‘Victorian cricket in Guernsey’       Guernsey Evening Press   Sat 4th July 2020

20/20th is a new cricket nostalgia series which over the course of 10 chapters we trace the progress of local cricket over the 10 decades of the 20th century. Each chapter will not only review the action played but highlight the two players who stood out in terms of performance and/or influence. And, in recognition of its outstanding role in developing the sport on the island, each chapter will review the cricket played by Elizabeth. There will be old scorecards aplenty, too, but before that Rob Batiste sets the scene with a one chapter round-up of what cricket was played in the late 19th century.

In the beginning … When we think of Guernsey cricket, an early or immediate thought is the grand scene of a game being played at the College Field, King’s Road, by boys or men in whites. Counter-thoughts picture more hectic action squeezed between tall poplar trees and glasshouses at the George V Field. But, in reality, neither ground had been considered as a venue for the main summer game when proper cricket was first played locally in the 1860s.

The first Elizabeth College v Victoria College match was supposed to have been played in 1862 at the New Ground. Cricket was seriously hampered in those days by ‘town fellows playing rounders on the wicket’. The competition between the two colleges had always been keen and the records show that in 1962 Elizabeth College had won 78 and Victoria College 71 of the 167 matches. EC had had 12 centuries and JV Blad the only player to have scores over 200 (209 not out in 1914). The best bowling had been BLT Foote in 1958 with 7 for 22.

Elizabeth College team of 1862

When it was the New Ground, AKA Cambridge Park, that alone enabled the game to develop in and outside Elizabeth College, which had to wait until the 1880s for use of its own ground. It’s clear enough that Cambridge Park was never a ‘road’, a batsman’s paradise. It was rough but ready. As for Elizabeth, the long-held theory was that 1862 was the first year of inter-island games with Victoria College. Not so. It was a year earlier when Victoria sailed up and took on both Elizabeth and the local Zingari club. It was the beginning of October and the Victorians completed a double, dismissing the Elizabethans for just 43 as they chased Victoria’s first innings score of 100, before the following day again winning a low-scoring game.

Cambridge Park where cricket was first played in Victorian times           GEP

A year on, in June, the two colleges met again and The Star opened its report on proceedings with a reference to the ‘jolly licking’ Elizabeth had received. Well, this time, the licking was on the other tongue, although it was hardly a run feast in Jersey. Elizabeth initially scored 63. Victoria replied with 37. The home side added a further 52 in a completed second innings and the visitors were dismissed for nine to lose by 69. Victoria blamed the umpire and played down the role of Elizabeth bowler Crewe, who ran through the Victoria batting alongside Reynell. In Jersey’s Independent and Daily Telegraph, the correspondent notes: We should be greatly obliged if someone would inform us how Crewe’s bowling would be designated at Lord’s or The Oval? What kind of stuff is it? It may be exceedingly scientific, but it looks like arrant rubbish.’ Ouch….

As for the umpiring: ‘To our Guernsey friends we have a word of advice. It is this: The next time you leave home to play at Cricket use every endeavour to secure an umpire. Not an amiable nonentity, but a man who understands the game. The gentleman who officiated in this capacity on Saturday last if he will shine as arbitrator between team and team had better shut himself up for a week and apply himself to a hard study of “Lillywhite’s Guide”.’

By the end of the 19th century, Guernsey had several sides to keep both Elizabeth College and the home regiment stacked with fixtures at their respective grounds.

St Andrew’s was one, St John’s another, for whom the highly versatile Arthur Maunder was a middle-order lynchpin. This ancestor of Sir Geoffrey Rowland was an accomplished cyclist, early rugby player, footballer and a regular in the district side where he lived just off the Longstore. St Martin’s turned out from time to time also and seemingly even had their own field somewhere in the parish, as did St Sampson’s CC, the original version and not the group who in more modern times would sit on upturned beer crates and review their evening league game that had just been finished.

