located in Marylebone. But the common origin of MCC and WCC was, as we have seen, the gentlemen's club which had flourished through most of the eighteenth century including, at least in part, an existence as the original London Cricket Club of Artillery Ground fame. This gentlemen's club, which was multi-purpose, had a social meeting place at the Star and Garter on Pall Mall. It was the same club that was responsible for drafting the Laws of Cricket at various times, most notably in 1744 and 1774, and this lawgiving responsibility was soon to be vested in the MCC as the final repose of these cricketing gentlemen.

But first came the WCC, so–called because it played on White Conduit Fields. Its leading lights were George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea (1752 – 1826) and the Hon. Colonel Charles Lennox (1764 – 1819), who later became the 4th Duke of Richmond.  The WCC was ostensibly an exclusive club that "only gentlemen" might play for, but the club did employ professionals and one of these was the bowler Thomas Lord (1755 – 1832), a man who was recognised for his business acumen as well as his bowling ability. Lord did not play for WCC in any of its known matches, though he subsequently appeared frequently for MCC and for Middlesex.

It was in 1785, as we have seen, that WCC as such first appeared in a major match, although the club may have existed for a year or two before then and played unrecorded minor matches. And so things might have continued except that White Conduit Fields was an open area allowing members of the public, including the rowdier elements, to watch the matches and to voice their opinions on the play and the players. The White Conduit gentlemen were not amused by such interruptions and decided to look for a more private venue of their own.

John Nyren

John Nyren (born 15 December 1764 at Hambledon, Hampshire; died 30 June 1837 in Bromley-by-Bow, London) was an English cricketer turned author. He was the son of Richard Nyren, the captain of the Hambledon Club in its "Glory Days", and was brought up in the legendary Bat and Ball Inn, where his father was the landlord, immediately opposite Broadhalfpenny Down.

Nyren, who was left-handed, is believed to have begun playing first-class cricket in about 1787, around the time his father retired, and he played occasionally until 1805. His playing career was not distinguished and he would now be remembered only as the son of a famous father if he had not turned his hand to literature in his old age.

1n 1832, Nyren was living in London and he began a collaboration with Charles Cowden Clarke, who recorded Nyren's reminiscences of the Hambledon era and published them serially in a periodical called The Town. The following year, the series of articles appeared in book form as The Cricketers of My Time, which became a major source for the history and personalities of Georgian cricket and also came to be regarded as the first classic in cricket's now rich literary history.

Thomas Lord ultimately used his business abilities to become a successful wine and provisions merchant, but he is remembered for his cricket ground. Winchilsea and Lennox commissioned Lord to find a new ground and offered him a guarantee against any losses he may suffer in the venture. So Lord took a lease from the Portman Estate on some land at Dorset Fields in Marylebone, where Dorset Square is now sited; the ground was prepared and opened in 1787. The first match was on Monday 21 May between the White Conduit Club and Middlesex.

This was Lord's first ground. It was originally called the New Ground but was soon renamed Lord's and, since it was in Marylebone, the WCC on relocating there decided to call themselves Marylebone Cricket Club. There have been three Lord's grounds and they are now referred to as Lord's Old Ground (1787-1810), Lord's Middle Ground (1811-1813) and Lord's Cricket Ground (1814 to present).

The exact date of the foundation of MCC is unknown but 1787 is the accepted year given the golden jubilee of the club in 1837. It should really have been the golden jubilee of Lord's only for that was new, although its location had changed twice by 1837. MCC, as noted above, was not a new club at all. It was a long existing club that had relocated to Marylebone and had then changed its name to match its new location.

MCC v White Conduit Club

Lord's Old Ground

Monday, 30 July 1787

result unknown (GB18)

The first known match played by this club under its new name took place at Lord's on Monday 30 July 1787. According to The World dated Friday 27 July 1787:

"On Monday, 30 July will be played (at Lord's) a match between 11 gentlemen of the Mary-le-bone Club and 11 gentlemen of the Islington Club".

This is the first time that mention is made of "the Mary-le-bone Club". See GB18, p.115. Ironically, given that MCC ensured tighter organisation of the sport from then on, including diligent record keeping, the scorecards of the two historic inaugural matches (the first ever at Lord's and the first ever involving MCC) have not survived.

The opening of Lord's and the foundation of (or reorganisation of the club as) MCC in 1787 ended what H T Waghorn called "The Dawn of Cricket". Cricket's day had begun. The small but great rural clubs like Chertsey, Dartford, Addington, Slindon and above all Hambledon were forced to stand aside as progress swept the game beyond their horizons. 1787 was the first great watershed in the game's history.

Lord's and MCC were not merely a new ground and a new club, they were a new era.

The elevation of the sport from lads to Lord's was complete.

The History of Cricket: 1781 – 1786 | Index

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