By 1787 the gentlemen of the White Conduit Club were in search of a new home.
The club had been a social and sporting success, but their cricket ground, White Conduit Fields in Islington, was near one of the busy turnpikes leading north out of London - easy to get to but a little too close to the ‘hoi polloi’ for the gentlemen’s comfort. Greater privacy and seclusion were called for, as was the right man to get it.
Thomas Lord had been born in Thirsk, Yorkshire and had come to London to rebuild the family fortune. A gifted cricketer, he was employed as a bowler and ground attendant at White Conduit Fields. But the members had noticed his entrepreneurial spirit, and two of them, the Earl of Winchilsea and the Duke of Richmond, guaranteed him against all losses if he would go out and find a new ground for them. Lord found his patch at Dorset Fields – now Dorset Square, just north of Oxford Street – in the parish of St Marylebone. He laid out a wicket, put up a fence and charged sixpence admission. Ever a man with an eye for the main chance, he made sure that entry to the ground (and exit) could only be made through his wine shop.
On 31 May 1787 the first match took place at Lord’s new ground with Middlesex beating Essex by 93 runs – a match played for 200 guineas. Lord himself opened the innings for Middlesex, scoring one and 36. For Thomas Lord, fortune and immortality beckoned. And so the Marylebone Cricket Club was born.