Compiled by Ian Maun, edited by Keith Warsop and Martin Wilson, pp xxxviii + 412, limited edition of 125 numbered copies, £145 including p+p, contact Martin Wilson at 14 Saxonlea Close, Rushden, Northamptonshire NN10 6BF, 07799 473562, email@example.com
It is now six years since the appearance of Volume III in this excellent series. A combination of ill-health and printing problems (the present volume was ready in 2020, but the printing staff have been on furlough) has delayed the appearance of this latest volume, which covers a single decade, from 1781 to 1790. Its publication will be welcome to all historians of cricket’s ancient past.
The development in recent years of online sources such as the British Newspaper Archive has made available information that was previously very difficult to retrieve, and the new volume reflects this new wealth of sources. However, Ian Maun’s research is not limited to the online world. He has also spent much time in the libraries at Lord’s, at Hambledon and at the Artillery Ground, researching original material and among other things providing sourcing and correction for the researches of Waghorn and Buckley. This has uncovered much new material, most of it relating to town or village matches, for example a match in Essex between Finchingfield and Great Watham in July 1785, or a match at Kennington Common in August 1786. Sadly the full scores from the three ‘missing’ matches from 1787 remain elusive, but a previously unrecorded Hambledon match from that year has come to light, albeit one not involving the top players as it appears to have been played while a ‘great’ match was in progress elsewhere.
Alongside the quarrying of ancient sources, but equally significant, has been the personal contact between Ian Maun and individuals who hold precious historic material as family heirlooms. Of particular interest in this context is the collection of scorecards held in the Butler family, who still live in Hambledon. These 53 printed scorecards, which appear to be unique, cover many of the known matches between 1785 and 1790 but also three that were previously unrecorded, plates of which are included in this volume. (Whether any or all of these qualify as ‘great’ matches I leave to others to decide.) Maun speculates that this collection may be connected in some way with the unknown ‘book of scores’ for 1772 – 1784 referred to by Haygarth. It is also delightful to see a photograph from 2020 of the oldest surviving member of the Beldham family holding the bat once used by ‘Silver Billy’.
Although expensive, these volumes are now the standard text on eighteenth century cricket, are produced to very high standards and are a delight to handle. Moreover, as the publisher has pointed out to me, the cost per page is rather less than many limited editions. A fifth and final volume, covering the years 1791 to 1799, is in preparation.
Richard Lawrence (The Cricket Statistician, Summer 2022)