Golden Mondays: The Story of Cricket's Bank Holiday Matches
By John Shawcroft
Throughout the history of the County Championship – and certainly during its first 100 years – the Bank Holidays have been an important part of the competition’s calendar.
Indeed the significance of Whitsuntide is almost as old as the game itself and it appears in many of the early references. In the mid-19th century it was the favoured date for the showpiece matches between the All-England Eleven and the United All-England Eleven and, when Whit Monday and August Bank Holiday Monday were introduced as part of Sir John Lubbock’s Bank Holidays Act of 1871, which regulated public holidays, cricket soon recognised the possibilities.
The new holidays, coupled with the emerging Saturday half-day, were of massive social importance and their popularity was reflected in the huge attendances at some county matches.
By the time the Championship was officially recognised in 1890, the Bank Holidays had become cornerstones of the season. Traditional fixtures became virtually set in stone, with clashes between Nottinghamshire and Surrey, always at Trent Bridge over Whitsun and at The Oval in August, and Lancashire and Yorkshire sometimes producing quality only just below Test match standards. Elsewhere Kent met Hampshire, with Canterbury Week happily coinciding with August Bank Holiday, and Middlesex faced Sussex at Lord’s at Whit with the August return at Hove. Essex met Worcestershire, the Midlands enjoyed Derbyshire-Warwickshire and Leicestershire-Northamptonshire, and there was a West Country clash between Gloucestershire and Somerset. Glamorgan entertained the tourists and, lower in the pecking order, Durham,
still many years away from first-class status, played their neighbours, Northumberland.
Many of old traditions continued after the holiday dates changed in the 1960s, and even in today’s crowded fixture lists the Bank Holidays still have a role to play.