By Peter Wynne-Thomas
By Way of Introduction
The object of this work is to relate the history of County Cricket in Nottinghamshire through the personalities of the players who were selected to represent the County Side.
The simplest way of achieving this end is to keep to a chronological sequence.
From the early 1700s, the London newspapers contained notices of cricket matches, but the Nottingham press ignores the game entirely until August 31st 1771 when, completely out of the blue, the Nottingham Journal prints a long letter signed ‘A Spectator’ explaining in graphic detail why the match between Nottingham and Sheffield was abruptly ended due to an umpiring dispute. The letter gives the team totals, but does not name a single player. The editor would surely not have printed a letter of such length and technical detail if the newspaper readers of the time had, in general, no knowledge of cricket. It is, I feel, logical to assume that the Nottingham public of 1771 knew all about how the game was played and that cricket was a common pastime. It also seems likely that Nottingham played Sheffield in previous seasons, but all reference to cricket in the town before 1771 has been lost.
In the County as a whole the only earlier reference dates from 1751 when a letter comments that the Duke of Kingston at Thoresby Hall is spending all his time practising cricket because he is to play for Eton v All England in three matches – in fact he opened the batting. There appears no extant document that connects the Duke with this 1771 Nottingham v Sheffield game.
Historically there is one intriguing appendix to the 1771 match. In 1829 William North compiled the first book containing Nottingham scores. He duly gives the totals for the two teams, then, adds a list of all the Nottingham players. Bear in mind this is 58 years after the match was played and he was born 36 years after the game. Where did North unearth these details? Suggestions are welcomed. Just in case any doing his or her family tree might have one of the eleven lurking the team runs:
Huthwayte, Turner, Loughman, Coleman, Roe, Spurr, Stocks, Collishaw, Troop, Mew and Rawson.
In the return game in Sheffield the following summer, Bamford and Gladwin replace Huthwayte and Rawson.
Over the next fifty years Nottingham oppose Leicester and Sheffield on a fairly regular basis – in 1791 Nottingham, encouraged by an officer stationed with the Nottingham Garrison, Lt-col Charles Churchill, challenge M.C.C. but are completely overwhelmed, first by 10 wickets and afterwards, with Nottingham fielding Twenty-Two players, by 13 runs. The standard of cricket in Nottingham was still far below that of the birthplace of cricket in south-east England – the latter had been playing the game for 250 years, as against maybe fifty years in the Midlands. Nottingham did however forge ahead of their Midland rivals and in the 1820s, both Leicester and Sheffield were being allowed extra men in order to give Nottingham an even game. Finally in 1826 Nottingham challenged the combined teams of Leicester and Sheffield to an eleven-a-side contest. It is from this major match that Nottingham is considered the equal of such sides as Sussex, Kent and M.C.C. and therefore our records begin and I will give brief notes on Nottingham’s cricketers. In most seasons which follow only two or three new cricketers emerge, but there are necessarily eleven used in the match v Leicester & Sheffield.
Joseph Dennis, the captain and wicket-keeper, was, at 47, the senior player. At that time he was landlord of the Eclipse Inn, Chapel Bar and was clearly a man of some wealth – in 1815, he stood to lose £120 on bets he laid during on particular Nottingham game; fortunately the match was won. Dennis had played for Nottingham since 1800, but announced his retirement in 1828, due to failing eyesight. His fans begged he to appear in 1829, which he did in two final matches. He suffered a stroke whilst at the Bell Inn; Clarke, the landlord, carried Dennis on his back to the Eclipse, but Dennis died shortly afterwards in November 1831 – his wife had died a month earlier. Writing in 1853, J.F.Sutton notes, Dennis’s memory still lives in the memory of thousands.
George Thorpe, aged 45, was a second publican in the eleven. ‘Honest’ George Thorpe kept the Eagle Tavern in Garners Hill. Surprisingly, Thorpe did not appear in a Nottingham match until 1815; his principal role being that of long-stop, a vital fielding position in the days of fast underarm bowling and wicketkeepers without gloves or pads. The 1826 game was his last appearance for the town. He died in May 1847.
Charles Goodall, a lace manufacturer aged 43, played on and off for Nottingham between 1813 and 1827. He died in Nottingham in December 1872.
Robert Warsop was the last of four brothers in the old Nottingham side. Thomas Warsop was by far the best known; he captained the team before Dennis took over. Thomas first played for Nottingham in 1791, aged 12 and retired in 1823. He died in his house in Pepper St, in 1845 aged 65. His slow underarm bowling was said to have been copied by William Clarke; Warsop was also a good batsman. He is described as a martyr to gout and ‘consequencely rather a snail between the wickets.’ By far the most gentlemanly of all the Nottingham players, Warsop bet an opponent £100 that Nottingham would beat Holt in Norfolk, who had the Pilchs on their side. Nottingham won, the loser paid up in twenty fivers, but Warsop handed them back, saying he only made the bet as a jest – and anyway he wouldn’t have paid up if he had lost. The other Warsop brothers were William and Samuel.
