White Conduit Club

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The White Conduit Club (WCC) was short-lived, existing only in the 1780s, but it had a major significance in the history of cricket as its members created the first Lord's venue and reorganised themselves as the new Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The WCC took its name from White Conduit Fields in Islington, where it was based until 1787. It was essentially a gentlemen's club for those with amateur status but it employed professional cricketers who provided coaching for the members and sometimes played in the club's matches; one of these was the bowler Thomas Lord, after whom Lord's is named. The most significant members were Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond and George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea who employed Lord to find a new, private venue for the club after complaints that White Conduit Fields was too open to the public. Famous players who represented WCC include the professionals John Small, Lumpy Stevens, Tom Taylor and Tom Walker. Records of many WCC matches are known to have been lost when the Lord's Pavilion burned down in 1825 and only 13 matches between 1784 and 1788 are known today, four of which are rated first-class by CricketArchive.

Club history[edit]

The White Conduit Club, although short-lived, was perhaps the most significant club in cricket history for it bridged the gulf between the rural and rustic Hambledon era and the new, modern and metropolitan era of MCC and Lord's, the two entities that it spawned.

We do not know for certain when the WCC was founded but it seems to have been after 1780 and certainly by 1785. The famous batsman William Beldham was hired while still a young professional by the WCC in 1785 and he told James Pycroft, author of The Cricket Field (1851) that his farming employer concluded a deal with George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea to allow Beldham time off his agricultural duties to go to the "new cricket ground" at White Conduit Fields in Islington and play for Hampshire (or more accurately, the Hambledon club) against All-England. The score of the match has evidently been lost because there is no trace of an All-England v Hampshire game at White Conduit Fields in or about 1785. Beldham's first match in Scores & Biographies was for All-England v WCC at Lord's in 1787; but he was previously recorded as playing for Berkshire against Essex in 1785 (this match was reported by H T Waghorn in his Dawn of Cricket).

Although his match cannot be traced, it is interesting that Beldham described the ground at White Conduit Fields as "new" because it was not a new venue, although perhaps a new area of it had been designated for use by the WCC. What was "new" was the club, not the venue.

The WCC had its origin in much earlier gentlemen's clubs. By the 1720s, cricket was already well-established in southern counties such as Kent, Surrey and Sussex. It was also being played and watched, often by large crowds of spectators, in London, where many of its leading advocates and players were members of the aristocracy. One of the earliest recognised London cricket clubs was the Je-ne-sais-quoi, later known as the Star and Garter, which had a meeting place on Pall Mall and actually drew up a set of Laws there in 1774. In the 1730s and 1740s, the Star and Garter Club had Frederick, Prince of Wales as its chairman. From that club there grew the WCC, so-called because it played on White Conduit Fields. Its leading lights were George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea (1752–1826) and the Hon. Colonel Charles Lennox (1764–1819), who later became the 4th Duke of Richmond. The WCC was nominally an exclusive club that only "gentlemen" might play for, but the club did employ professionals and one of these was the bowler Thomas Lord, a man who was recognised for his business acumen as well as his bowling ability.

And so it might have continued except that White Conduit Fields was an open area allowing members of the public, including the rowdier elements, to watch the matches and to voice their opinions on the play and the players. The White Conduit gentlemen were not amused by such interruptions and decided to look for a more private venue of their own.

Thomas Lord ultimately used his business abilities to become a successful wine and provisions merchant, but he is remembered for his cricket grounds (there were three in all). Winchilsea and Lennox asked Lord to find a new ground and offered him a guarantee against any losses he may suffer in the venture. So Lord took a lease from the Portman Estate on some land at Dorset Fields where Dorset Square is now sited; and the ground was prepared and opened in 1787. It was named Lord's cricket ground and, since it was in Marylebone, the WCC on relocating there decided to call themselves Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

As for White Conduit Club, it disappeared in the aftermath of MCC's founding and White Conduit Fields also disappeared under increasing urbanisation as London grew and swallowed the village of Islington whole.

For the record, White Conduit Club is known to have played at least eleven matches between 1785 and 1788. The last, ironically, was on 27 June 1788 against MCC at Lord's (Dorset Square). It is recorded in Scores & Biographies on page 83 but it was not a major match because the WCC team contained ten unknown players. MCC won by 83 runs and WCC played no more.

