Supplement to Early Club & Village Cricket

Published: 2023
Pages: 28
Author: Goulstone, John
Publisher: The Cricket Society
Rating: 3.5 stars

John Goulstone is one of cricket’s most diligent historians. One of, by my calculations, four men still with us who wrote for Rowland Bowen’s renowned Cricket Quarterly back in the 1960s, he is now very much a veteran, but one who shows little sign of slowing down.

Cricket in ancient times has always been Goulstone’s speciality, but his writings, all of which are highly collectable, cover all sports. Two of his publications were regular journals, Sports Quarterly Magazine* and Sports History**, which appeared many years ago now. Like everything Goulstone wrote they were not aimed at the mass market and, again in common with all his work, are highly collectable.

One of Goulstone’s stand alone publications is Early Club and Village Cricket, published in an edition of 100 copies in 1972. It lists approximately 1,200 towns and villages, and references published material on local cricket dating primarily from the 18th century.

Back in the 1972 the resource that was initially known as the ‘information superhighway’ was still the best part of twenty years away from making its bow, so Goulstone had to travel to archives and record offices and then pore over original documents in order to track down the material he was seeking. Half a century on and there is a wealth of searchable material available to any researcher without the need for him or her to so much as leave their home.

It is therefore a considerable testament to Goulstone’s initial tenacity that this supplement to his original work is only 28 pages long, albeit his reader gets the impression that that is only because he has restricted the scope of this one to the eighteenth century. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Inevitably the material that makes up the booklet is not going to appeal to a particularly wide audience, but it is nonetheless an illuminating insight into how cricket and interest in the game developed when it was in its infancy.

A few examples may help illustrate what any would be purchaser will get if he chooses to invest. First a small village in Kent, Trottiscliffe, currently a community of around 500 souls; In his pamphlet ‘The Possibility of Leaving the Tories’ the rector in 1716 related that I have perswaded (sic) the farmers here that a Civil War is a great deal worse than a Match at Cricket

Based on 21st century figures a similar sized village is Wanstrow in Somerset; The diarist John Yeoman of this parish noted in 1774 that a cricket match he witnessed in Middlesex is the same as the children play in our country only they play to the Truth of the play.

And thirdly, and just to show that cricket was not just played in villages, nor indeed just in the late spring summer and early autumn, an entry for Coventry; At Swanswell Pool in January 1776 ’besides the drollery of playing at cricket and kicking a football, a large sheep was roasted whole upon the ice, to the no small diversion of the spectators’.

So hopefully those few modest extracts will enable readers to judge whether or not they wish to acquire one of the fifty copies of Supplement to Early Club & Village Cricket that have been printed by The Cricket Society. It has to be conceded that at £40 a pop, plus postage, it is not cheap, but to put that in context it is still considerably less than pretty much anything else from Goulstone’s oeuvre will cost.

* There were 20 issues of this title published between 1977 and 1982

**There were 10 issues of this title published between 1982 and 1987

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