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The History of MCC

The History of MCC

Marylebone Cricket Club was founded in 1787 - a fact gathered from a poster for a cricket match in 1837 announcing MCC's Golden jubilee.

Before then, however, aristocrats and noblemen played their cricket in White Conduit Fields at Islington, London. Like shooting and fox-hunting, cricket was considered a manly sport for the elite - with plenty of gambling opportunities to boot. (Around £20,000 was bet on a series of games between Old Etonians and England in 1751!)

As London's population grew, so did the nobility's impatience with the crowds who gathered to watch them play. In pursuit of exclusivity, they decided to approach Thomas Lord, a bowler with White Conduit CC, and asked him to set up a new private ground.

An ambitious entrepreneur, Lord was encouraged by Lord Winchilsea to lease a ground on Dorset Fields in Marylebone - the site of the modern Dorset Square.

He staged his first match - Middlesex (with two of Berkshire and one of Kent) versus Essex (with two given men) - on 31st May 1787. Thus Marylebone Cricket Club was formed. A year later, it laid down a Code of Laws, requiring the wickets to be pitched 22 yards apart and detailing how players could be given out.

Its Laws were adopted throughout the game - and MCC today remains the custodian and arbiter of Laws relating to cricket around the world.

After a short stay at Marylebone Bank, Regent's Park, between 1811 and 1813, Lord's moved to a new rural ground - previously the site of a duck pond - in St John's Wood in 1814. It remains MCC's home to this day.

The ground was soon a major success and attracted hordes of players and spectators - forcing Lord to build a Pavilion and refreshment stalls.

In 1805, the dukes and earls were keen to see their sons play cricket and so hired the ground for an Eton versus Harrow schools cricket match - the start of a world-famous, and on-going, tradition.

In 1825, when Thomas Lord was 70, he sold the ground to a Bank of England director, William Ward, for £5,000. Having provided the Marylebone Cricket Club with a ground for 38 years, Lord retired and then died seven years later - but his name lives on.

That same year (1825), the Pavilion - housing scorecards, records and trophies - was destroyed in a fire. Work commenced immediately on a replacement, which opened the following year.

At the time, the wicket was 'prepared' before a match by allowing sheep to come in and graze on the grass. However, the Club subsequently acquired its first mowing machine and appointed its first groundsman in 1864.

MCC in county & international cricket

The original MCC colour of sky blue was replaced in Victorian times by the famous red and yellow - now recognised the world over on ties, cricket sweaters and hatbands.

In the 1870s, MCC decided it wanted to get involved in county cricket, which was growing in popularity, and, in 1877, it invited Middlesex to adopt Lord's as its county ground - an arrangement which continues over 125 years later.

MCC's next step towards establishing itself as cricket's most influential body involved its development of a relationship with Australia, where emigrants had started playing the game competitively.

So in 1877 James Lillywhite and an England side boarded a steamer and travelled for eight weeks before playing Australia in the first official Test match - although it was not until 26 years later, in 1903, that MCC undertook official responsibility for England's tours 'down under'.

One of MCC's most famous players, Dr WG Grace, from Gloucestershire, gave the Club even greater recognition through his monumental performances and stature. A painting of him by A.S. Wortley was presented to the Club in 1890 and still hangs in the famous Long Room.

In 1889, the foundation stone was laid for a new Pavilion, paid for by a £21,000 loan from William Nicholson, who had made his fortune from distilling gin.

A year later it was opened in time for the new season. It is now a listed building and one of the most famous landmarks in world sport.

At the turn of the century, the Board of Control for Test Matches, the Advisory County Cricket Committee and the Imperial Cricket Conference were all set up to cater for the growth in domestic, imperial and other international cricket. These bodies existed until 1968 when there was a major reorganisation of cricket in England.

Since MCC was a private club it could not receive public funds, so it set up a Cricket Council as the governing body of cricket and the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB) to administer the professional game. It also converted its MCC Cricket Association into the National Cricket Association (NCA) to look after the recreational game. As a result, cricket started to receive financial help from the Government.

In the 1990s, the structure was changed again with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) taking over responsibility for all cricket in England from the TCCB, NCA and Cricket Council.

MCC's role has contined to evolve in response to these changes. Today, its key responsibilities include:

  • ensuring that Lord's remains a ground which is world-class, as well as world-famous;
  • promoting cricket's Laws and safeguarding its 'Spirit';
  • promoting cricket to young people, for the long-term good of the game;
  • helping to increase cricket's international appeal - not least through its teams' touring programmes; and
  • maintaining its position as the world's most active cricket-playing club.

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