Book Review: Fenner’s Men: Cambridgeshire Cricket 1822 – 1848

(by Willie Sugg, Real Work Publishing, pp65, £5, available from the author at 22 Stanesfield Road, Cambridge CB5 8NH, info@cambscrickethistory.co.uk)

Many ACS members will be familiar with Willie Sugg’s valuable research into the early history of Cambridgeshire cricket, as evinced for example by his uncovering of previously unknown scorecards from 1819-1822 in the Town v Gown series (see The Cricket Statistician, Winter 2001). His credentials as a local historian are well established, and the appearance of this, the third instalment of his history of Cambridgeshire cricket in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is therefore to be welcomed.

The period under review saw the growth of the annual fixture between the University and the Town. Readers of Scores and Biographies could be forgiven for assuming that the ‘Cambridge Town Club’ was a single entity with an unbroken history from the 1820s onwards. The reality, as Sugg shows, is far more complex; the sides referred to simply as ‘Cambridge Town Club’ by Haygarth were in fact from Cambridge Cricket Club (up to 1826), the Union Club (to 1829), and often from no single club at all (most of the 1830s). The history of this period is of a range of different clubs, often folding after a few years for reasons that after almost two centuries are now obscure, with pub sides also playing an influential role. It can be a confusing picture, but Sugg’s work helps in the understanding of it. At times, I was a little bemused by the way the narrative flits from an historical account of the clubs, to biographical portraits of the players, and at times the chronology is not altogether clear. The impact is also undermined by the production standards of the privately printed pamphlet. But it would be churlish to complain unduly, especially given the highly competitive price, and overall this important piece of research is to be recommended. Members may wish to be aware that the two previous volumes in the series are still available from the author at the above address.

Ricard Lawrence – verdict: 7
Summer 2010

 

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