James ‘Jemmy’ Dean of Duncton

Published: 2023
Pages: 84
Author: Moore, Jason
Publisher: Sussex Cricket Museum
Rating: 3.5 stars

Jemmy Dean was one of the best cricketers of his time. An all-rounder, Dean was always a fine bowler and as his career unfolded his batting improved greatly. Statistics from his era need to be treated with caution and not compared with those of modern times, but in a First Class career that began in 1835 and ended in 1861 Dean played in more than three hundred First Class matches. The majority were for Sussex or MCC, but he also appeared for sides styled as ‘England’ and for the Players against the Gentlemen.

In addition Dean was a member of William Clarke’s All England Eleven and, with John Wisden, one of the prime movers in setting up the United All England Eleven. Many of the matches played by those sides were not eleven a side and therefore not First Class, but both were powerful teams of touring professionals and Jason Moore’s book sheds much light on the cricketing politics of the time.

Author Moore is a descendant of Dean and therefore ideally placed to put together this account which, if not a full biography, certainly sheds a good deal of light on Dean’s life and, more importantly, the way in which his cricket career unfolded.

Dean’s early career is intertwined with that of another man from Duncton, a small village about twenty miles from Brighton, James Broadbridge. Like Dean Broadbridge was the best cricketer in his family, but certainly not the only one and Moore delves into the Broadbridge family history as well as his own and, of course, the history of Duncton itself.

As indicated the analysis of Dean’s cricket career also involves a look at the way the game was conducted at the time, and the dissatisfaction that Dean and teammates had with Clarke, their autocratic paymaster at the All England Eleven.

Once his playing days were over the by then somewhat portly Dean took to umpiring and also secured a coaching position at Winchester College before, in 1868, his old friend and partner Wisden bought the local public house in Duncton. The name of the hostelry changed its name to The Cricketers and leased it Dean, who passed away there on Christmas Eve of 1881 at the age of 75.

I have yet to read anything published by the Sussex Cricket Museum that was not a thoroughly worthwhile use of my time and this modest life of Jemmy Dean is no exception. What I did not expect though was the quality and quantity of the illustrations it contains. Clearly there are no action photographs of Dean, but by my not always reliable reckoning there are 66 images in total, most of them in full colour. They comprise those photographs of Dean in later life that there are, and reproductions of artwork and items of memorabilia.

There are 125 signed and numbered copies of James ‘Jemmy’ Dean of Duncton available directly from the Museum, and for those whose interests include the game as it was played in the 1840s and 1850s it is essential reading.

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