|Last match||c. 1796|
|Home venue|| Broadhalfpenny Down |
|No. of titles||14 (to 1790)|
|Notable players|| John Small |
The Hambledon Club was a social club that is famous for its organisation of 18th century cricket matches. By the late 1770s it was the foremost cricket club in England.
The origin of the club, based near Hambledon in rural Hampshire, is unclear but it had certainly been founded by 1768.
Its basis was a local parish cricket team that was in existence before 1750 and achieved prominence in 1756 when it played a series of three matches versus Dartford, which had itself been a major club for at least 30 years. At this time, the parish team was sometimes referred to as "Squire Land's Club", after Squire Thomas Land who was apparently the main organiser of cricket teams in the village before the foundation of the club proper.
Thomas Land (1714–18 June 1791)seems to have withdrawn from the scene in about 1764. It is believed the Hambledon Club proper was formed not long afterwards. Land was interested in hunting and maintained a pack of hounds that earned him recognition as "one of the most celebrated fox-hunters in Great-Britain".
Land is mentioned in the Hambledon Club Song written by Reverend Reynell Cotton in 1767.Apparently, Cotton was not too concerned about Land having left the club:
From the mid-1760s, Hambledon's stature grew till by the late 1770s it was the foremost cricket club in England.In spite of its relative remoteness, it had developed into a private club of noblemen and country gentry, for whom one of cricket's attractions was the opportunity it offered for betting. Although some of these occasionally played in matches, professional players were mainly employed. The club produced several famous players including John Small, Thomas Brett, Richard Nyren, David Harris, Tom Taylor, Billy Beldham and Tom Walker. It was also the inspiration for the first significant cricket book: The Cricketers of My Time by John Nyren, the son of Richard Nyren.
The Hambledon Club was essentially social and, as it was multi-functional, not really a cricket club as such. Rather it is seen as an organiser of matches. Arguments have taken place among historians about whether its teams should be termed Hampshire or Hambledon. A study of the sources indicates that the nomenclature changed frequently and both terms were applicable.
The subject is complicated by a reference to the Kent versus Hampshire & Sussex match at Guildford Bason on 26 and 28 August 1772.According to the source, "Hampshire & Sussex" was synonymous with "Hambledon Club". Sussex cricket was not very prominent during the Hambledon period and this could have been because Hambledon operated a team effectively representing two counties. Certainly there were Sussex connections at Hambledon such as John Bayton, Richard Nyren, William Barber and Noah Mann.
In 1782 the club moved from its original ground at Broadhalfpenny Down to Windmill Down, about half a mile away towards the village of Hambledon. The Bat and Ball Inn had been requisitioned as a munitions dump by the military, and Windmill Down provided as an alternative. However, after a couple of seasons playing on the steep sloping and highly exposed new ground the club agitated for a move to a more suitable location and Ridge Meadow was purchased as a permanent replacement. Ridge Meadow is still the home of Hambledon C.C. today.
Hambledon's great days ended in the 1780s with a shift in focus from the rural counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire to metropolitan London where Lord's was established as the home of the new Marylebone Cricket Club in 1787. However for the decade up to 1793, Hambledon remained a meeting place for like-minded Royal Navy Officers such as Captains Erasmus Gower, Robert Calder, Charles Powell Hamilton, Mark Robinson, Sir Hyde Parker and Robert Linzee. In May 1791 Lord Hugh Seymour became president of the Club but soon afterwards these officers all returned to sea.
Membership declined during the 1790s. On 29 August 1796, fifteen people attended a meeting and amongst them, according to the official minutes, was "Mr Thos Pain, Authour of the rights of Man"! It was certainly a joke for Thomas Paine was then under sentence of death for treason and exiled in revolutionary Paris. The last meeting was held on 21 September 1796 where the minutes read only that "No Gentlemen were present".
The club had a famous round of six toasts:
The enigmatic "Madge" is a "what", not a "who". Indeed, it is believed to be a common, but crude, contemporary reference to the vagina.
A description of the revival and, indeed, the whole history of the Hambledon Club can be read in The Glory Days of Cricket by Ashley Mote.
The original ground is at Broadhalfpenny Down, opposite the Bat and Ball Inn, in Hyden Farm Lane, near Clanfield, where now the Broadhalfpenny Brigands Cricket Club play.
The current Hambledon Cricket Club ground is nearer Hambledon village at Ridge Meadow, just off the road to Broadhalfpenny Down, about half a mile from the village. On Saturday 8 September 2007 the clubhouse was burnt to the ground.
Hambledon is a small village and civil parish in the county of Hampshire in England, situated about 10 miles (16 km) north of Portsmouth.
John Small was an English professional cricketer who played from about 1756 to 1798, one of the longest careers on record. Born at Empshott, Hampshire, he is generally regarded as the greatest batsman of the 18th century and acknowledged as having been the first to master the use of the modern straight bat which was introduced in the 1760s. He scored the earliest known century in important cricket. He died at Petersfield, where he was in residence for most of his life and where he established businesses.
