The Origins of Cricket in Surrey

Two documents held at the Surrey History Centre in Woking are of immense importance for the origins of the game of cricket. Specific locations where cricket is known to have been played increase steadily through the 17th century, but Guildford is the only one recorded for the 16th century, and Wanborough is the earliest of the 17th century examples.

In 1598 a dispute over a piece of land in Guildford came to court. In his testimony John Derrick, aged 59, stated that he and his schoolfellows used to play cricket there, which must have been in the years around 1550. This has been widely regarded as the earliest certain reference to cricket.

The Guildford Guild Merchant and Court Leet book 1586-1675 extract (Surrey History Centre BR/OC/1/2)

The Guildford Guild Merchant and Court Leet book 1586-1675 extract
(Surrey History Centre BR/OC/1/2)

The Guildford Guild Merchant and Court Leet book 1586-1675 (Surrey History Centre BR/OC/1/2)

The Guildford Guild Merchant
and Court Leet book 1586-1675
(Surrey History Centre BR/OC/1/2)

John Derrick’s testimony: Transcription:

“And also this deponent upon saith that he being a scholar in the free school of Guildford he and diverse of his fellows did run and play there at cricket and other plays. And also that the same was used for the baiting of bears in the said town until the said John Parish did enclose the said parcel of land“.
The 1598 reference is well known and justly famous. The appearance of cricket in court proceedings a few years later, in 1606 at Wanborough, just five miles away, is almost equally significant, but has been surprisingly neglected. It has often been assumed that, in these early years, equipment consisted simply of everyday items adapted for sporting use. The Wanborough reference to a cricket staff shows unequivocally that bats were already being manufactured. Not only that, but the context strongly suggests that they were in common use.

Transcription of the Latin, and a translation

The Manor of WanboroughCourt Roll for 1584-1625(Surrey History Centre 1272/1/3)

The Manor of WanboroughCourt Roll for 1584-1625(Surrey History Centre 1272/1/3)

Affraia Item p[res ]entant q[uo]d Nich[ ol]us Hockley in mense Augusti modo ult[ima] p[rae]terit[a] apud Wanborrow infra hunc visu[um] quendam Rob[er]tum Hewett insultu[m] et affraia[m] fecit et ab eo cum quodam baculo vocat a crickett staffe ad valeur j d sanguine traxit I[de]o ip[s]e in m[isericord]ia iii s iiii d

Affray Item: [the jury] report that Nicholas Hockley in the month of August last past at Wanborough within the jurisdiction of this court [view of frankpledge] made insult and affray against a certain Robert Hewitt and drew blood, with a certain stick called a crickett staffe of the value 1d. Therefore he is fined 3s 4d

Useful Links

The Bedser Twins, modern cricketing heroes

Julius Caesar

Billy Beldham and Lumpy Stevens
Guildford

Wanborough

Surrey History Centre

16th Century Surrey

17th Century Surrey

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