Ward scores the first double-century in first-class cricket

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William Ward is not a name familiar to most cricket fans these days, but he is one of those men whom we must thank for the existence of Lord’s today.

By 1823, the Ground’s esteemed founder, Thomas Lord, was a 67 year-old man in search of a retirement plan. Cricket and his association with MCC had brought him prestige and a reasonable income, but he wanted a capital sum to see him through his declining years. He knew as well as anyone else that the expansion of London in recent decades made land and property the most valuable of assets. Twice already the needs of housing and infrastructure had obliged him to up sticks and move Lord’s further north. Now it was his turn to get in on the act.

Lord held a lease on the Ground, but the freehold was still owned by the Eyre Estate. He approached them, seeking permission to develop housing on the site. Permission was granted. Lord’s plans would have left precious little land available for cricket. MCC’s funds were minimal and the Club was in real danger of folding. But one man was determined not to let that happen - William Ward, MP for the City of London and a director of the Bank of England. Ward wrote out a cheque to Lord for £5,400, received the lease in return and saved the Ground for cricket.

Ward was not just a man of means but a fine cricketer too. He was born in 1787, MCC’s foundation year, just a stone’s throw from the old White Conduit ground in Islington. It was at Lord’s in 1820 that he made a stupendous innings of 278 for MCC against Norfolk – in those days there weren’t many teams that could make 278, let alone individual batsmen. The innings was Ward’s maiden first-class hundred, although he had come close the previous year in making 88 not out for Hampshire against Epsom. His 278 was part of an MCC total of 473 all out and lasted into the third day of a match scheduled for four. Lord Frederick Beauclerk offered good support with 82 not out, but no-one else reached 40. Norfolk responded with 92 all out, eventually succumbing to defeat by 417 runs.

Ward would go on to make two further first-class hundreds, but his batting never reached quite the same heights again. His contribution to the history of Lord’s, however, goes well beyond any number of runs.