Matches[edit]

1784
Date Match Title Venue Result Ref
22 May "A Great Cricket Match" White Conduit Fields unknown FLPV
27 May "A Great Cricket Match" White Conduit Fields unknown FLPV
It is almost certain that these matches involved the White Conduit Club but few details are known. The Earl of Winchilsea was noted as "the best bat" in the first game; a few players in the second game were named including Dorset, Winchilsea, Talbot and Lennox.
1785
Date Match Title Venue Result Ref
20 June Gents of Kent v White Conduit Club Sevenoaks Vine G Kent by 104 runs WDC
Gents of Kent 105 (Stanford 38) and 131 (Amherst 22, Whitehead 22); WCC 46 and 86 (Lennox 25, Peachey 21). No bowling or fielding details have been preserved.
30 June – 1 July White Conduit Club v Gents of Kent White Conduit Fields WCC by 304 runs SB62
WCC 170 (Lennox 42, Capt. Monson 29; Hosmer 4-?) and 284 (Burrell 97, Newman 56; Hosmer 3-?);

Gents of Kent 122 (Stanford 59, Hosmer 22; Capt. Monson 5-?) and 28 (East 4-?)

S&B bemoans the lack of fixtures in this season (though there were more than in 1784) but there is a historical significance in that state of affairs because it reflected the decline of Hambledon's influence while the emergence of WCC foreshadowed the shift in focus to London. Cricket at this time had reached a watershed.
1786
Date Match Title Venue Result Ref
22–24 June White Conduit Club v Kent White Conduit Fields WCC by 5 runs SB64
WCC 103 (Taylor 33; Bullen 2-?, Clifford 2-?) and 123 (J Small sr 49, G Monson 26; Clifford 3-?)

Kent 121 (Hosmer 26, Bullen 26; Stevens 2-?) and 100 (Hosmer 25; Stevens 4-?)

A very tight finish and it seems that master bowler Lumpy made all the difference. Tom Walker made his (known) first-class debut in this game.
8–12 August Kent v White Conduit Club Bishopsbourne Paddock WCC by 164 runs SB68
WCC 183 (T Walker 95*, East 26; Clifford 4-?) and 296 (Taylor 117, T Walker 102; Bullen 4-?)

Kent 218 ( Stanford 73, Amherst 39, Boorman 32; Harris 3-?) and 97 (Clifford 41, Collier 35; Harris 3-?)

Tom Walker, known as "Old Everlasting", was very close to becoming the first batsman ever to score two centuries in a match. The centuries by Walker and Thomas Taylor are the first instance of two players scoring centuries in the same match, let alone the same innings. Although it cannot be confirmed, it is possible they shared a 200-plus partnership. These were the third and fourth centuries in recorded first-class cricket, following the previous hundreds by John Small sr and James Aylward who were both playing in this game.

Arthur Haygarth commented in S&B about this game: "There are only a few recorded matches of the White Conduit Club. The Marylebone Club was formed in 1787 from its members. The date of the formation of the White Conduit could not be found."

1787
Date Match Title Venue Result Ref
Thomas Lord established his first ground on Dorset Fields in Marylebone. It was on the site of the present Dorset Square. Lord's backers were members of the nobility led by the Earl of Winchilsea and Colonel Charles Lennox. The first match at Lord’s was on 21 May between the White Conduit Club and Middlesex.
21 May White Conduit Club v Middlesex Lord's (Dorset Square) unknown FL18
The pre-match notice has survived. Lord’s is called the New Cricket Ground at New Road in Marylebone. The sides were termed eleven Noblemen (sic) of the White Conduit Club and eleven Gentlemen (sic) of the County of Middlesex with two men given, for "500 guineas a side". None of the players are named.
5–6 June White Conduit Club v Middlesex Lord's (Dorset Square) WCC by 10(?) wkts WDC
The Earl of Winchilsea didn’t play because he was unwell. The detailed scorecard has not survived but the WCC team was Sir Peter Burrell, Mr John Peachey, Mr – Dampier, Capt. Charles Cumberland, Mr G East, Mr Assheton Smith, Mr George Talbot, Mr Richard Newman, Mr R B Wyatt, Mr Edward Hussey and Mr C Drummond.

White Conduit batting last needed 38 to win and apparently scored 39–0. It seems as if Burrell and Smith opened and reached the target without a wicket having fallen but it is not definite.

FL18 reports that Cumberland's bowling was "much commended" but he was badly injured when "attempting to leap over a rail" (to take a catch?) and "is now very lame at his house in Tunbridge Wells".

14–15 June White Conduit Club v Middlesex Lord's (Dorset Square) Middx by 8 wkts FL18
WCC 80 (Butcher 30; Boorman 4-?) and 90 (Wyatt 26; Boorman 2-?, Bedster 2-?)

