Sport - Cricket

The origins of cricket lie somewhere in the Dark Ages - probably after the Roman Empire but almost certainly before 1066 and almost certainly somewhere in northern Europe. It has been suggested the game derives from a very old, widespread pastime by which one player threw an object and another hit it with a club or other implement. The earliest written record of cricket dates from the 16th century in the county of Surrey, and the first recorded inter-county match was between Kent and Surrey in 1709. The earliest recorded mention of cricket in Wiltshire was in 1769. The 18th century saw the sport growing in popularity through all levels of society, and the famous Marylebone Cricket Club based at Lord's was founded in 1787. 18th century newspapers advertised and reported on cricket matches between gentlemen, and diaries of tradesmen and others testify to its popularity at lower levels of society. The games took place on Sunday afternoons or summer evenings when working people could take part. Rules for cricket were published and the game evolved over the course of the 19th century to the game played today. There were no fixed pitches in the beginning but fallow fields, heathland, moors and commons were used. Following enclose of open fields, village greens were a popular location for matches. However many local landowners continued to allow cricket to be played on their land, providing it was fallow, or simply turned a blind eye. Village cricket is still very popular in Wiltshire to this day but the county also hosts a county side which was formed in 1881. The Edwardian period was their most successful time and Wiltshire won the Minor Counties Championship in 1902 and 1909. At least ten of Wiltshire's cricketers have also played first class cricket for other teams.
These images are from a cricket scoring book kept by Lucy McKay of Trowbridge in 1890, showing the famous cricketer W G Grace appearing as part of 'Mr Laverton's Eleven' against the touring Australian side, in a match at Westbury. (Reference 3840/2/2)

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