AMAZING GROUNDS-7 – BROADHALFPENNY DOWN GROUND, HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND
Broadhalfpenny Down (pronounced brawd-HAYP-nee) is a beautiful cricket ground in Hampshire, opposite the Bat & Ball Inn.
Cricket was played here from around 1750 and, over the next three decades, the players and patrons of Hambledon were responsible for the development of new techniques and the laws of cricket, from the addition of a third stump to the size of the bat.
Their adaptations, and codification, of these laws, transformed cricket from an occasional country pastime to a national sport, which became an international sport in the following century.
This beautiful ground is situated in Hambledon, Hampshire, England.
The first proper county club in England, Hambledon CC, was formed in 1750, is described as “ the cradle of Cricket ”.
The Hambledon club had wealthy Hampshire patrons and the “Bat and Ball Inn” was a legendary post-match retreat. The punch and ale were so strong that Richard Nyren, the landowner and Publican once said “ It would put the souls of 10 tinkers into the body of a tailor”.
In the Club’s early days a cricket bat was curved like a banana and the wickets consisted of two stumps. When a Hambledon man made a good hit the spectators shouted in Hampshire style “ Go Hard! Titch and turn !”
In those days a lot of the game centred around betting and even the local Hambledon Vicar (priest) was known to have a flutter ( betting).
During the 1770s Hambledon had the best team in the country. Legends suggest that in 1775 Hambledon made so many runs that an All-England team gave up in despair. In 1778 Hambledon beat England by 3 wickets.
Until 1781 Hambledon played at Broadhalfpenny Down between Winchester and Portsmouth. In 1782 the Club moved to Windmill Downs because Broadhalfpenny had a pub opposite the ground. The club had established and refined the “Laws of Cricket” including the introduction of a Third Stump but that role ended when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) took over the governance of the sport, Cricket.
According to David Underdown in his book “Start of Play” Hambledon’s decline in the late 18th century was caused by the impact of war with France, the migration of aristocratic patrons from Hampshire to London and hardship in agriculture.
The Club’s final meeting was in 1797 when the wistful last minutes read “No Gentlemen were present”. This ground was used seldom in the early half 20th century.
In 1908 a match between Hambledon and All England XI took place and a grey granite obelisk was unveiled by Mr E.M.Sprot ( in the absence of W.G. Grace) to honour the club’s past achievements.
The Stones inscription reads: “ This stone marks the site of the ground of Hambledon Cricket club Circ 1750-1787 “.
Kane Williamson,( current Captain of New Zealand) in front of the Inscription.
After World War II the Royal Naval Signal School at HMS Mercury took over the lease of this club, and in 1958, some of the school’s officers founded Broadhalfpenny Brigands cricket club.
Since then the Brigands have used this cricket ground with the aim of promoting the continuation of cricket, played in a gentlemanly, sportsmanlike and friendly spirit on the historic ground at Broadhalfpenny Down.
In 1992, the Hambledon Cricket club records ( 1772 to 1796) went to the Hampshire county Record office for safekeeping.
The Broadhalfpenny Down Association (BHDA)was set in 1996 on the initiative of Winchester College, owners of the Freehold property and the BDP Brigands CC, lessees of BHD, to ensure the Long-term future of Broadhalfpenny Down, on which cricket continues to be played regularly for the enjoyment of players, spectators and the many who makes pilgrimages to the ground all over the world.
At the site of the original Hambledon Club, found in about 1750, the Broadhalfpenny Down cricket ground has a very special place in Cricket history. It was here the game “Cricket “ grew from an occasional country pastime to a properly organised National Sport. It was the foundation from which Cricket was to become a sport in the second half of the 19th Century.
The Broadhalfpenny Down Preservation Trust (BDPT) was incorporated in 2010 with the same objectives of BHDA and granted Charitable Trust in 2012.
The upkeep of the ground is now looked after by the Broadhalfpenny Down Preservation Trust, a charity whose aims also include widening access to play on the ground including men, women, junior and disability cricket, as well as educating the public on the history of the ground and it’s importance in cricket.
A monument to the glory of cricket and the contribution to it made by The Hambledon Club was erected at the ground in 1908 made of Cornish granite.
Patrons of the Preservation Trust include JRT Barclay DL, David English, David Gower OBE, The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH, Mark Nicholas, Barry Richards, Sir Tim Rice and Sir Garfield Sobers.
250 year anniversary of First Class cricket
This year (2022 )marks the 250th Anniversary of the first recognised First-Class cricket match, which was played at Broadhalfpenny Down, Hambledon, Hampshire.
It was a 2 day game on 24-25 June 1772 between a Hambledon XI, consisting of the finest players in Hampshire, against an All England XI consisting of the finest players from Surrey and Kent. The prize was 500 Guineas.
On 1 January 2022, a special New Year’s Day match took place where Hampshire Huskies, comprising local cricketers and cricketing journalists, defeated the Broadhalfpenny Brigands by 17 runs.
More commemorative events are planned throughout the 2022 cricket season.
All Photos courtesy : Broadhalfpenny Down.com