Hampshire's Historians

This is the page to learn more about those who have chronicled the history of out great club. 



Cricket has always been a game that encourages conversation and out of those conversations people record thoughts and feelings, including memories of the great days and players of the past. Then in turn and for around two hundred years in our county much of this has appeared in the public realm.


That began and indeed continues, with publications - words but also increasingly photos and other images; then through the 20th century the broadcast media played an important role in the spread of information and ideas while over the past twenty years the digital ‘revolution’ has added to the public sharing of histories.


The first significant ‘conversation’ about cricket in Hampshire took place almost 200 years ago, between the literary scholar Charles Cowden Clarke and John Nyren, son of Richard, the great figure of Hampshire’s Hambledon days. John had played a little with those legendary figures and his reminiscences were written up by Clarke and after serial publication in The Town periodical they were published as ‘The Cricketers of My Time’, one part of The Young Cricketers Tutor. It is considered a ‘classic’ of cricket literature, the first tale of cricketers by one of their own and edited and re-published regularly over the years, most recently a version by the Hambledon Historian Ashley Mote.


Hampshire’s own John Arlott produced his version in 1974 by which time he was one of the authors of the county cricket club’s first ‘official history’ in 1957. His fellow authors were both key figures in recording Hampshire’s history, Desmond Eagar the club’s secretary and in his final year as our captain and HS (Harry) Altham, Hampshire cricketer and Winchester College schoolmaster who had written his own two-volume History of Cricket and became a leading figure in the administration of the game – and President of the Hampshire side that won the 1961 Championship.


John Arlott of course contributed many articles about Hampshire cricket to a variety of publications over many years including a personal perspective which opened the next history in 1987 written by one of England’s most important cricket historians Peter Wynne-Thomas. The plan initially was for Arlott to write the book but he was not well enough, so Wynne-Thomas, Nottinghamshire’s historian, wrote the main text largely from secondary sources.


To a large extent we are talking here about historians of Hampshire’s county cricket history – there have been many individuals who have recorded histories of specific clubs or areas going back at least to 1906 when Lt-Col John Mayproduced Cricket in North Hants, illustrated and informative about the many clubs in the area but also men who played for the county in its early years in the Championship.  That publication and many more appears listed in various bibliographies of Hampshire cricket, certainly produced by Desmond Eagar but more recently (1997 and two updates) by Stephen Saunders. Stephen is typical of the ‘modern’ cricket historian, in the best and most accurate sense of the word an ‘amateur’ who has devoted many long hours to producing more-and-more information about their subject. In Stephen’s case he has written books about William Ward, about the Hampshire cricketers and matches of the 18th and 19th centuries prior to the formation of the county club in 1863. 


Marking that date, Stephen was also joint author of our latest full history, 150 Not Out in 2013 while as a member of Hampshire Cricket Heritage he works closely with the Chairman Richard Griffiths perusing auction lists and coordinating purchases such as the Derek Shackleton memorabilia now on display at the ground. That is a new role for historians, beyond publications, displaying images, boards and artefacts for members and spectators.


Since 1885, Hampshire’s histories have been recorded annually – with a break here-or-there – in our Guides and Handbooks; post-war the series resumed in 1950 and over the years, Eagar, Altham Arlott, Saunders and many others have contributed articles. In 1954 the club could not afford to keep the series going but it was a one-off problem and many years later a small group of our historians produced the 1954 Handbook – categorically not a replica, simply the original some decades later. There were two key figures in that enterprise – one was Andrew Renshaw who for many years edited what are surely the best of Hampshire’s Handbooks, wrote for Wisden their book of the cricketers who died in the Great War and was co-author of another illustrated history in 2000.


He wrote that with Neil Jenkinson who for two decades and more either side of the move to the new ground was the county’s senior historian. He produced many publications including an updating of the Hambledon history a profile of our first ‘overseas’ player CB Llewellyn and in 2003 the county’s 100 Greats. He also complied a detailed profile of almost every Hampshire cricketer which he bequeathed to the club and is now housed in the Archive – it is invaluable for those of us engaged in the detailed research of the modern historian, a process greatly helped by the extraordinary increase of information made available online.


That information includes online newspaper reports of matches way back – most recently uncovering a report of ‘Hampshire’ v England at the East Hants Cricket Ground, Southsea in 1852. In addition to that report the (almost) full scorecard is available on Cricket Archive along with the card for every first-class and competitive match played by the club. The initial work for that wonderful resource was carried out by Vic Isaacs, the club’s scorer but also very much more – there is perhaps a case for a separate piece about our statisticians, not Vic and his son Richard, but Roy Webber, Norman Drake, and in recent years, Bob Murrell and currently ‘Tigger’ Miles.


Another key Hampshire historian of many years now is Alan Edwards, a man with a wealth of knowledge and information who has devoted much time to the research that informs not only various publications and Handbook articles but also his work for decades producing the regular newsletters of the Hampshire Cricket Society. Alan is also one of a number of our current historians who is a member of the internationals Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS) with its regular newsletters and excellent website.


Research and publication has become easier over the years and it has encouraged others to take on particular topics. Following John may in the north of the county Kevin Smallbone has produced books about the Basingstoke ground and about our former player Bernard Harrison who himself wrote a book about the Basingstoke club but also compiled notebooks full of information about the 2nd XI post 1959 which are also now in the Archive. Mentioning the grounds, Richard Binns produced two well-illustrated book about Northlands Road and the move to the Rose Bowl, while Bob Elliott’s two books focuses on the county club’s ground and more broadly club grounds – including some lost now around the county. Norman Gannaway’s History of Cricket in Hampshire (1990) brought together tales of the county and the local clubs and leagues.


In addition to Peter Wynne-Thomas other major cricket historians have devoted some attention to Hampshire/Hambledon cricket, including FS Ashley-Cooper (the ‘first’ history in 1924) and EV Lucas, while the most recent addition to the library came from Ivo Tennant of The Times with his tale of Rod Bransgrove’s days at Hampshire. I don’t suppose it will be the last story.


Dave Allen January 2024