A Distinguished Home of Cricket by Stephen Green

On 31st May 1887 a small boy wrote from Brighton this letter to his mother:’ Dear Mamma,

There is a Grand Match in Cricket at the County Ground between Gloucestershire and Sussex; W.G.Grace who is playing for Gloucester made 53 runs, his side was 230 and 3 more wickets to go down yesterday, but as it is a three day match the result is uncertain as yet..

I remain Your loving son

Winny

Winston Churchill, right, with his mother

History does not record whether the American-born Lady Randolph was particularly interested in the result of this match but the game had clearly captured the imagination of young Winston. In the event Sussex won by 4 wickets after a keen and close fight. Few people could have then anticipated that what would interest readers in later years was not yet another fifty by W.G. but that one of the spectators was a twelve-year old boy who had rather a penchant for the English language.

A commodious home

Over the hundred years of its existence the County Ground, Hove has attracted numerous many famous deeds. It is one of the most commodious and distinguished homes of cricket outside the inner circle of Test match grounds. Brighton and Hove have had a good many cricket grounds, most of which have fallen prey to the developers. One of the most celebrated was situated in the northern outskirts of Brighton and was known as Ireland’s Gardens. William Lillywhite’s famous ground was nearer the centre of the  town but it only lasted about ten years. In 1848 the Brunswick Ground was opened and it was situated near the sea. Finally on 1872 a permanent home was found for Sussex cricket in Hove. It was a barley field, to be precise, but it was situated about half a mile from the sea and it was rather nearer the town than the Brunswick Ground had been.

Ireland’s Gardens

The turf was carried from the seafront

Through the generosity of Mr Fane Bennett Stanford all the Brunswick turf was laid on the new field which had been reaped and levelled. This latter operation was not totally successful and there is still a fall of some 20 feet from north to south. The first match to be played on the new ground took place on 20th and 21st May 1872 when 13 young Sussex players met 11 Gentlemen of Sussex. The latter won by an innings.

By Stephen Green from Playfair Cricket Monthly, February 1972

The County Ground