William Clarke’s Nottinghamshire, having vanquished all the opposition north of London in the early 1830s, decided in 1835 to match the County’s talent against the best in cricket’s heartland. They challenged Sussex to home and away fixtures in 1835.
For nearly a decade Kent and Sussex, the two premier counties, had fought each other to decide which of them was ‘Champion County of England’. In effect it was a duopoly; in the 18th century Hampshire and Surrey had also raised strong county teams, but both were now in eclipse.
Notts travelled to Brighton and won. Sussex came to Nottingham; enormous crowds filled The Forest Ground for this great clash between north and south. Notts were again victorious. It was one of the finest moments in the county’s sporting history. Clarke’s next goal was to beat Kent, but in 1836 the MCC introduced a new innovation - two matches between teams representing the North and the South.
One game was arranged for Lord’s, the north match was set to be played at Leicester, despite the fact that the large majority of the Northern XI were, naturally, Notts men. The factor that favoured Leicester was the existence of a large private enclosed ground in that town - The Forest was open and free to all comers. So Leicester it was. Clarke was not amused. He refused to play - the South won at Leicester by 218 runs.
In 1837 Notts again arranged home and away matches with Sussex and while in the south, took on Kent. Because there was no County organisation in Notts, the team relied on a few individuals to finance the away games and their reward was a place in the County side. In most cases this clearly was a handicap, but it had to be accepted. Clarke did not play in the two away games (possibly due to the ill-health of his wife - she died in September of the same year). The two away games were lost, but Sussex were again beaten on The Forest.
Three months after his wife’s death, Clarke remarried, to Mrs Mary Chapman, landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn. Six months later he converted the field at the rear of the Inn into an enclosed cricket ground. ‘Trent Bridge’ was born. No county games took place in either 1838 or 1839, but the three fixtures of 1837 were repeated in 1840 and the following season, Kent came to Nottingham for the first time.
The result of the four games were two Notts defeats at the hands of Sussex; Kent were beaten away, but, despite having only 10 men, beat Notts at Trent Bridge. The title of Champion County remained anchored in the South. This didn’t deter Clarke who then challenged England (basically Kent and Sussex combined) to a match in 1842. Clarke took seven wickets in the England innings, but the Notts batting failed twice - Clarke, in fact made the most runs for Notts – and the game was lost by 10 wickets. It was typical of Clarke that he arranged this Notts v England match, after having had a blazing row with MCC over the selection of players for a representative North side. Clarke tried to prove himself in the right!
Seventeen cricketers made their debuts for the County in the 1835 to 1842 period, the number being somewhat inflated by the introduction of amateurs for the reasons noted.
Butler Parr (pictured above) moved to Radcliffe on Trent from his native Lincolnshire at the age of two. By 1835 he had what was described as a ‘nice, snug, old-fashioned business’ as a brewer and maltster in the village. A stylish batsman and very useful wicketkeeper, he appeared frequently in the County side until 1854. Richard Daft, who later became the best profesional batsman in England, married Parr's daughter and Parr took Daft on as his business partner with, later, disastrous results - Daft was no man for business. Butler Parr died in Radcliffe in 1872.
Joseph Guy, one of three players to make their debut v Sussex at Brighton in 1837, was a man of singularly unassuming manners with a smile that was bland and childlike. He was a baker by occupation and an upright, scientific batsman, the best in the Notts side for several summers, but he could take the defence of his wicket, at times, to extremes, hardly caring if runs were scored. His ability was recognised by MCC and he played for Players v Gentlemen on 17 occasions. When Clarke set up his All England XI in 1846, Guy was an automatic choice and though he played for Clarke’s side for 10 years, his run-getting in Odds matches was not impressive. He received £l65.9.6d forr his benefit in 1856, using the money to purchase the Carpenter’s Arms in Mansfield Road, Nottingham. His new occupation as landlord was, a commentator notes, ‘not conducive to longevity’. He died at his home in 1873.
