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The Lord behind Lord's Published: 23 November 2012

The origins of Lord's belong to one man in particular, Thomas Lord, who was born 257 years ago. Lords.org discovers the man who brought us the Home of Cricket.

Thomas Lord was a cricketer and shrewd businessman, born in Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1755.

He had come to London in order to remake the family fortune, which had been lost in Jacobite Rebellion, and was employed at the White Conduit Club in Islington - a private members club - as a practice bowler and groundsman.

His real talent was business though (he also worked as a wine merchant) and when, in 1787 a group of nobleman at the White Conduit Club approached Lord, seeking a more private location to play their cricket, he leapt on his chance.

Lord knew that the noblemen had grown tired with the openness of the Islington location and the travel involved in reaching what was then a small village to the north of London, where they were liable to be targeted by thieves and highwaymen.

Dorset fields

In 1787, encouraged by Lord Winchilsea's promise that any financial loss was insured against, Lord staged his first match, between Middlesex and Essex, on 31 August in Dorset Fields - the modern day location of Dorset Square. A year later, the newly formed Club laid down a Code of Laws which were adopted throughout the game. MCC today remains the custodian and arbiter of Laws relating to cricket around the world.

His new ground quickly proved popular and the newly formed MCC attracted the cream of society to its ranks. As well as staging big cricket matches, often the subject of massive wagers, a variety of other events were staged there, all of which helped to make Lord’s Ground profitable. And anyone entering the ground had to pass through Lord’s wine shop.

Moving on

But by 1809 an expiring lease and rising rents were causing Lord to look elsewhere. A new ground was secured on the Eyre Estate in St John’s Wood and for two years there were two Lord’s grounds in operation. In 1811, Dorset Square was finally vacated and MCC moved lock, stock, barrel and turf to the new ground. But it did not prove a popular move. The location suffered from many disadvantages; it was too remote and lacked atmosphere. When Lord opened up a Tavern in the lodge, it produced an immediate protest from his landlord.

Lucky break

Lord was probably more relieved than disturbed when he learned in 1812 that Parliament had directed that the new Regent’s Canal would cut straight through his ground. Pocketing £4000 in compensation he accepted the Eyre Estate’s offer of a new site for the third, and current, Lord’s Ground.

The first match at the present site took place in 1814, but it might not have been the final move for MCC if Lord had had his way: in 1825 the 70 year-old Lord, ever the entrepreneur, announced that the Eyre Estate had given him permission to develop houses on the ground, leaving only 150 square yards for cricket.

William Ward, cricketer and director of the Bank of England, promptly bought out Lord’s interest in the ground for £5000. Lord’s long association with MCC was over, but his ground at least would live on.

Lord died, aged 74 on 13 January 1832 in West Meon, Hampshire. He is buried in the village, in the churchyard of St John's Church.


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