175 Years of Surrey County Cricket Club

Published: 2020
Pages: 288
Author: Spiller, Richard and Surtees, Jon
Publisher: Vision Sports Publishing
Rating: 4 stars

In recent years I have developed the habit of always looking at the back of a book before I start reading it. I do so because, regular readers may have noted, I believe it is generally important that books have an index. In this case, having now read the book, I can say that an index isn’t necessary anyway but, looking rather like one, the closing 40 pages of the book contain what, by my arithmetic, is a list of around 13,000 names.

The purpose of the book, as its title makes clear, is to celebrate a significant milestone in the Surrey club’s existence. How to do that cannot however have been a straightforward decision. Every county has had a number of histories written and Surrey is no exception. Sat somewhere in my library is just such a book that was published as long ago as 1904, and that runs to more than 500 pages. A truly comprehensive history of the last 175 years would, on a pro-rata basis, have to run to several volumes.

Very wisely therefore Richard Spiller and Jon Surtees have not sought to compete with Lord Alverstone and Charles Alcock, and have instead based their tribute to the club on a very different resource to the written word. The Surrey club have access to a huge archive of photographs and a veritable treasure trove of memorabilia and those are the source of much of the book’s content, and this is therefore much more in the nature of a coffee table book than a historical treatise.

The above is not to say that the book does not have a narrative content, as it certainly does. There are eight chapters, all of which cover different eras and which to the vast majority of those who read them will tell them everything that they want to know. Each of those chapters is then followed by a shorter essay, often by a ‘guest’ writer, the first three of whom are Mike Atherton, Tanya Aldred and Jonathan Liew.

There are some other interesting features as well. There is the outcome of a poll amongst members to choose the counties greatest ever eleven, some pen portraits of key administrators down the years and a look at the women’s game as well. There are also some shorter lists of names, of officials, captains and capped players as well as, naturally, an honours board.

But it is the superb illustrations in 175 Years of Surrey County Cricket Club that really make the book, and those responsible for the design have every reason to be proud of their efforts. The photographs are a remarkable selection. Some are well known images that have been used many times before, and some were new to me. In particular I was delighted to see two images of one of my great heroes, Douglas Jardine, one in action and the other not, that I have no recollection of seeing before.

One thing that all the photographs have in common is that they have been superbly reproduced, in the case of those that have appeared elsewhere almost invariably being much sharper and fresher than I have seen them before. The high quality paper no doubt helps, but I suspect that some techie somewhere, or perhaps a team of them, have spent a great deal of time applying their skills to the original negatives.

As well as the traditional photographs of men and matches there are also many images of items of memorabilia from the club museum. There are bats, paintings, books and ephemera as well as Jardine’s harlequin cap. It goes almost without saying that the twenty first century camera work is first class, and here as well those responsible for the book’s design have worked their magic.

Which brings me back to those 13,000 names. They belong to those men and women, although as they consist merely of an initial and surname there is little that can be done to examine the demographics, who were members of the club in 2020. It is a nice touch and one which I have little doubt must have of itself sold a few copies that might not otherwise have left the Surrey shop.

The existence of that list, and its value in highlighting the book’s publication also no doubt explains why, for those who do not frequent the club’s online shop, the book’s very existence came as a surprise. As far as I am aware the book is only available from that source and it is only by chance that twitter brought it to my attention. As a confirmed cricket tragic I therefore feel it my bounden duty to bring it to the attention of like minded souls, and for any cricket lover this is certainly well worth the four star rating I give it. For Surrey supporters however that is a little on the low side – for you this is five star stuff.   

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