A Lord’s Test Match is one of the highlights of the British Sporting summer.
The first Test at ‘the home of cricket’ was held in 1884 and this week Marylebone Cricket Club, 'MCC' as they are commonly known hosts the 1st Test of a four match series between England and South Africa.
The famous grounds we know today, however, is actually the third incarnation of Lord’s cricket ground. Lord’s first staged cricket in 1787 at Dorset Fields an area of the capital now known as Dorset Square. In 1809 the club moved to a new ground at Eyre Estate in St John’s Wood before eventually settling at their current site in St John’s Wood in 1814.
One of the foremost early cricket paintings showing a game of cricket in progress is A Cricket Match at Mary-le-bone Fields 1748; Francis Hayman RA which is currently on display in our very own Fred Packard Galleries in Palace House. The painting, a loan from MCC, takes pride of place in the first-floor gallery of the King's Bedroom, which celebrates sporting art in the 18th century.
Hayman’s painting clearly illustrates the distinctive features of the early game: the curved bat, two stump wicket, underarm bowling and scores literally being notched up on the tally sticks. The painting was purchased in 1864 for the Musuem by J H Dark, proprietor of Lord’s (1835 - 1864). Hayman’s painting was first engraved in 1748 by the French, London based historical engraver and book illustrator Charles Grignion. His engraving was the earliest record of a cricket match, and also the first to be commercially printed on paper, when it appeared in an issue of the General Advertiser of 1748.
The painting has added significance to the MCC, the custodian of the Laws of Cricket and keeper of the history and art of the game, as the image of cricket is illustrated on a large linen handkerchief on which the 1744 Laws of Cricket were first printed in 1748. The 1744 laws, the first published Laws of the Cricket appear around the border of the square textile.
In addition this image was used as other media for many depictions of cricket during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is shown on an enamelled oval ladies patch box produced circa 1780, which is also on loan from the MCC and is also displayed in the King’s Bedroom of the Packard Galleries. Patch boxes held artificial beauty spots or “patches” which were fashionable cosmetic accessories in the 18th century. This patch box is one of the earliest examples of a commercial cricketing souvenir and demonstrates how Hayman’s picture became fashionable and exposed to the mass market. We also have on display a rare porcelain bowl, the exterior of which had Hayman's cricketing image.
If you would like to view the painting A Cricket Match at Mary-le-bone Fields in Packard Galleries, then be quick as it will return home to Lords at the end of the summer. We are open every day from 10am - 5pm. Buy tickets here.
We are grateful to Charlotte Goodhew Collections Manager MCC Museum for allowing us to use extracts from ‘Francis Hayman: After a Fashion’.