Broadhalfpenny Down is a historic cricket ground in Hambledon, Hampshire. It is known as the "Cradle of Cricket" because it was the home venue in the 18th century of the Hambledon Club, but cricket predated the club and ground by at least two centuries. The club is in the parish of Hambledon close to the neighbouring parish of Clanfield. The club took the name of the neighbouring rural village of Hambledon, about 2.7 miles away by road.
Thomas Brett was one of cricket's earliest well-known fast bowlers and a leading player for Hampshire when its team was organised by the Hambledon Club in the 1770s. Noted for his pace and his accuracy, Brett was a leading wicket-taker in the 1770s and was lauded by John Nyren in The Cricketers of my Time. Writing half a century later, Nyren described Brett as "beyond all comparison, the fastest as well as straitest bowler that ever was known".
Richard "Dick" Nyren (c. 1734–1797) was an English professional cricketer who played first-class cricket during the 1760s and 1770s in the heyday of the Hambledon Club. A genuine all-rounder and the earliest known left-hander of note, Nyren was the captain of Hampshire when its team included players like John Small, Thomas Brett and Tom Sueter. Although the records of many matches in which he almost certainly played have been lost, he made 51 known appearances between 1764 and 1784. He was known as the team's "general" on the field and, for a time, acted as the club secretary as well as taking care of matchday catering for many years.
The Bat & Ball Inn near Clanfield, Hampshire, England, is an historic eighteenth century pub situated opposite the Broadhalfpenny Down cricket ground, the original home of the Hambledon Club. It is traditionally, though erroneously, called "the cradle of cricket". The pub is currently owned by Fuller's and is a former George Gale and Co Ltd Pub.
John Nyren was an English cricketer and author. Nyren made 16 known appearances in first-class cricket from 1787 to 1817. He achieved lasting fame as the author of The Cricketers of My Time, which was first published in 1832 as a serial in a periodical called The Town and was then included in The Young Cricketer's Tutor, published in 1833 by Effingham Wilson of London. Nyren's collaborator in the work was Charles Cowden Clarke.
Joseph Miller was a noted English cricketer who is generally considered to have been one of the greatest batsmen of the 18th century. He is mostly associated with Kent but also made appearances for All-England and Surrey. First recorded in the 1769 season, Miller made 65 known appearances from then to 1783. He was unquestionably an outstanding batsman and perhaps second only to John Small in the 18th century.
William "The Yold" Yalden was an English cricketer and, with Tom Sueter, one of the earliest known wicketkeeper/batsmen. Yalden played mainly for Chertsey and Surrey though he was also a regular, sometimes as captain, in England XI teams, particularly in matches against Hampshire. His career began in the 1760s and he is known to have played until 1785.
John Bayton was an English professional cricketer who played first-class cricket during the 1760s and 1770s.
William Barber (1734–1805) was an English cricketer who played for the Hambledon Club in its great days during the 1760s and 1770s. Originally from Walberton, near Chichester, he came to Hambledon to play after being "spotted".
The 1764 English cricket season was the 21st season following the earliest known codification of the Laws of Cricket. Details have survived of seven eleven-a-side matches between significant teams.
The 1767 English cricket season was the 24th season following the earliest known codification of the Laws of Cricket. Details have survived of seven eleven-a-side matches between significant teams.
Alresford Cricket Club was one of the strongest cricket teams in England during the late 18th century. It represented the adjacent small towns of New Alresford and Old Alresford in Hampshire. According to John Arlott, between about 1770 and 1795 Alresford "stood higher in cricket than any town its size has done in the history of the game".
Windmill Down is a rural location near the town of Hambledon in Hampshire. From 1782 to 1795, it was the home of the Hambledon Club as a noted cricket venue.
Thomas Scott was an English cricketer who played for Hampshire at the time of the Hambledon Club. He was a specialist batsman who may have been a regular opener, but it is not known if he was right or left-handed.
Edward Whalley-Tooker was an English cricketer. He was a right-handed batsman and a slow underarm bowler. He was one of the last cricketers to use this bowling style. Whalley-Tooker played two first-class matches for Hampshire.
The Reverend Charles Powlett was a noted patron of English cricket who has been described as the mainstay, if not the actual founder, of the Hambledon Club. Powlett held an important position in the administration of cricket and was a member of the committee which revised and codified the Laws of Cricket in 1774.
The Cricketers of My Time is a memoir of cricket, nominally written by the former Hambledon cricketer John Nyren about the players of the late 18th century, most of whom he knew personally. Nyren, who had no recognised literary skill, collaborated with the eminent Shakespearean scholar Charles Cowden Clarke to produce his work. It is believed that Cowden Clarke recorded Nyren's verbal reminiscences and so "ghosted" the text.
In cricket in the early 1760s, there was a transition from the sport's "pioneering phase" to its "pre-modern phase" when bowlers began to bowl pitched deliveries by pitching the ball towards the wicket instead of rolling or skimming it along the ground as they had previously done. The essential bowling action was still underarm but the introduction of a ball travelling through the air coupled with a bounce was a key point of evolution in the sport's history, especially as it was the catalyst for the invention of the straight bat, which replaced the old "hockey stick" design. It was the first of three keypoint evolutions in bowling: the others were the introduction of the roundarm style in the 1820s and overarm in the 1860s.