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With the latest 'War of the Worlds' currently underway in that far-flung island on the opposite side of the world, much spiced with the pontificating and bragging exhibitions being exercised by each of the contenders, might I draw your attention to an England eleven who regularly swept aside all those who dared to pick up the challenge.  So confident was this national selection of 'gentlemen' and mere 'players', (Plebs they might be termed today in current Parliamentary parlance!) that the teams chosen to play against them would habitually consist of 22 of the best the locality could produce on a given day. Test matches were not yet happening and the first trip abroad for Queen Victoria's squad would be to the New World of North America in the 1860's.

Take a look below at that fine band of young men who were preparing to take on the world at this so-English game, it looks by the headgear as if there were only four 'players' amongst them. Anyway let me take you back to what, by all accounts, was a very fine summer at Melton Mowbray, that of 1855.

A 'Levelling' playing field ...

    Take a stroll today along Saxby Road in Melton Mowbray and on the left hand side of the road, just on the edge of the town, one finds the wooden building which is now houses the town's RAF cadet Corps. Walk into the driveway there and just beyond lies the sports field which is known locally as the All England Sports Ground, late venue of the Melton Mowbray Rugby Club and currently home of Melton Mowbray Cricket Club. Each of these long-established clubs have proud histories of their own, having been providers of much of the towns recreation over many decades.

    In the early part of the 19th century, Saxby Road was known to all as Southern Lane and this area of level grass was recognised as 'Mr Burton's Paddock'.  Cricket was then the predominant sport, especially of the summer months and much enjoyed by the majority of the small population, whenever the weather permitted!  In a future blog I hope to write of the acquisition of this land at the expense of local philanthropist, Henry Bickley, who famously bequeathed a large bulk of his not inconsiderable estate to the people, especially the young and the poor, of the town.  On his death in 1912, his will instructed that land suitable at the Play Close should be purchased and adapted for cricket if possible, but otherwise the Executors should arrange to purchase the field on Saxby Road, "... for the purpose of first class cricket ...". Although it was many years later, the transaction eventually took place in concert and with the auspices of the Town Estate.

    But that is all by the by; as long ago as 1855, at a time when a young Queen Victoria was authorising Lord Palmerston to set up his new Tory Government and and an internecine war was raging in the far off Crimea, the good people of little Melton Mowbray were as one, welcoming another summer and learning of the imminent visit to the town by the all conquering,  'All England', cricket team.  Much excitement and anticipation was abroad as the locals relished the prospect of some excellent sport, whilst entertaining visitors from far and wide, many of whom would be arriving on the recently arrived new railway.  The finest of a selection of English and Welsh cricketers, these young men were obliged to test their skills on tours throughout the two countries.  Test matches would not commence until 1877 and it was not until 1861 when a representative team first travelled abroad, surprisingly, on a tour of North America.  Oddly it might seem today, but in order to create some sort of equality between the relative abilities of the sides visited, in a way, creating a levelling handicap for the 'stars', the All Englanders would pit their eleven men against a team of double that number.  As the time grew nigh, good weather would have been prayed for.

GENTLEMEN (with toppers) and PLAYERS (without)


‘We were remarkably merry at Melton Mowbray last week, which was one of the gayest the good little town had seen for several years, and fairly fulfilled the saying that “it never rains but it pours,” pleasures being then indeed poured in abundance, and many made happy in partaking of them.  The Grand All England Cricket Match was the great centre of attraction which served to gather several other good things around it, viz., a concert at the Corn Exchange, succeeded by a ball on the following evening, and Gimrett’s celebrated circus, etc.  The cricket match commenced on Thursday morning and extended over three days during which 22 of Melton and the District tried their skill against eleven of England’s choicest cricketers, but sadly failed as will be seen by the score, though the play was pretty good and the game a most interesting one to the thousands who saw and admired it.  The match was played in a well selected six acre close adjoining the Southern-lane [now Saxby Road], and surrounded by a calico enclosure.  Spacious booths for refreshments, &c., were provided by Mr. Goodacre of the Crown Inn, Mr. Bolderson of the King’s head, Mr. Wells, White Lion, and  Mr. Darman, Malt Shovel, beside a numerous array of stalls.  Sixpence was charged for admission to the ground, and though the gate-keeper gave a good deal (£108.) for the “Spec,” it would probably pay its way and leave a pretty surplus, so great was the concourse of spectators.  Friday was the  finest, best and gayest day, and drew the greatest number of visitors, who thronged the place most pleasingly.  The shops and offices were considerately closed at noon, and “all went forth a holidaying.”  The bells too rang out merrily, and the Saxhorn Band daily enlivened the gay scene on the ground, upon which on Friday afternoon there could have scarcely been less that 4,000 persons present.  Returns were printed on the spot at the fall of each wicket.  All arrangements appeared exceedingly suitable and answered admirably well, and though they did not win, our cricket friends at Melton merit much praise for providing their fellow townsmen so great and gay a treat.  The following is the score:-‘
 (reproduced from the Leicester Mercury, 21st July 1855)

