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A Cricket Match at Mary-le-bone Field

A Cricket Match at Mary-le-bone Field

Lord's have been hosting Test matches since 1884 and has since established the event to be one of highlights of the British sporting summer. 

However, the Lord’s Ground of today 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, now Regent’s Park by Francis Hayman, painted circa 1743-47. As the Home of British Sporting Art we are very grateful to currently have this celebrated oil painting on loan from the MCC and displayed on the first floor of Palace House in the King’s Bedroom.

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 by J H Dark, proprietor of Lord’s from 1835 until 1864.

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 it 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.

Furthermore, Hayman’s painting was first engraved in 1748 by the French, London based historical engraver and book illustrator Charles Grignion. His copy was the earliest engraved 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 was used as a template for many depictions of cricket during the 18th and 19th centuries and an engraver’s reworking of the scene is shown  on an enamelled oval ladies patch box produced circa 1780, which is also on loan from the MCC and is displayed in the King’s Bedroom of Palace House.

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.

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