Peter Bramley, yet another publican, kept the Old Spot in Daybrook. A rare hand at cards, as well as a noted runner and fives player, Bramley was considered a ‘blackleg and a man without any conscious’ due to his gambling, a man to be avoided. After he died however it was discovered he was quietly quite generous and not as black as he had been painted. A good batsman and fielder in the covers, he played from 1813 to 1826 and died in November 1838 aged 53.
Thomas Barker, born in Carlton in November 1798, was a talented all-rounder. His bowling was extremely fast. ‘So violent was it, that he sometimes ran up to the crease and propelled his instrument of attack as though his head would follow the ball’ commented Denison. He made his Nottingham debut in 1821 and in 1834 was the first Nottingham professional to appear in the Gentlemen v Players match series. His last match for Notts was in 1845, but in 1843 he fell out of a cab crossing London and the injuries received virtually ended his career. Famous among fellow cricketers for his joviality, good fellowship and also his ‘whisper’. The best known story occurred when Barker arrived at Lord’s and Dark, the owner at the time, stood in the ground expecting him. Barker was surprised of Dark’s prior knowledge, but the latter dryly remarked that he had heard Barker the moment he alighted from the train at St Pancras. Barker was engaged at Lord’s, mainly as an umpire and lived in London during the season, but returned to Nottingham each winter and continued his trade as a stockiner. Barker died in Nottingham in March 1877.
William Clarke (pictured), a month younger than Barker, in terms of cricket history is the most important figure to be born in Nottingham. He made his Nottingham debut in 1816 and his career continued almost up to his death in August 1856, spanning therefore some 40 years. Clarke succeeded Dennis as Nottingham captain in 1830 and his public house, the Bell Inn, in the Market Square was then the effective headquarters of cricket in the county. Clarke was a slow underarm bowler. A point that is underlined by contemporaries is the time Clarke took studying his opposing batsmen and making notes of their weaknesses. Sutton noted, ‘repeatedly the best batsmen have been driven to their wit’s end by his deceitful twisting peculiars…’ His mastery of length was the key.
Clarke married the widow who was landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn in December 1837 and set out the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground at the rear of the inn in the succeeding spring. Nottingham County matches were henceforth played there. The creation of the ground is one debt cricket owes Clarke, but more important was his founding of the All England Eleven in 1846, by which time he had moved to London, leaving Trent Bridge to be run by his step-son, John Chapman. Clarke engaged the principal cricketers of the day for his eleven and spent the rest of his career touring the British Isles with his team. To be asked to join Clarke’s team was the equivalent of today’s players having an ECB Central Contract – in other words the plum jobs in English cricket. For a decade Clarke effectively ruled English professional cricket. Stories of his dictatorial manner abound, but mainly perhaps through jealousy of possible rivals. Money was of course his motive, though it is rumoured that he lost much of what he made to bookmakers. Clarke lost the sight of one eye in the late 1820s, being hit by a fives ball – there was a fives court at the rear of the Bell Inn. Clarke’s activities with the All England Eleven reduced the number of Nottingham County matches to a trickle, his final Notts appearance was v England in August 1855; he was 56 years and 8 months old; the oldest player ever to represent the County
Charles and George Jarvis were brothers, both born in Radford, Charles in 1792 and George in 1800. Charles played in just four Nottingham games, the 1826 one being his final appearance; he died in October 1855. George began his Nottingham career in 1821 and was the leading Notts batsman of his day. He played in the first North v South match and for Players v Gentlemen. When interviewed in 1873 he was described as stil of a sportive disposition and put out a challenge of £200 to play anyone in England at single-wicket whose age matched his – he was 72 at the time! In the past some of his single-wicket games had been marred by the betting fraternity. Most of his life he was a lacemaker, but as a youth he had been a gardener and in 1873 he had returned to gardening. He died in March 1880.
George Smith of Cropwell Bishop, born in 1785 was a lime-burner by trade. He appeared for Nottingham in 12 matches between 1817 and 1827 and a steady and safe batsman. His obituary in April 1828, noted ‘In him the poor have lost a friend and his death will be deplored by a large circle of friends and acquaintances.’
John Kettleband played for Nottingham in 12 matches between 1825 and 1832. He was born in Radford in July 1801 and died there in April 1834. He was principally a batsman.
Those then are the names and particulars of the eleven players who challenged the Combined Leicester and Sheffield side in 1826. The game proved a disaster for Nottingham due solely to the skill of Tom Marsden who made the unprecedented score of 227. Marsden was only 21 and was to prove pain for Nottingham bowlers over the next decade.