During the 18th century, organised cricket in the South of England had been very much focussed on patronage and gambling. As the more austere Victorian era took hold, the move towards creating more formal clubs, with constitutions and bye-laws, began to take hold. Whilst teams representing counties had played for many years, it was not until 1839 that the first County Cricket Club, Sussex, was formally constituted.
To many, clubs represented status and young men aspired to belong to teams that reflected their own social background. In Richmond it was no different. Cricket had taken hold as a popular and healthy activity for all. On Richmond Green, there was a growing split between the professional classes – largely those who commuted into London as bankers, civil servants and lawyers – and the townsfolk. Almost inevitably, by 1861, it was time for the professional classes to take their leave and create a club of their own.
On a foggy night in February 1862, a meeting was held at the Greyhound Hotel on George Street, under the Chairmanship of Lord Chichester. There it was unanimously agreed that the Richmond Club should be formally constituted and Richmond Cricket Club was born. So that the townsfolk could continue to play cricket on Richmond Green, it was agreed that the club should find a suitable ground where it could take root, away from the town and with a degree of privacy.
A piece of land, on the Eastern age of the historic Old Deer Park and a short walk from the Town centre and railway station, was identified. Whilst the property of the Crown, the land was rented by a Mr Fuller who used it to graze his Merino sheep. For the sum of £30 per year it was agreed that this would become the new home of Richmond Cricket Club.
Three years later, in 1865, a new lease was negotiated with the Crown, thanks largely to the efforts of Messrs Hales and Trevor, both distinguished civil servants. For a short time, Mr Fuller was permitted to continue to graze his sheep. By all accounts this caused many a squabble as Mr Fuller’s sheep had a disturbing habit of falling into the HaHa.
From the outset, the Club developed an impressive fixture list. One of the new Club’s earliest matches was a three-day game between Richmond and a United England XI although this was not played at Old Deer Park as the pitch was not ready. By 1865, Richmond had 29 fixtures. Intriguingly, and perhaps a reflection of the working practices of the day, these matches began on June 5th (a Monday) and went through until 9th September. Four matches were listed as 2nd 11 fixtures and both Surrey and Middlesex were among the clubs opponents. The annual subscription for the season was one Guinea (estimated to be worth around £130 in 2020), with playing members required to pay an Entrance Fee of half a Guinea.
And so, Richmond Cricket Club was born – a formally constituted club for the professional classes with its own ground on the Old Deer Park and a growing reputation as one of the leading clubs in London.
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