Cricket at Moulsey Hurst    Getty Images
Cricket at Moulsey Hurst Getty Images

The narrative must, in reality, be considered to be the convergence of three disparate threads woven together by a benign Providence to produce an event of historic interest and significance. It may be prudent to consider the threads individually.

Although the book The Making of English Popular Culture edited by John Storey speaks of a set of rules drawn up in 1727 in anticipation of two (heavily wagered) cricket match to be played between Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and one Alan Brodrick, heir to the Viscount Midleton, the rules for this particular game appear to have been more in the nature of playing conditions for the specific games rather than a generalised laying down of the laws of the game of cricket. Regretfully, this is not the appropriate place or forum to cite the original text of the rules formulated for the two games in the original format and language.

Gavin Mortimer, in his book A History of Cricket in 100 Objects, feels that the earliest known laws were drawn up in 1744 by a band of distinguished Noblemen and Gentlemen who used the Artillery Ground in London. This was the venue for what was described as the greatest cricket match ever known , a game in which Kent beat an All-England XI in front of the Prince of Wales.

When in 1937 The Times published a book celebrating the 150th anniversary of MCC, it wrote that it is conceivable that [the laws ] object was to lay down precisely the conditions that were to govern play in the great match .

The issues principally addressed in the 1744 Code were:

– A 2-stump wicket with a single bail measuring 22 inches by 6 inches.

– Two creases cut into the ground with the popping crease being 46 inches in front of the stumps. This distance of 46 inches was popularly known by the term ell at the time, an ell being the length of a standard arrow of the day, from which it is conjectured that an arrow had been made to mark the position of the popping crease in the early days.

– Modes of dismissals were given as Bowled, Caught (off the bat or off the hands), Stumped, Run Out, Handling the Ball, Obstructing the Field, or wilfully Hitting The Ball Twice.

– There was no specific stipulation about the size of the bat.

-The over would consist of 4 deliveries.

– A no-ball would be called if the bowler s foot strayed over the crease.

The next recognised Code was laid down in 1774, and laws were further revised at the Star and Garter in London, the principal changes to arise from the meeting being the introduction of the lbw law and the maximum length and width of a bat.

The newly introduced LBW law stated: The striker is out if [he] puts his leg before the wicket with a design to stop the ball, and actually prevents the ball from hitting his wicket by it.

There was a further revision of the Code in 1788 when the laws were once more tinkered with, presumably to give the newly formed (in 1787) Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) a feeling of importance. Rolling, watering and mowing of the pitch were permitted by mutual consent of the captains, and the lbw law was updated.

A meeting of the MCC in 1798 introduced three significant changes to the extant laws, as follows:

– The height of the wicket was increased to 24 inches and the breadth to 7 inches.

– A new ball could be demanded at the start of every innings.

– A penalty of 5 runs would be awarded to the batting side if a fielder stopped the ball with his hat in the field.

There have been numerous changes to the Laws of cricket over the subsequent years, cricket being a game in a perpetual state of evolution to this very day.

The next thread takes us to a picturesque meadow along the Thames, first mentioned in the archives in 1249, when certain lands in West Molesey were transferred, including one meadow which lies by Herstegg .

Over time, this area became known as Moulsey Hurst, home to various sports from the early 18th century. According to a local history of the area by Rowland GM Baker, the principal sporting activities being cricket, archery, prize-fights, cock-fights, golf, and horse racing. It is believed that a game somewhat resembling cricket had been played in this area by boys of Guildford as early as the reign of Elizabeth I. Golf enthusiasts may be interested in knowing that the very first game of golf played in England was played at Moulsey Hurst during the reign of James I, the Monarch himself being a golf aficionado and in the possession of a very early set of personal golf clubs.

Changes in the social structure of England in the late 17th century and the realisation that cricket could prove to be an attractive outlet for the gambling instincts of the upper social classes caused cricket to gradually supersede the other sports played at Moulsey Hurst. This provided several advantages as a cricket ground.

The local history says: It was within easy reach of the metropolis, central for the cricketing counties, and only a short distance from Hampton Court Palace, where lived Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, a great patron of the sport, and the man who perhaps more than any other helped to grave the name Molesey deep on the cricketing map.

Indeed, there was an announcement which appeared in the Saint James s Evening Post in July 13, 1731 that a match was arranged for the next day on Moulsey Hurst between the men of Hampton and those of Brentford. It was further reported that above 500 is already laid on their heads, neither party having yet been beat.

In 1733 Moulsey Hurst was the venue of an exciting cricket game in which Surrey just about managed to defeat Middlesex by three notches . It was reported that the Prince of Wales had not only graced the occasion by his presence, but had been pleased to order a guinea to be given to each man, for their great dexterity .

For keen students of the game and enthusiasts of cricket trivia, it may be added that almost immediately after the above-mentioned game of 1733, another cricket contest had been arranged at the same venue between His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, who had chosen a team from among the men who had played in the previous game and a team that had been selected from among the cricketers of Kent by one Steede.

A silver cup valued at 30 was to be awarded to the winners of the contest. This was the first recorded instance in history a cricket game being played for such a cup. The game had been played in the following week and had been won by the Prince of Wales and his team.

Cricket continued to flourish on the Hurst. In 1795 two consecutive matches were played on the ground between XI of Surrey and XIII of England. One of the games had contributed an entry in the scorecard that was to be a first in cricket history, but more of that later.