Middlesex 126 (Dean 23, Louch 22) and 45–2 (Louch 16*)

The match report said about the injured Capt. Charles Cumberland that "(he) second to none as a bowler and second to few as a fieldsman, was unable to play for the Club owing to an injured ankle."
20–22 June White Conduit Club v All-England Lord's (Dorset Square) AEE by 239 runs SB71
AEE 247 (Aylward 94, Bullen 44, Hosmer 41; Harris 4-?) and 197 (Beldham 63, J Small jr 42, J Small sr 32*)

WCC 112 (Dampier 26, Hussey 21; Beldham 2-?) and 93 (Taylor 25; Beldham 2-?, Mann 2-?)

WCC were clearly outclassed by a strong England team containing several professionals.
30 July MCC v White Conduit Club Lord's (Dorset Square) result unknown FL18
This is believed to have been the first ever MCC match. It was advertised on 27 July in The World but no other information is known.
2 August Hornchurch v White Conduit Club Langton Park, Hornchurch WCC by 100+ runs WDC
In this game, White Conduit combined with Moulsey Hurst Club in order to take on Hornchurch. The exact result is uncertain but it was by over 100 runs: WCC scored 89 and at least 162; Hornchurch 100 and not above 50. The only player mentioned in WDC is Winchilsea who scored between 20 and 30 but whether in one innings or in the whole match we do not know. The stake was 500 guineas. The teams are in FL18 but no scorecard information. The WCC/MHC team was Earl of Winchilsea, Sir Peter Burrell, Mr G East, Mr George Talbot, Mr C Drummond, Mr G Boult, Mr – Slater, Mr George Louch, William Bedster, Edward "Lumpy" Stevens and – Davy (Surrey); Lumpy and Davy were professional bowlers.
1788
Date Match Title Venue Result Ref
27 June MCC v White Conduit Club Lord's (Dorset Square) MCC by 83 runs SB83
MCC 62 (Talbot 20*; Weston 4-?) and 124 (Burrell 33, Talbot 31; Nicoll 4-?)

WCC 42 (Nicoll 16; East 4-?) and 61 (Rutten 17; East 5-?)

This game is the earliest involving a Marylebone Cricket Club team for which the scores have survived. It is the last known game played by the White Conduit Club although it is possible that a remnant continued to play at White Conduit Fields after this.

Appearances[edit]

These are the number of known appearances by White Conduit Club players (M = matches played):

player's name and usual club or county M
Charles Anguish (MCC) 1
Henry Hervey Aston (Hants) 1
William Bedster (Surrey/Middx) 1
George T. Boult (Berks/Middx) 2
Sir Peter Burrell (Kent) 6
Butcher (Surrey) 1
Chippendale, Esq. (WCC) 1
Robert Clifford (Kent) 1
Charles Cumberland (MCC) 1
John Dampier (WCC) 6
Davy (Surrey) 1
G. Drummond (Surrey) 4
Gilbert East (Berks) 5
Everitt, Esq. (WCC) 1
David Harris (Hants) 2
Hawkins, Esq. (Hants) 1
Edward Hussey (Kent) 2
Richard Lawrence (Berks) 1
J. Le Gros, Esq. (WCC) 1
W. Le Gros, Esq. (WCC) 1
Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond (MCC) 3
George Louch (MCC) 2
Noah Mann (Hants) 2
J. Martin (Essex) 1
Charles Monson (WCC) 1
George Henry Monson (MCC) 2
Richard Newman (MCC/Essex/Kent) 4
Nicoll, Esq. (WCC) 1
Ogle, Esq. (WCC) 1
Peachey (WCC) 3
Price, Esq. (WCC) 1
Richard Purchase (Hants) 1
Rimmington (Essex/Kent) 1
Joey Ring (Kent) 1
Rutten, Esq. (WCC) 1
Sellers, Esq. (WCC) 1
C. Slater (Berks/Middx) 1
John Small (Hants) 2
Thomas Assheton Smith I (MCC) 1
Lumpy Stevens (Surrey) 3
Lord Strathavon (Surrey) 1
George Talbot (MCC) 4
Tom Taylor (Hants) 3
Tyson, Esq. (MCC) 2
Harry Walker (Surrey) 1
Tom Walker (Surrey) 3
Weston, Esq. (WCC) 1
George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchilsea (MCC) 7
J. Wyatt (Essex) 4

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Buckley, G. B. (1935). Fresh Light on 18th Century Cricket. Cotterell. 
  • Haygarth, Arthur (1862). Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 (1744–1826). Lillywhite. 
  • Waghorn, H. T. (1906). The Dawn of Cricket. Electric Press. 

External links[edit]