Bristol Cricket Challenge Cup Competition: 1885 – 1892

Published: 2022
Pages: 50
Author: Gibbons, Roger
Publisher: GCCC Heritage Trust
Rating: 3 stars

There was plenty of grinding of teeth in the West Country in 1884, summed up by an article in a local newspaper that bemoaned the declining standards of the Gloucestershire club, the enormous presence of WG Grace notwithstanding.

The upshot of the unrest was that a local publisher, whose name will be familiar to cricketing bibliophiles, JW Arrowsmith, donated a trophy for the Bristol Cricket Challenge Cup. In those days clubs played friendly matches against each other on an ad hoc basis with no centrally organised competition. The idea was that this knock out cup would improve standards and provide players for the county.

In truth the idea was probably a little ahead of its time and, the number of clubs entering the Cup falling, it was decided that the competition would end in 1892. Whether in the eight seasons it ran it served its purpose is a moot point, although ultimately, as Roger Gibbons explains, the answer is probably ‘no’.

Nonetheless for a Gloucestershire man it must have been great fun for Gibbons to be able to dig into this long forgotten competition and his reconstruction of it is an interesting one, and equally so his analysis of its legacy. In the end 21 county players appeared in the cup, albeit only nine of them did so after first playing in the cup rather than the other way around.

Of the nine the longest First Class span was that of batsman Seaton de Winton, although his 28 county appearances brought him limited success. Not far behind was another batsman, Howard Francis, whose career was also an undistinguished one, although he did appear twice for South Africa against England in 1898/99 so is a Test cricketer.

So cricket wasn’t, in late Victorian times, quite ready for a knock out cup and the Bristol Cricket Challenge Cup slipped off into obscurity. It did leave a legacy however as the year after its demise the Bristol and District Cricket Association was established, an organisation that still exists today.

Anyone interested in buying this and any of the other recent booklets can contact the author via email at gibbonsroger044@gmail.com. The price is, including UK postage and packing, a very reasonable £6 or, for multiple purchases, £15 for any three or £20 for all four booklets. An additional incentive to would be purchasers is that, naturally, all proceeds go to help the Gloucestershire museum, a very worthy cause indeed. 


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