12 January 2016

Brunswick Cricket Ground, Hove

Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2012)

It was also known as the Royal Brunswick Cricket Ground and the County Cricket Ground and it opened on 28th May 1848 and closed on 1st October 1871. It was situated around 300 yards west of Adelaide Crescent (between what is now Third and Fourth Avenue) and the seafront road was the southern boundary. A high fence surrounded the ground and there was a thatched pavilion inside. According to the Sussex Daily News (18th May 1936) it was in 1847 that the useful young cricketer Gausden (who had played in the All England Match) took a piece of ground in the Hove fields for the purpose of converting it into a cricket ground.

Charles Henry Gausden lived in Vine Cottage, Alma Terrace (later re-named Victoria Terrace) in Hove. Henry Frederick Stocken, Grover Ashby and Bridger Stent were the trustees of the Brunswick Cricket Ground. Stocken was obviously a man who loved sport in general because he was also president of the Sussex County Coursing Club and honorary secretary to the Brighton Race Committee. But only three and a half years after the start of this venture, Gausden ran into financial difficulties. He was in debt to the tune of £1,343-10s and in January 1852 the well-known Brighton brewers Vallance & Catt purchased the lease of the cricket ground at auction. The reason why brewers were interested in the sport was that the Brunswick Cricket Ground Hotel had been situated there from at least 1851 and indeed the hotel and the cricket ground were run as one enterprise. The Stanford Estate was the landowner and a new lease was drawn up on 29th January 1853 between William Stanford and Vallance & Catt. The rent was £43 a year and the lease was supposed to run for 21 years but it seems this was altered and the rent rose to £60 a year in 1858 and to £105 in 1863. Finally, Vallance & Catt received a notice to quit in six months time, the notice being dated 26th January 1869. But there must have been a stay in execution because in the end the lease did not expire until 1st October 1871. Probably all this had to do with events governing the running of the Stanford Estate. Less than three months after the lease was drawn up in 1853, William Stanford died. The heiress was his only child Ellen Stanford but as she was only five years old, the Chancery Court as well as the Trustees of the Stanford Estate looked after her affairs.

In 1851 George Brown managed the hotel and cricket ground and then Charles Knight was the manager for six years. William Alfred Delamotte executed a famous long panorama of the entire Hove and Brighton seafront in 1855 and one section portrays the cricket ground and hotel. The sign above the entrance proclaimed ‘Vallance & Catt, Fine Ales, Foreign Spirits’.
Tom Box held the post of manager from 1858 to 1863. Box was a famous cricketer, in fact he was wicket keeper for 30 seasons. In 1868 C Hodges was the lessee but the last innkeeper was John Juden who was there in the 1871 census with his wife Sarah (two years his senior) daughters Amelia 12, Kate 10, and one servant.

The first match on the Brunswick Cricket Ground was a local one between the Brighton Club and the Collegians; the latter scored 108 and the Brightonians scored 107. The first county match took place on 13th and 14th July 1848 between Sussex and Nottingham. The Sussex team included such famous names as Wisden and Tom Box; other team members were Hodson, Dean, G Barton, E Napper, G Picknell, W Napper, C Hammond, HM Curteis and GW King. It was said over 1,000 spectators watched the match. They must have enjoyed seeing Wisden capture thirteen wickets and Picknell scoring his fine innings of 51. Sussex won by an innings and 32 runs.
In June 1855 the Royal Sussex Light Infantry Militia was reviewed at the ground. Among those attending were the Duchess of Richmond, the Princess of Saxe Weimer, the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of March and many important local people. The Duke of Richmond was Colonel of the regiment and he was mounted on a brown cob. During the ceremony the Duke presented Sergeant Joseph Burton with a medal for good conduct and long service in the 20th Regiment of the Line.
Also in June 1855 Sussex met Surrey in an exciting match on the ground. Many years later, on 24th November 1982, the cricket ball used on that occasion came up for auction. The leather and cork ball was inscribed ‘The ball with which Sussex beat Surrey by two runs at Brighton, June 1855’. Christie’s expected the ball to fetch between £50 and £100 but after a bidding battle it was sold for £160 to a private collector who is a well-known Sussex cricket enthusiast.

In 1868 Sussex played against a team of Australian aborigines who, according to A Fraser Taylor, put up a good fight. While they were batting, one of them whose innings was over, stood in a corner on the gravel approach and allowed three or four men to throw cricket balls at him from a distance of around 20 yards, all of which he caught on his shield. It is also interesting to note that the ground was used as a venue for a travelling circus and this happened in 1867 and 1871 when the famous Sanger’s Circus visited Hove.
Not surprisingly, the ground earned the soubriquet ‘The Cricket Ground by the Sea’. In fact WG Grace went so far as to claim it was sprinkled with beach. WG Grace made his first appearance at the ground when he was fifteen years old and he scored 170 in his first innings. It was fitting that he was also present at the last match of any importance to be played there. This was a benefit match for John Lillywhite held on the 14th, 15th and 16th August 1871 and WG Grace scored 217 runs. It was the highest innings ever made there in a first-class match. The event was said to have attracted 10,000 people and £700 was raised. GH Thomas executed a painting of the Royal Brunswick Cricket Ground and an illustration of it can be seen in AJ Gaston’s Sussex County Cricket (1924). A splendid photograph of the 1864 Sussex team standing outside the thatched pavilion cane be seen in Victorian and Edwardian Brighton by John Betjeman and JS Gray published in 1972.

After the closure of the ground, the Sussex County Cricket Club moves to a new site north of Eaton Road, which was also leased from the Stanford Estate.
See Sussex County Cricket Ground page

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
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