Fanny Burney kept a diary of her stay at Teignmouth in 1773 and included a reference to going to see her host play in a ‘grand cricket match on the Den’ at Teignmouth. Cricket had become popular in Georgian England as a skilful game for gentlemen which could be watched and enjoyed by their ladies. Cricket games, like race meetings, were social occasions and Fanny recorded: ‘The cricket players dine on the green where they had a booth erected, and a dinner from the Globe, the best inn.’
Baily’s Magazine describes more fully the formal take-up of the sport:
“In 1814 several Eton boys were staying during the midsummer holidays at Teignmouth, and, as there happened to be a fair sprinkling of old Etonians also, a cricket club was the natural result. Friday and Saturday were made the club days, held on the so-called Den, in order to allow the far-comers to continue on the Saturday the perchance unfinished game of the previous day. An opposition was made to its locality by a Dr Dyer, whose house immediately overlooked the ground; for, as a sage, he judged the ‘urging of the flying ball’, although immortalised by Gray, to be wholly indecorous and reprehensible on the part of grey-haired men ….. Eton was too strong for the philosopher, and he was defeated, which elicited from him a protest, couched in terms neither philosophic, well-bred, nor grammatical.
“not long ere the match of ‘Eton against the World’ was made up ….. The ‘All the World’ eleven immediately brought into play that ‘favoured and favourite sportsman, anywhere and everywhere,’ the late accomplished George Templer, of Stover. Templer himself, who was of Westminster, did not play, but, together with Captain Sherlock, an admirable all-round player, undertook to marshal the opposing eleven. “
The rest they say is history. From this beginning George Templer founded the Teignbridge Cricket Club in 1823. It was the first cricket club formed in Devon and started life on a field at Teignbridge being central between Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Chudleigh and Torquay.
A cowshed was cleaned out and, with a few deal boards for a table, a sailcloth for a carpet, a round of beef and salad and home-brewed ale, the first cricket party sat down to draw up the club rules.
There were originally 50 members; matches were held every alternate Thursday during the summer after June 3rd; “Ladies Day” soon became a regular feature of the club; and bowls was also taken on.
There is a wonderful description from 1872 of the inclusion of ladies in the social life of the club:
“The invitations of Mr Savile comprised the lady element; and this was the primary example in Devonshire of a cricket match being the cause of a ‘lady gathering’, that terminated in the accustomed dance. In that olden time sciential examinations – especially those appertaining to pathology – were not ambitioned by the fair sex, who were not, in that more decorous era, inoculated with the soilure of masculine habits. They were content to abide within their proper range of sexual ability, and on a proper platform – at once modest in their avocation, replete with feminine attractiveness, and as free from the corrupting influences of brutalising studies as uncontaminated by practical experience with the pestilent afflictions of a prurient carnality. These of Devon were jewels that had not lost their lustre.”
As late as 1899 there is still reference to the atmosphere of Teignbridge Cricket Club:
“boys and men rival one another under the benign and time-honoured encouragement of our county worthies at good old Teignbridge, where lovely woman is always welcomed, nor the dance neglected — a very palladium of old-world and conservative cricket.”
The Teignbridge Cricket Club, as such, came to an end in the early 1900s when its name was changed to the South Devon Cricket Club and its ground moved to Newton Abbot.
Information taken from:
Baily’s Magazine Sports and Pastimes, Vol 22, 1872
Western Morning News 11/9/68
The Rise of the Devon Seaside Resorts, 1750-1900, John F Travis
The Book of Fair Devon, 1899-1900 by the United Devon Association, Exeter.