John Gibson’s county cricket was confined to the two away games in 1837. He had received praise in local matches in 1836 for the accuracy of his bowling and in 1840 he was picked for the North v South at Lord’s. His brother, Robert, was also a good local player and with initials often missing it is difficult to separate the performances of the two. Due to the diligent researches of John Goulder, I can now state that John Gibson was christened in Denton, Lincs in July 1817. He moved to Nottingham and worked as a shoemaker. Gibson died in November 1884 and is buried in the Nottingham Church Cemetery.
George Gibson Galloway, a hosiery manufacturer, was one of the amateurs who assisted in the finance of the County side and thus was given a place in the team for the three matches of 1837. He was christened in February 1803, his firm was in George St, Nottingham and he featured in local Nottingham cricket from 1826 to 1850. In 1842 he was elected, as a liberal, for the own Council. In 1859 he emigrated in New Zealand, but returned to Nottingham in 1866 and died the following year.
John Foxcroft, a solicitor practising in Stoney, St, Nottingham, like Galloway, helped with the team’s finances and played in three county games, one in 1837 and two in 1840. Born in Nottingham in 1806, he was a member of the Committee that ran The Forest Ground. He died in Bramcote in 1853.
Thomas Broughton Charlton, son of the Nottingham High Sheriff, William Charlton, was born and resided all his life at Chilwell Hall. William Charlton umpired in some major matches in the 1820s. T.B.Charlton appeared in the three Notts games of 1840. In 1841 he stood as Conservative candidate in the general election. The campaign provoked serious riots in Nottingham, Charlton failed to get elected and declined to stand again, due to the ill-feeling engendered. He died in 1886 and is buried in Attenborough churchyard.
Charles Creswell, unlike Galloway, Foxcroft and Charlton, was an amateur worthy of a place in the County side, without financial inducements. In fact he had been picked for the North v South at Lord’s, prior to being chosen for Notts – ‘a steady, excellent bowler, being seldom wide or out of length’. Born in Radford in 1813, Creswell played in seven Notts games between 1840 and 1843. It would seem he moved away from Nottingham while still an active player. A cashier by occupation he died in Heaton Norris in 1882.
Edwin Patchitt played in four county matches between 1840 and 1843. Born in Nottingham in 1808, educated at Bluecoat School, he set up as a solicitor and was highly successful, building a large mansion called Forest House, with 30 acres, on the Nottingham outskirts. The house was converted into a Childrens Hospital in 1901. As a clerk to the town magistrates, Patchitt had to read the Riot Act to the furious mob who had just burnt down Nottingham Castle. Later he was elected a councillor and served as Nottingham’s mayor in 1858 and 1859. He was a feared bowler in local cricket, but was no-balled in his first county game, because his arm was raised too high. Patchitt retired to Hastings, dying there in 1888.
Thomas Blatherwick Redgate, yet another solicitor, was born in Calverton in 1809. His career in local cricket was a long one – 1828 to 1865, but from 1854 he played in the Newark area, having moved to Scarthing Moor, Weston and having a legal practice in Tuxford – though ‘he relieves the monotony of his legal pursuits by the indulgence of a little farming’. His estate was some 60 acres and employed seven men and four boys. Both his county matches were in 1840. He died in 1874.
Isaac Johnson, a lace manufacturer, was a noted slow under-arm bowler, using a similar method to Clarke. Born in 1808, he was a well-known figure in local cricket for many years and as the Nottingham Review noted in 1863, ‘There are none more deserving than the veteran of the (Commercial) Club, Isaac Johnson, who by his excellent play in the field as a batsman and bowler and not least by his urbanity, courtesy and geniality among his comrades, has won high and hearty esteem.’ He was President of Lace CC as well as Chairman of the Commercial Club. He died in Plumptre St, Nottingham in 1874. Unfortunately he was a contemporary of John Johnson. The initials I and J being easily mistaken, it is impossible to decide with certainty which Johnson appeared in which Nottingham match. However it is believed that Isaac played once in 1840 and once in 1843.