Arthur Maunder is the wicketkeeper               Guernsey Evening Press

In 1889 St Sampson’s CC won the St Sampson’s ‘derby’, defeating the St S. Athletic Club by 40 runs in a two-innings match played on the cricket club’s home ground. The Star set the scene: ‘A tent, in which light refreshments were provided, was erected in the field; great interest was manifested in the game, and during the afternoon several ladies graced the proceedings by their presence. ‘As in the previous match the S.S.C.C. proved much the stronger eleven, and won the game easily. ‘P. F. Dorey played two excellent innings for the victorious side, carrying his bat in the second. J. R. Davies played carefully for the losers. Everything passed off pleasantly and a most friendly spirit was shown on both sides.’

There were ‘big names’ on the S. S. C. C. side, not so much in terms of cricketing ability but business. William Bird opened the batting, William Stranger went in first wicket down, F. Bird batted at four, followed by the Dorey brothers, Percy and Onesimus. All powerful men away from the pitch and there was even a young Poat batting at 11.

One of the game’s 19th century oddities was the June 1866 clash at the Fort Field between a visiting United All England XI and the 22 of Guernsey and the Channel Islands. And despite having twice as many options, the home side were outclassed to the tune of losing by 191 runs. Interestingly, in the age of the gentleman and the professional, all the visiting players were listed by surname only, while the home XXII comprised of gentry and Army rank.

As for inter-island games, one of the first Guernsey-Jersey clashes was played over two days in August 1879. We won. The Field newspaper for the ‘country gentleman’ ran a report alongside all the other favoured games across the country. The report refers to “one of the most exciting matches that has ever been played between these islands”. Both sides were sprinkled with military men and one such player, Bombardier Redfern of the Royal Artillery, bowled the home side to victory. ‘Redfern is an excellent bowler and not made enough of, a rare good field, and a much better man behind the stumps than is ordinarily met with outside county cricket.’ Just how many official inter-island games, if any, were played in Victorian times is unclear, but occasionally the CI newspapers would bill games as Guernsey v Jersey. The Sarnians were well beaten in the sister isle in 1894, by which time the College Field, King’s Road, was the premier ground in the Channel Islands. But not everyone was happy with the way the College Field was regarded. In a letter to The Star in 1897, the Hon. Sec. of the Elizabeth College Games Committee complained of too many nurses armed with perambulators and children circling the ground. ‘With 20 cricket balls [that is a lot of balls for one game] flying in all directions for several hours, it is obvious that this sooner or later end in a bad accident and therefore must be stopped at once.

In time the island would benefit from seeing some classy players in action and two such players wee Captain Carpenter and Mr F Cranston, who appeared for the Hampshire Rovers against The Garrison at the College Field in 1893. Carpenter crashed 170 in a ‘masterly exhibition’, wrote The Star. Keeping him company for a while was Cranston – still famous as the best left-handed batsman in England – who compiled a faultless 96 and hit two balls clean out of the ground and through the glass of the greenhouses at the Mount Row end of the field. That single day the Hampshire Rovers amassed 500 and still had time to dismiss The Garrison for 126 and 106. Then came the Grange CC. The best yet, there can be no doubt. Like their Priaulx League winning football team from the same club, Grange CC comprised a good few Englishmen who had come to the island to make their money in growing. Two of that number were the Morres brothers, E and HF, both of whom were regulars in the Berkshire minor counties side. E Morres even had the distinction of having played a little first-class cricket with Oxford University. There will be plenty more on the Morres brothers/family – four of them – when we look at the first decade of the 20th century which opened, as it happens, in late May 1900 with a game between Grange CC and the wonderfully entitled Castel Roughs. The Roughs were beaten by 47 runs chasing 171, but clearly from the team-sheet were no bunch of ruffians, or certainly HD Stanger-Leathers wasn’t. That same year the Roughs beat Athletics by 38 runs and The Star noted that ‘many years have elapsed since a good game of cricket has been played on Cambridge Park’ and ‘local clubs have generally fought shy of the ground for playing on’.