Early Days

1622: The first record of ‘Cricket’ ever being played is in a legal case in Boxgrove. Two men were accused of playing Cricket in the church grounds. The churchwardens stated that it was "contrarie to the seventh article (Sabbath) and for that they use to breake windowes with the ball". Their defence was that the game they were playing ‘was not cricket’, hence the origins of the phrase ‘it’s not cricket’.

1647: A Latin poem by Robert Matthew contains a reference to a cricket match involving Winchester College pupils on St Catherine’s Hill. Although cricket was certainly played earlier in the county, this is the first written record of a game in Hampshire.

1654: During Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate the playing of cricket was prohibited on the Sabbath, and in this year the penalty fine was doubled to two shillings.

1660: The Restoration of the monarchy in England lifted the sanctions although the church continued to disapprove of the playing of the game on Sundays.

History of Cricket

The history of cricket in the city of Winchester closely mirrors the changes in its evolution. At the time that Robert Matthew wrote his poem in 1647 which refers to Winchester’s College
pupils playing on St Catherine’s Hill, it was a casual sport played by boys.

By the 1770s, Winchester was regularly fielding adult cricket teams: it is recorded that in 1774 Winchester refused to allow Bishop’s Waltham to finish a match on Twyford Down although only six runs were needed. Rather than throw the match away, the Waltham players stayed overnight and subsequently warned other teams against playing such unreasonable opponents.

In 1796 we know that a match took place between the tradesmen of Winchester and the tradesmen of Southampton, marking the shift in the game from a children’s game to an adult’s sport, popular with working men. Another match between local tradesmen was recorded in 1856 at Oliver’s Battery when a team representing the town north of the High Street played against another from the south side.

As the game became more popular, its following among the gentry grew and this is reflected in the number of Winchester College pupils who rose to prominence in the sport. We take
a look at some of these noted players…

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