Home > Features > Moments in history >

Suffragettes burn down the pavilion of the ground famous for Kapil Dev’s epic 175

Suffragettes burn down the pavilion of the ground famous for Kapil Dev's epic 175

Seventy years after the suffragette incident, Kapil Dev scored his famous 175 not out off 138 balls against Zimbabwe in 1983 on this very ground (above), lighting it up in a different brand of fire © Getty Images

On April 11, 1913, the picturesque Nevill Ground of Tunbridge Wells was subjected to arson by militant suffragettes. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the fire that destroyed the pavilion and resulted in significant financial loss.

In 1895, the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Football and Athletic Club pooled their resources with the Bluemantle Cricket Club and purchased The Nevill Ground on a 99-year lease from the Marquis of Abergavenny.

Originally part of the Eridge Park Estate, the scenic arena was named after William Nevill, the first Marquis of Abergavenny. The reigning Marquis also opened the ground officially in 1896.

With rhododendron bushes running around the pitch, it was a unique setting for cricket. Another rather remarkable feature was that during the turn of the last century, the county boundary between Kent and East Sussex ran through the pitch. EW Swanton described it as “no mean contender for the most delectable English cricket ground.”

The pavilion was designed by architect CH Strange, and was built at a cost of £1,200.

However, it was destroyed on April 11, 1913.

Early that morning, militant suffragettes started their work of destruction, setting fire to the Grandstand. The fire started in the dressing rooms, spreading quickly along the large number of stacked up practice nets.

The arsonists left behind some suffragette literature and a photograph of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, the political activist, as an indication that it was a protest against her imprisonment in the Holloway Jail. The dissent was also probably flamed due to the policy of no-admittance to women, which was still in vogue at Kent. It may have been provoked by a comment by an unknown Kent official: “It is not true that women are banned from the pavilion. Who do you think makes the teas?”

The raging fire was noticed by a passing lamplighter. The fire brigade arrived soon enough, but they could not save the pavilion. The building was damaged extensively, the losses amounting to more than a thousand pounds. The fire also destroyed photographs of the first Canterbury Cricket Week and the Bluemantle Cricket Club archives.

In an angry reaction, cricket-loving Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle raised his voice in a meeting of The National League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, dubbing the arsonists “female hooligans” and comparing the attack to “blowing up a blind man and his dog.”

Suffragettes burn down the pavilion of the ground famous for Kapil Dev's epic 175

A general view of the Nevill Cricket Ground during the Friends Provident Trophy match between Kent and Gloucestershire on June 13, 2007 © Getty Images

Repair work was carried out fast enough and cricket resumed soon. Three months down the line Kent played Worcestershire in a dull draw; and then Colin Bythe and Frank Woolley skittled out a Yorkshire side containing Wilfred Rhodes and George Hirst for just 100.

There was, in fact, more significant damage to the ground during the First World War, when the pitch was used as grazing fields for the cavalry horses of the British Army. The subsequent recovery to ideal playing conditions took significantly longer.

Seventy years after the suffragette incident, Kapil Dev scored his famous 175 not out against Zimbabwe in 1983 on this very ground, lighting it up in a different brand of fire.

Nevill Ground remains the only cricket venue to have been attacked by suffragettes. The soul of the militant women, however, must now rest in peace – given that the same ground hosted the match between Australia and West Indies during the Women’s World Cup of 1993.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)   

World T20 League 2014

Sep 22, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Bengaluru

World T20 League 2014

Sep 23, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 24, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Sep 25, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Bengaluru

World T20 League 2014

Sep 26, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Mohali

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 21, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 4 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 21, 2014  at Hyderabad

Hobart Hurricanes won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 4 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014  at Mohali

Perth Scorchers won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 19, 2014  at Raipur

NK won by 33 runs (D/L method)

Photos

KXIP vs Hobart Hurricanes, Match 2 CLT20 2014

Videos

Kane, Devcich praise each others knock

Live Cricket Score Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Lahore Lions CLT20 2014: KKR labour to 4 wicket win

CLT20 2014: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Lahore Lions (LL), Match 7: 5 key battles

Before Mitchell Marsh, Surinder Amarnath had hit sixes off last two balls to win a match in England

Kings XI Punjab vs Barbados Tridents, Match 5, CLT20 2014: Highlights

CLT20 2014: Mitchell Marsh stakes his claim for a spot in Australia’s ICC World Cup 2015 squad with late blitz for Perth Scorchers against Dolphins

Asian Games Asian Games 2014 Cape Cobras Champions League T20 2014 CLT20 CLT20 2014 Hobart Hurricanes Incheon Asian Games India at Asian Games 2014 Kings XI Punjab KXIP Lahore Lions

CLT20 2014: Gautam Gambhir backs fielders after victory against Pakistan side Lahore Lions

CLT20 2014: Shah Rukh Khan thrilled after Kolkata Knight Riders’s win against Pakistan side Lahore Lions

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Lahore Lions, Match 7, CLT20 2014: Gautam Gambhir half-century powers Kolkata to 4-wicket win

Gautam Gambhir dismissed; Kolkata Knight Riders 113 for 2

Robin Uthappa dismissed as Lahore Lions finally get a breakthrough

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Lahore Lions highlights, CLT20 2014, Match 6

Steven Smith: I would love to bat at No 3 in ODI cricket

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Lahore Lions (LL), Match 7, CLT20 2014: KKR likely XI

CLT20 2014: Akshar Patel reaffirms all-round abilities

Cape Cobras vs Hobart Hurricanes, Match 6, CLT20 2014: Cape Cobras’s likely XI

Fan of the Day

Cyrus Irani

Cyrus Irani

770 Posts | 24 Fans

Italy 0 Costa Rica 1 Full Match Highlights and Goals Video: FIFA World Cup 2014 Match 24

Bang Bang Dare: Hrithik Roshan challenges Priyanka Chopra to do handstand push-ups

Kind people appear to be more attractive

Revealed: The real reason why Upen Patel agreed to do Bigg Boss 8

Revealed: Puneet Issar, RJ Preetam, Deepshikha Nagpal are the members of Bigg Boss 8′s Secret Society!

Customized tablets make way to India for Rs 5,000 onwards

Round 2 in Android One war: New phones may hit market by December-end

Deepika Padukone’s cleavage show controversy: Times Of India reacts

EPL Table & Results: Points Table and Team Standings at 2014-15 Barclays Premier League Week 5

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here