All England Eleven

Box, b F. Tinley 6
C.R. Tinley, c F. Tinley, b J. Warrington 5
Wilsher, b Gillett       16
G. Parr, b J. Warrington         5
Caesar, b F. Tinley       70
A. Clarke, leg before wicket, b Tinley, 3
Anderson, b F. Tinley       28
S. Parr, c Sykes, b Gillett         7
Stephenson, c Grasby, b Tinley,               10
Guy, not out,         4
Buttress, c W. Warrington, b Tinley,       10
Byes, 5; wide,4; no balls, 1               10

                                 Total             174

Melton And District twenty-two

Woodward, b Wilsher 2                                                              b Wilsher 2
J, Willis, b Wilsher, 1                                                            b C.R. Tinley 0
Christian, b Willsher, 0                                                               hit wicket 2
G. Knight, run out 6                                                                   b Wilsher 11
H. Hunt, b Buttress, 1                                                        l b w, b Buttress 1
Hogg, b Buttress 4                                                                            run out 9
J.Warrington, c Willsher b Buttress 3                      ct Box, b C.R. Tinley 0
W. Warrington, b Willsher 3                                              b C.R. Tinley 12
H. Gillett, b Willsher, 25                                                             b Willsher, 3
G. Beaumont, c Stephenson b  -“- 0                     c C.R. Tinley, b Willsher 0
F. Tinley, c S. Parr, b Willsher 0                                                  b Willsher 4
H. Marriott, b Buttress, 2                                                       b C.R. Tinley 0
C. Philips, b Willsher, 2                                                          b C.R. Tinley 0
T. Hourd, b Buttress 2                                                           b C.R. Tinley 5
W. Lamin, b Buttress, 0                                                              b Willsher 0
Read, b Buttress, 6                                                                           absent
Hopkins, b Willsher 2                                                 c Parr, b C.R. Tinley 3
Sykes, b Willsher, 14                                               c Anderson, b Willsher 5
Dickman, b Tinley, 4                                                             b C.R. Tinley 0
W. Grasby, b Willsher, 0                                     c Willsher, b C.R. Tinley 0
Fardell, b Willsher 6                                                                        not out, 0
T. Clark, not out, 0                                                                     b Buttress, 0

Byes, 1; leg byes, 1 2                                                           b 1; w 2; l b 2, 5

Total. 86                                                                                            Total 62

(Take notice that only the 'Gentlemen' had their initials placed before their names!)

Melton Town Notes - 1855

    THE EGERTON BREWERY. - Messrs.Barclay and Perkin’s  Brewery is certainly not the least of London wonders - so largely do labour, skill and capital there unite in producing “stunning stout.”  Vast, however, as is that establishment, it has its copyists in the country, though of course on a much smaller scale; and such is the Egerton Brewery here - a place which the proprietors (Messrs. Adcock) have made most remarkably complete for brewing this national beverage.  Their extensive cellar is truly a sight worth seeing - a mine of liquid wealth - which, with its lengthy rows of porter casks and tall tuns, whose “holds” are counted by thousands of gallons, would assuredly surprise and please even a temperate Meltonian, let alone the longing delight it would also inspire in a thoroughly “thirsty soul.”  The locality, too, has kept good pace with the very surprising improvements surrounding their bonny brewery, for beside its own pillared entrance, the neighbourhood now shows a  row of Alma Cottages, with a Rutland Terrace, and Norman Street, Union-street, as evidence of the building energy of Messrs. Webster, Adcock and Evans.  The war will furnish many titles, for beside the Alma one above, we also have Cardigan-terrace, or Mr Dickinson’s tasty improvements at Mount Pleasant; and perhaps ere long have Sweaborg-row and Inkerman-alley.

(Re-printed from Grantham Journal, August 1855)


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