The Historic 1727 Cricket Match

From “The Duke who was cricket” by John Marshall. Published by Frederick Miller Ltd., 1961

The owner of Peper Harow, Mr Alan Brodrick Senior, had been MP for Cork and had been successively Solicitor-General and Attorney-General for Ireland and Speaker in the Irish House of Commons. After buying the Surrey estate he was elected MP for Midhurst, Sussex. He was created Baron Roderick of Midleton, County Cork, in 1715 and Viscount Midleton two years later.

His cricketing son succeeded to the Viscountcy a year after the historic matches with the Duke. He was a Commissioner of the Customs and subsequently Joint Comptroller of the army accounts. Like the Duke of Richmond, Alan Brodrick was fond of trees — he had many put in the park surrounding his Peper Harow home, including some Cedars of Lebanon planted as saplings in 1735.

Tall and ancient trees today still stand guard over the cricket ground in the park, whereon the members of Peper Harrow Cricket Club play each week-end. There are two giant plane trees towering above the little pavilion in front of which is a wooden seat, the memorial to the fallen in the last war, the honoured names upon it including Major the Hon. M. V. Brodrick, M.C.

Was this the venue of the match in July 1727? It is very probable that this was so, though the match might have been played at Guildford, which would not have involved too exacting a journey for either of the contesting teams even over the awful roads of the period, or at Godalming.

But as the choice lay entirely with Mr Brodrick it is, surely, a reasonable assumption that he had the game played on his own ground. It is possible at least to conjure an impression of the events of that notable day.

The Duke, in order to be rested for the contest, had journeyed overnight to Godalming, where he rented a furnished house, the “half-way” house in which he would stay on his frequent journeys between Goodwood and London — they were too long and arduous to be undertaken in one day, especially in bad weather.

The Duchess accompanied him, as she would whenever her domestic commitments and the state of her current pregnancy permitted. It was a leisurely journey of about 25 miles through Halnaker and Petworth, North Chapel and Chiddingfold, agreeable enough in a relatively warm and dry season, rough as was the road. Friends at Godalming called to pay their respects when it was known they had arrived but, with a mind to the morrow, the Duke and his Duchess retired early after supping modestly together in the small candle-lit dining-room.

On the day of this historic cricket match the Duke was up early, as was his custom. He dressed himself with care in a white shirt ruffed at the front and with the sleeves long so that they protruded beyond the coat sleeves and fastened at the wrist, a lawn cravat wound round his neck and loosely knotted at the chin, dark breeches, worsted stockings, close-fitting “undress” coat with flared skirt and small wig (the full-bottomed wig was still very fashionable but not ideal for strenuous sport) and buckled shoes. After breakfast he kissed his wife farewell and she adjured him to be careful and not to return with any “limbs broke “.

The Duke then promised not to be over late as so many husbands have glibly promised since (and no doubt before). Then he placed on his head his tricorne hat, newly brushed, and entered his chaise which stood at the entrance to his Godalming lodging.

One that memorable day in the high summer of 1727, in the porch of the house slightly below and a few hundred yards from the church of St. Nicholas, Mr Brodrick stood waiting to welcome his opponent. He was dressed in similar fashion, the “undress” of land-owning gentlemen.

Upon the cricket ground which could be seen through the trees in front of the house, the home umpire was already busy placing the two stumps at each end of the pitch on the most level parts of the ground and near to its centre. With delicate care this umpire, presently joined by the Duke’s umpire, both wearing long coats and three-cornered hats, stretched the bails from one stump to the other and retired to the place of adjudication to await the arrival of the fielding team. And on the edge of the cricket ground, among the tufts of long grass and the shrubs, the players awaiting their masters, passing the time of day in a good-humoured, ribald manner. All were now ready, the grooms and footmen, gardeners and estate workers, to take their places at the wicket or in the field.

All wore the costume that was usual for the “gamesters” of the period. They were distinguished from their masters, the captains of the sides, by the fact that they wore no wigs and their clothes, clothes, though not dissimilar when ready for action, that is to say, when stripped down to shirts and breeches, were of coarser material.

The “gentlemen” as distinct from the “players” wore short wigs and their clothes were of finer quantity. They removed their coats and waistcoats before going on to the field but had no special attire at all.

Wickets were pitched at 10 a.m., for matches started early. Yet already the captains had raised a beaker to toast success to the better side. After such an early start and a long, uncomfortable journey for the visitors, other than the captain, refreshment was necessary and much appreciated.

The scorers sat on a hummock at 25 yards or so from the wicket, so close together as to look almost like Siamese twins joined at the shoulder. Like the umpires they wore long clothes and three-cornered hats. Each had a piece of wood and a knife to record the notches.

The umpires now stood, one in a position very like that taken up by the umpire at the bowler’s end today, the other not at square leg but very close to the wicket, at leg slip. Each held in his right hand a bat, the curved end of which rested on the ground. The top of the handle was roughly up to the lowest rib, a much longer implement than later models.

Who scored the notches we do not know, but in the Duke’s team his groom Thomas Waymark was the outstanding all-rounder. Described as ‘the father of all professionals’, he was perhaps the best cricketer in England at that time. Other good players employed by the Duke included Stephen Dingate – who was also a barber – Joseph Budd, Pye and Green.

Alas, we do not even know who won the game, though it would be safe to say that the Duke had the stronger side.