John Wisden

A splendid all-round cricketer

John Wisden was described in the obituary which appeared in the 1885 edition of his almanack as a ‘splendid all-round cricketer in his day: a good bat a fine fielder and as a bowler unsurpassed. A quiet, unassuming and thoroughly upright man. A fast friend and a generous employer.’

John was born at the family home in Hampden Place, Brighton on 5 September. John’s father, Thomas, was a builder in Brighton and following his father’s death John went to live with Tom Box, the Sussex wicketkeeper. John worked as a pot boy at Tom Box’s  licensed premises in Western Rd and was introduced to cricket. Although he was slight  of stature at 5ft 4ins (and known as ‘the Little Wonder’), John became one of England’s fastest bowlers. He first played for Sussex in 1845 taking 6-46 in his first innings v Kent and 3-59 in the second. He played for the county until 1863, making 2,234 runs at (average) 17.05 and taking 344 wickets at 10.44.

Although the records are not totally accurate it is thought that John averaged 225 wickets per season, totalling around 2,700. In 1850 whilst playing for the North against the South, Wisden performed his most remembered feat, of bowling out all the batsmen of the South at Lords in a match won by the North in one day. No other bowler has performed this feat. Wisden  was also a more than competent batsman. His best innings was probably 148 against Yorkshire at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. On another occasion batting with Lillywhite, Wisden put on 100 for the last wicket.

John, as well as playing for Sussex played for William Clarke’s All England side and after he fell out with Clarke played for his own United England XI. In 1859 Wisden and George Parr organised the first overseas tour made by English cricketers which was to North America. In one match in Rochester, USA, Wisden is credited with taking 6 wickets in six deliveries against the XXII of Canada and the USA.

For three years from 1852, Wisden was employed as a coach at Harrow School, assisting the chief coach, Frederick Ponsonby.

As Wisden got older he became a successful business and entrepreneur. In 1855, together with Frederick Lillywhite, John established a cricketing and cigar business in New Coventry St, London and when he had finished his own cricketing career, he launched the Cricketers’ Almanack (which bore his name) from his tobacco shop in the Haymarket. John later owned a cigar shop in Cranbourn St off Leicester Square, where he died in 1884.

Record for Sussex


Batting                                                                                       Bowling

 Matches  Innings NO     Runs       HS         Ave                 Runs        W     Ave         BB

    82               148     17   2234      148    17.05                     3647    350     10.42   8/24 

John Wisden
John Wisden played for Brighton Youths v Lewes Youths in 1839 at the Lillywhite Ground