The Nottingham Review announced on 20 March 1846: ‘Mr W Clarke the celebrated slow bowler is removing from Nottingham and will in future be found on Lord’s Ground’. Clarke’s stepson John Chapman assumed control of the Trent Bridge Ground. Memories of Chapman’s time in charge are dominated by stories of intoxicated customers of the Trent Bridge Inn unexpectedly meeting up with the skeleton that Chapman, who trained as a vet, kept at the Inn. Clarke’s move south effectively paralysed Notts as a cricket team; as a result not a single bona fide Notts fixture was played in 1846.

The only match of note which took place in the county was arranged in conjunction with the Notts Gentlemen’s Club of Southwell for the benefit of William Clarke and played at Southwell. It was billed ‘Five Gentlemen of Southwell Club and Five Players of Notts with Alfred Mynn against England’. On the night prior to the game, Mynn stayed at Radcliffe with George Parr. Parr and Mynn decided to make the journey to Southwell on the morning of the match by boat down the River Trent and badly underestimated the time taken for the trip. They arrived very late and Clarke was not at all amused, and as a result Clarke refused to pick Parr for any matches for the rest of the summer. Parr therefore missed playing in the first three matches involving the All England Eleven.

The All England Eleven was created by Clarke during 1846, his idea being to sign up the best cricketers of the day and tour England with his team playing what amounted to exhibition games. The fast-growing railway system was allowing cheap and easy travel over most of the mainland of Britain for the first time; with cricket being the only major team sport of the day, the leading players were popular heroes and spectators flocked to see them. Clarke arranged matches in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, and all were a great success. Within a year or two, Clarke had acquired a full season’s fixture list for his team and, indeed, had more offers of matches than he needed. Generally speaking, the England Eleven was opposed by 22 locals and even then Clarke often gave the side a professional bowler to level up the two teams.

August 2020