Sussex county cricket teams have been traced back to the early 18th century but the county's involvement in cricket dates from much earlier times as it is widely believed, jointly with Kent and Surrey, to be the sport's birthplace. The most widely accepted theory about the origin of cricket is that it first developed in early medieval times, as a children's game, in the geographical areas of the North Downs, the South Downs and the Weald.
The first definite mention of cricket in Sussex relates to ecclesiastical court records in 1611 which state that two parishioners of Sidlesham in West Sussex failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined 12 pence each and made to do penance.A number of such cases were heard in Sussex during the 17th century and there were two instances of players dying, both in Sussex, after being struck on the head during a match.
Despite these problems, cricket became established in Sussex during the 17th century and the earliest village matches took place before the English Civil War. It is believed that county teams were formed in the aftermath of the Restoration in 1660. Roy Webber, in his Phoenix History, states that "the period between 1650 and 1700 seems to be that in which the game took a real grip, and it would seem that cricket was centred mainly in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire".In 1697, the earliest "great match" recorded was for 50 guineas apiece between two elevens at a venue in Sussex.
Matches involving the two leading Sussex patrons Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, and Sir William Gage were first recorded in 1725. The first teams that were nominally representative of Sussex as a county seem to have been assembled in the 1728 season to play against Edwin Stead's Kent. Three matches are known to have been played and all were won by Kent. A contemporary report says after the third match that it was "the third time this summer that the Kent men have been too expert for those of Sussex".In the 1729 season, a team led by Gage is believed to have achieved the sport's earliest known innings victory in a match against Kent. Gage's team was called "Surrey, Sussex & Hampshire" in one account, however, and so was not a Sussex team per se. In the context of the time, with cricket mostly confined to the south-eastern counties, the combined team was effectively a Rest of England side assembled to take on Kent, the strongest county.
From 1741, Richmond patronised the noted Slindon Cricket Club, whose team was probably representative of the county and at one stage was proclaimed to be the best team in England. Slindon's best-known player was Richard Newland, supported by his brothers Adam and John; and by the controversial Edward Aburrow, a good cricketer but a known smuggler.
Despite some periods of decline, Sussex teams continued to hold first-class status throughout the 18th century. It has been suggested[ citation needed ] by historians that the Hambledon Club represented Sussex as well as Hampshire for inter-county purposes. Several noted Sussex cricketers, including Richard Nyren and Noah Mann, played for Hambledon.
Cricket in the county saw a revival during the Regency period that coincided with the rise of Brighton as a fashionable resort. Brighton Cricket Club became prominent and was, for a long time, representative of Sussex as a county. Sussex (i.e., Brighton) had a particularly successful 1792 season when it won all four of its matches, winning against MCC (three times) and Middlesex.
Despite a crippling loss of manpower and investment, cricket managed to survive the Napoleonic Wars and much of the credit for keeping the game alive goes to the Brighton club as well as to MCC.
Brighton's reward was to see Sussex achieve great prominence in the aftermath of the war and it was the Sussex bowlers William Lillywhite and Jem Broadbridge who led the roundarm revolution of the 1820s.
In 1836, the first steps were taken towards forming a county club. A meeting in Brighton set up a Sussex Cricket Fund to support county matches. It was from this organisation that Sussex County Cricket Club was formally constituted on 1 March 1839.
For the history of Sussex cricket since the foundation of the county club, see Sussex County Cricket Club .
The 1744 English cricket season was the 48th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-a-side match was played. The earliest known codification of the Laws of Cricket dates from this year as do the two earliest surviving match scorecards. Details have survived of 20 significant eleven-a-side and three single wicket matches.
The 1727 English cricket season was the 31st cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. It is the first season in which matches are known to have been played in accordance with agreed, written rules. Details have survived of four matches.
The 1728 English cricket season was the 32nd cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of four matches with another match possibly having been played in this year.
The 1730 English cricket season was the 34th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of 14 matches as well as four notable single wicket matches.
Edwin Stead was a noted patron of English cricket, particularly of Kent teams in the 1720s. He usually captained his teams but nothing is known about his ability as a player. There is uncertainty about his name because his forename has been rendered "Edwin", "Edwyn" or "Edward"; his surname "Stead", "Stede" or "Steed". In the various sources, "Edwin Stead" is the most common version. He was born at Harrietsham in Kent and died in London.
The 1741 English cricket season was the 45th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of nine significant matches, including the first known appearance of Slindon Cricket Club. The earliest known tie in an elevel-a-side match occurred.
The 1733 English cricket season was the 37th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of 12 matches. Two local matches played in Hampshire are the earliest known to have been played in the county.
The 1734 English cricket season was the 38th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of seven matches.
The 1735 English cricket season was the 39th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of 10 top-class matches, nine played eleven-a-side and one single wicket match.
The 1737 English cricket season was the 41st cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of seven significant matches. Frederick, Prince of Wales had become one of the sport's main patrons by this year.
Kent county cricket teams have been traced back to the 17th century but the county's involvement in cricket goes back much further than that. Kent, jointly with Sussex, is generally accepted as the birthplace of the sport. It is widely believed that cricket was first played by children living on the Weald in Saxon or Norman times. The world's earliest known organised match was held in Kent c.1611 and the county has always been at the forefront of cricket's development through the growth of village cricket in the 17th century to representative matches in the 18th. A Kent team took part in the earliest known inter-county match, which was played on Dartford Brent in 1709. Several famous players and patrons were involved in Kent cricket from then until the creation of the first county club in 1842. Among them were William Bedle, Robert Colchin and the 3rd Duke of Dorset. Kent were generally regarded as the strongest county team in the first half of the 18th century and were always one of the main challengers to the dominance of Hambledon in the second half. County cricket ceased through the Napoleonic War and was resurrected in 1826 when Kent played Sussex. By the 1830s, Kent had again become the strongest county and remained so until mid-century.
The 1740 English cricket season was the 44th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-aside match was played. Details have survived of eight matches. Each of the surviving match records features London Cricket Club with half the known matches played at the Artillery Ground in Finsbury.
The 1743 English cricket season was the 47th cricket season since the earliest recorded eleven-a-side match was played. Details have survived of 18 eleven-a-side and three single wicket matches.
The 1746 English cricket season was the third season following the earliest known codification of the Laws of Cricket.
The 1747 English cricket season was the fourth season following the earliest known codification of the Laws of Cricket.
Addington Cricket Club fielded one of the strongest cricket teams in England from about the 1743 season to the 1752 season although the village of Addington is a very small place in Surrey about three miles south-east of Croydon. The team was of county strength and featured the noted players Tom Faulkner, Joe Harris, John Harris, George Jackson and Durling. The team immediately accepted the Slindon Challenge, in 1744, to play against any parish in England. The only other club to accept was Robert Colchin's Bromley.
The earliest definite mention of cricket is dated Monday, 17 January 1597. The reference is in the records of a legal case at Guildford re the use of a parcel of land c.1550 and John Derrick, a coroner, testified that he had at that time played cricket on the land when he was a boy. Cricket may have been a children's game in the 16th century but, about 1610, the earliest known organised match was played and references from that time indicate adult participation. From then to 1725, less than thirty matches are known to have been organised between recognised teams. Similarly, a limited number of players, teams and venues of the period have been recorded.
Representing Lingfield in Surrey, Lingfield Cricket Club was prominent in the 18th century, known to have taken part in important matches between 1739 and 1785. They were especially noted in the mid-1740s. According to surviving records, the club is believed to have used Lingfield Common as its home venue in the 18th century. The club has survived and its team currently plays in the Surrey County League; its home venue is Godstone Road, Lingfield.