Sport by Dr Denise Amos


Another important part of the sporting heritage is cricket. It all began at Thoresby Hall in 1751. The early years of cricket in the county is depicted in an oil painting by Thomas Hudson dating from c.1760, showing a young man with a bat over his shoulder and carrying stumps with Newark Castle in the background. In 1771 the first match between Nottinghamshire and Sheffield took place on The Forest but ended in a brawl after Nottinghamshire had won.

Games were played in the Meadows and in the oval in the middle of Nottingham racecourse during the 1760s and 1770s until a permanent ground could be found.

This came about through an unlikely marriage between William Clark, at one time landlord of the Bell Inn in Nottingham, and the landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn. It was a second marriage for both and seemed to be a marriage of convenience, certainly for Clark, who was keen on cricket and saw the potential of using the land at the rear of the Trent Bridge Inn as a cricket ground. He fenced it off and it has been the home of Nottinghamshire Cricket ever since, as well as being a Test Match ground.

In 1838 a local game was played on the ground and was followed up by a return match against Sussex (Nottinghamshire had been to Sussex in 1835) in 1840. Unfortunately, although Clark was a successful cricketer, he was not an entrepreneur and over the period 1846-1848 cricket began to fall apart at the ground. By the end of this period, a Nottingham solicitor, Mr Johnson, became Honorary Secretary and began to turn Nottinghamshire’s fortunes around and the first Pavilion was built behind the Trent Bridge Inn in 1859. At this time many of the players were Framework knitters. These men worked on their own and could practice and play when they wanted to and were not accountable to anyone else. During the 1860s Nottingham was the power house of cricket in the country. Elsewhere cricket clubs were recruiting umpires and coaches which had a detrimental effect on who played in the team. An example is George Parr and his professional team who dominated the northern part of the country whereas in the south Middlesex, Sussex and Kent were dominated by Lords and Dukes who influenced who played in their amateur teams.  England went abroad to play cricket in America in 1859 and the team included three Nottingham players: Parr, Grundy and Jackson.

Two years later Parr was asked to take a team to Australia but was not offered enough money. He did, however, take a team to Australia and New Zealand afterwards. Following on from this visit an Aboriginal team came to England and played the local team. Because of the commercial links between the two countries and need for competent and well-equipped teams the Marylebone Cricket Club were asked to sponsor all national teams going abroad. Alfred Shaw, from Burton Joyce, was asked to be manager and take a team to Australia by Lord Sheffield of Sussex and he donated the Sheffield Shield to be played for in Australia. In 1882-83 Australia won a test match against the home team, England, and an obituary wrote of the death of English cricket and the ashes to be sent to Australia: this marked the beginning of the Ashes series between the two nations.

Over the next couple of decades nine Nottingham players played for England, including Shaw, Shrewsbury, William Gunn, Barnes and Flowers. By the turn of the century the Nottingham teams were now taking men from the coal mines. Framework knitting was of less importance but many of the mine owners wanted to impress and win games and began to lay out grounds for their workers to practice on in their spare time. In 1907 Nottinghamshire won the County Championship with seven of the players coming from coal mining. Arthur Jones was the captain between 1900 and 1914 and played for England in 1907.

Payton, Walker and Larwood at Nottinghamshire Cricket Club in 1929 (photo courtesy of Bassetlaw Museum).
Payton, Walker and Larwood at Nottinghamshire Cricket Club in 1929 (photograph courtesy of Bassetlaw Museum).

During the First World War no first-class cricket was played as it was felt to be unpatriotic. In 1919 the games were re-started and Arthur Carr, a somewhat eccentric player, was asked to captain Nottinghamshire. In 1920 miners Harold Larwood, from Nuncargate near Kirkby-in-Ashfield, and Bill Voce, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, were recruited into the England side. It was during the 1932-33 tour of Australia that the famous Bodyline controversy erupted which involved both men. Voce was coach at the cricket ground from 1947 to 1952.

Once again in 1929 Nottinghamshire won the county championships and Carr captained England in 1926 and 1929. During 1920s Sir Julien Cahn, a millionaire and a cricket fanatic, became heavily involved in Nottinghamshire cricket. He had already developed a love for cricket through his company’s cricket team the Notts Ramblers and the Nottingham Furnishing Company team. He was ambitious to be part of the great Nottingham cricket club and in 1925 he was made a member of the Nottingham County Cricket Club Committee. That same year he made a gift to the club by paying for the replacement of the small scoring board with a new up-to-date one.  The following year he paid for the ring of concrete stands (since demolished) to be built at the Trent Bridge to replace the wooden stands which had deteriorated at a cost around £5000. The same year he built his own cricket ground at West Bridgford, on a 9-acre site adjacent to Loughborough Road, now known as West Park. As this was Cahn’s private ground, he rarely charged spectators and any money taken on the gate at important games was given to charity.

The Trent Bridge ground had been shared with Notts County Football Club since 1883 and an international football game was played on the ground in 1897 but the seasons began to overlap and in 1910 Notts County moved over the river to their ground on Meadow Lane, Nottingham.

No cricket was played during the Second World War and the Pavilion was used as the Army Postal Sorting Office. Up until 1948 Nottinghamshire had only ever played Nottinghamshire-born men but the committee decided to change this and in 1953 Bruce Dooland became the first overseas player for Nottinghamshire. However, the good times had deserted Nottingham and their fortunes went downhill. In 1968 Gary Sobers, formerly a West Indies player, was signed up and stayed with the club for six years. Over the next two or three decades Nottinghamshire’s fortunes fluctuated, despite some famous signings, including Clive Rice (South Africa), Richard Hadlee (New Zealand). They won the County Championships in 1981 and 1987 as well as the one-day Gillette Cup.

Nottinghamshire has provided the England team with a number of very good cricketers, including Derek Randall, Tim Robinson, and Chris Broad. During the start of the twenty-first century Chris’s son Stuart has been a regular in the England side as well Graham Swann. In 2010 Nottinghamshire won the County Championship.