The Golden Years
The Sussex Players who died for their Country
The Modern Era
The main focus of Gallery One is the Golden Years of Sussex Cricket, 1895-1905. These were the years of Ranji and Fry when Sussex supporters were treated to a batting feast. With small boundaries and for the most part a good batting wicket, opposing bowlers must have dreaded coming to Hove. Opposition bowlers would toil all day long to try and get first Fry and his opening partner, Joe Vine, out, before Ranji himself came in lower down the order. The term, Golden Age is not only used to describe a wonderful era for Sussex but also describes an era when cricket came of age and when at a time of New Imperialism, the British Empire occupied a fifth of the world’s territory. Cricket was synonymous with empire and the game was used to transmit the values of the empire as well as unite the empire together.
As you enter the gallery, on the left hand side is a cabinet full of Ranji memorabilia, including his Coronation album from 1907 donated by Ranji himself. In the same cabinet as the Ranji album is a bat once used by Harry Phillips to score a century against the 1884 Australians together with a photograph of Phillips with GN Wyatt (who also scored 100 in the first innings against Australia) and Walter Humphreys (who took 11 wickets including a hat trick in the same match).
In the second section of the cabinet is a diary and photograph album that Bert Relf compiled whilst a member of the MCC team in Australia in 1903-4, and also a watch, leather wallet and napkin ring that all belonged to Bert. In this section there is also a bat signed by many Sussex players from the 1901 side.
The focus of Gallery Two is the contribution that Sussex players made to World War One and Two, and in particular to those who made the ultimate sacrifice: their lives. There are photographs of all those who died in the two wars and a display about General Dempsey, who served in both wars and who in between played two matches for Sussex in 1919.
There was no county cricket between 1914 and 1919 and at least 219 players served in the First World War. George Cox was about to have a benefit match as war was declared on 4 August, but the match against Surrey was cancelled.
Ranji ,who had played for Sussex from 1895-1904 and then again in 1908 and 1912, decided at the outbreak of war to put the resources of his state of Nawanagar at the disposal of Britain. He owned a large house in Staines which was converted into a forty bed hospital for wounded officers. In November he left for the Western Front in France where he was made an honorary major in the British army.
He was not allowed to take any risks so was given administrative tasks to do. Once the winter began he began to suffer from chilblains and asthma from the snow, rain and sleet. By April he was suffering from bronchitis and so he was sent back to England where he made a recruiting speech in Eastbourne before he travelled north to go grouse shooting in Yorkshire. During a shoot, on the last day of August, he was accidently shot in the eye and he had his right eye removed. By the end of the year he had travelled back to India where he remained for the remainder of the war. Ranji was never to go anywhere near the front. Others were not so lucky and eight former players as well as the club secretary were killed during World War One
In the Second World War, following Sussex’s game against Yorkshire which ended the day Germany attacked Poland, there were no more county games at Hove until 1946. There was plenty of cricket at Hove during the war but with many cricketers joining the armed forces, they represented service sides, including a match between the South of England and the Australians. The South consisted mainly of Sussex players, including James Langridge, with Keith Miller playing for Australia. There was cricket following VE Day but there were no competitive championship games. There were five ‘Victory’ tests between England and Australia, but they were deemed unofficial tests. Two Sussex players died during the war, Kenneth Scott and Alexander Shaw, and countless others served in the armed forces in theatres around the world.
Gallery Three’s main focus is on the modern era but there are several cabinets of exhibits which trace the early story of the Sussex club. As you enter the gallery, on your left hand side there are cabinets on ‘The Founding of the Club in 1839’, the ‘Brunswick Ground’ and ‘The Lillywhite Family’. On display are artefacts linked to the founding of the club in 1839, photographs of the Brunswick Ground and a rare photograph of a Sussex group of players from 1864.
Further down the left hand wall there are cabinets on Aubrey Smith, David Sheppard and Tony Greig. Boots and pads from Aubrey Smith are on display, as are the jackets that Sheppard and Greig wore on their respective tours to Australia and New Zealand.
On your right as you enter the gallery, is a section about Sussex Women’s Cricket. It has a signed shirt by the team that won the Ashes in Bowral in 2008, including the signatures of four Sussex players: C Atkins, R Birch, L Marsh and S Taylor. There are also a number of photographs of Sussex players. Further down on the right there is a cabinet with a shirt that belonged to Jofra Archer, a cabinet that remembers the career of Hobden, and a cabinet on the Sussex Sharks side that won the 20/20 Cup in 2009.
In the alcove to the right, are prints and paintings which focus on the early years of Sussex including a painting titled The Cricket Match which was a fictional match between Sussex and Kent (see below) between 1839 and 1841 featuring players and personalities from the period.