Samuel Parr was the most important debutant of 1840 and his career with Notts ran on to 1855, with 16 major matches. It is interesting that he played just three seasons with Clarke’s All England XI, whereas a number of Notts players spent much of their career with that side - Clarke’s side played between 20 and 30 three day matches each summer and thus the players earned a good income. In contrast the Notts side played three or four matches and in a few seasons none at all during the 1840s and 1850s. Parr was a practical joker. Many of his jokes are related in Richard Daft’s memoirs, they sound hilarious, but the recipients did not find the jokes amusing - perhaps that’s why Parr did not last long with Clarke’s troupe of players? Originally a commercial traveller in wines and spirits, Parr became landlord of the Spread Eagle in Long Row, Nottingham and later the Home & Away, where he died in 1873.
George Butler, a native of Mansfield, where he worked in the ‘fancy silk trade’, a major industry in that town, came rather late to County cricket. A powerful batsman he appeared in the county side from 1841 to 1852. Having acted as a pro with various clubs, Butler was appointed as pro at Trent Bridge for the Commercial and Amateur Clubs who used the ground. He remained in the post for some 30 years, being latterly umpire, groundsman and gate-keeper. Butler died in Nottingham in 1887.
Rev William Musters, a member of the family who owned much of the freehold of West Bridgford, including Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, was born at Colwick Hall, the family seat in 1810, and educated at Eton and Oxford. He batted successful in the University match of 1829 and between 1841 and 1848 appeared in seven games for Notts. Taking Holy Orders, he was a curate at Colwick and then rector of West Bridgford until 1862. Musters died in Scotland in 1870.
Joseph Stockley Need, born in York St, Nottingham in 1819, had a most peculiar, if brief, experience of County cricket. He played once in 1841 and a second and last time in 1855. A good wicketkeeper, he was unable to compete with the expertise of Charley Brown, hence his short career at the top level. A lacemaker he, like many Nottingham men, emigrated to Calais in 1859 and found himself appointed as pro to the Boulogne Cricket Club, where he built a great reputation. He returned to England in 1867, when he was a coach at Oxford, but retired after two seasons. He moved to Dunkirk in Nottingham and remarried in 1892, just four months before his death. His son, Philip, was the pavilion keeper at Lord’s at the time of his father’s demise.
Thomas Nixon (pictured above), like Need a lacemaker and 1841 debutant, became famous for his cricketing innovations. He invented the ‘balista’ bowling machine, cane-handles for bats, cork pads and open cane pads. He played just six Notts matches over a 14-year period, but was engaged at Lord’s from 1851 and appeared in the Players v Gentlemen match that year, as well as many MCC games over a five-year period. A spare-built man, he was a slow round arm bowler giving the ball ‘much twist’. He moved from Lord’s to Oxford and then in 1861 to Chelford where he set out a ground for the Cheshire Club. He died in Chelford in 1877. His son, T.H.Nixon was on MCC staff from 1862 to 1873.
John Chapman, the step-son of William Clarke, trained as a veterinary surgeon. Born in Nottingham in 1814 he moved with his parents to the Trent Bridge Inn in 1821 and after Clarke moved to London in 1846, Chapman took on the running of the cricket ground. However in 1848 he lost £40 on staging a county game and moved off to Gainsborough, where he set up a vet’s practice and died in 1896.
Francis Noyes in 1837 was described in the press as a monster who divided his time between his school and a gin-shop. In reply he threatened to sue for libel. It was however a fact that he appeared to combine the trade of a wine & spirit merchant with running a private school in Nottingham. Precise biographical details of Noyes are elusive, despite some intense digging by John Goulder. In 1835 he married Ann Oliver in St Peter’s, Nottingham – the lady seems to have been married twice previously. As a cricketer Noyes has a personal slot in the game’s history as the only batsman to bat twice in each innings in a major county match - Notts v Hants at Southampton in 1843. His cricket in Nottingham spans the period 1842 to 1845, but in 1848 he played for Notts at Brighton, at which time he seems to be living in London and was a member of Surrey.
In 1849 or 1850 he emigrated to San Francisco. Noyes had a horror of being out ‘stumped’ and always practiced with a stout peg driven in the ground from which a cord was run and then tied around his ankle to prevent him moving out his ground. The 1861 census finds his wife living in Station St, Nottingham and describing herself as a widow - perhaps Noyes died in America? His biography remains incomplete.
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