The third thread takes us to Bodiam Castle, a 14th-century moated castle near Robertsbridge, East Essex, built in 1385. At around the commencement of the English Civil War in 1641, Bodiam Castle, having passed through the possession of many noble families of England, was the seat of Sir Nicholas Tufton, who had purchased the property in 1623. Sir Nicholas had been created the 1st Earl of Isle of Thanet by James I in 1628. He was to be the first of the 11 Earls of the Isle of Thanet.

Skipping lightly through 105 years of English history we arrive at 1733 and the birth of one Sackville Tufton, who succeeded to the title of 8th Earl of Thanet in 1753 at the age of 20 on the demise of the 7th Earl. He married Mary, daughter of Lord John Sackville, in 1767. They raised a large family of seven children, two daughters and five sons. The fifth child (and third son) was one John Tufton, born in 1773. Let us now try to weave the threads cohesively together.

The second of two First-Class matches between XI of Surrey and XIII of England (referred to above), was to begin on August 12, 1795 at Moulsey Hurst. The scorecard shows England to be taking first strike on the first day of the match. Shortly after the game began, Andrew Freemantle (4) was walking back to the pavilion, having been caught by one Thomas Walker, and one-drop batsman John Tufton was walking in to face his first ball.

Before long, John Tufton (3) was also wending his weary way back, having been dismissed lbw, bowled John Wells, brother-in-law of Silver Billy Beldam of cricketing legend and song. This was the first recorded instance in cricket history of a batsman being dismissed leg before wicket in a First-Class match.

Perhaps a little elaboration may be in order here. In Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 (1744-1826) Arthur Haygarth makes the following statement about the dismissal: In this match, leg before wicket is found scored for the first time. In Britcher s printed score-book, Mr J. Tufton is in this match put down as bowled merely, and the leg before wicket added in a note. At first, when any one was got out in this way, it was marked down as simply bowled, and the leg before wicket omitted.

The last sentence is of particular significance as we have seen that until the Code of 1774, there had been no provision for any lbw dismissal in the extant Laws of cricket. History suggests that prior to 1774, whenever a batsman was declared dismissed for the infringement of preventing the ball from hitting the stumps by obstructing it with his leg, whether intentionally or otherwise, he was simply recoded as being bowled .

Let us now examine the life and times Tufton a little more minutely. By all accounts, Tufton, third son of Sackville Tufton, eighth Earl of Thanet, was born November 23, 1773 at Hothfield, Kent. Following in the footsteps of his father and other brothers, he was educated at Westminster till 1786, later going up to Jesus College, Cambridge till 1798.

The lure of cricket seems to have smitten John rather early, but given the lack of any documented scorecards from so long ago, the earliest he is found on a cricket field in the archives was in his debut First-Class match.

He made his First-Class debut with MCC against Kent at Dartford in 1793, shortly before he turned 20. Kent won the game by 8 wickets and debutant Tufton had scores of 1 and 0. His younger brother Henry, who had made his own debut earlier in the month, also played in this game for MCC, scoring 3* and 0.

From the archives it is seen that John Tufton had played 48 First-Class matches between 1793 and 1798, scoring 1,049 runs from his 94 innings. His highest score was 61, one of his 2 fifties, and he averaged 12.34. He held 31 catches and is found to have taken 14 First-Class wickets as a fast underarm bowler. In Scores and Biographies, Arthur Haygarth remarks: his performances both as a batsman and as a bowler may be said to have been very good, if the early age at which he died is taken into consideration.

The archives also show Tufton playing 26 Second-Class games, sometimes captaining his team. He enjoyed two good seasons with bat: 1795 (343 runs at 9.80 and a highest of 46), and 1799 (428 runs at 23.77 the highest batting average of his short career, both his fifties coming in this season).

One of his best performances was while representing MCC against London at Lord s in 1797, when he had scores of 48 and 59, MCC winning the game by 109 runs. Indeed, Tufton had joined Lord s fairly early in his career, playing 16 First-Class games for the MCC for an aggregate of 498 runs at 17.78, and scoring both his fifties. He had taken 12 of his 14 wickets for the MCC, with 4 wickets in an innings for an undisclosed number of runs as his best bowling effort at the First-Class level.

In his life away from cricket, John Tufton was a Captain of the Trench Corps in 1793. Continuing the tradition of the family s Whig politics, was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Borough of Appleby during the 1796 General Elections, an office that he had held till his untimely and premature demise. His Parliamentary record shows that though he had engaged in several debates in his brief time, there is no instance of his ever having made an individual speech in the House.

In The Sporting Review, edited by John Wilkliam Carleton, there is mention of another iconic figure of cricket of the time, Lord Winchilsea making the following statement: John and Henry Tufton were to me both my right and left hands during each cricket campaign … John Tufton, who, under a grave and reserved manner concealed an unbounded love and fund of humour, was one of the principal convivials of our club [Brook s Club, that John Tufton had joined on April 29, 1795].

In an unfortunate turn of events, John Tufton passed away of suspected tuberculosis on May 27, 1799, not yet 26 years of age. He was laid to rest at the Tufton family vault at St Margaret s Church, Rainham, Kent. According to Haygarth, there was no elaborate monument in his honour, his coffin bearing a simple plaque that stated

THE HONOURABLE JOHN TUFTON

DIED 27 MAY/1799

IN HIS 26TH YEAR