History of cricket at Chatsworth
Cricket has been played at Chatsworth for nearly 200 years and has always been an important part of the social life on the Chatsworth estate. Historically the team has mainly comprised of players working on the estate and living in the surrounding villages such as Edensor, Pilsley, Beeley and Baslow. Due to its location the club has always been associated and supported by successive Dukes of Devonshire and other members of the Cavendish family throughout its history.
So far discovered, the first mention of cricket being played at Chatsworth is in Queen Victoria's journal dated 20th October 1832.The then Princess wrote "After that we went upon the terrace again and went up a platform which had been arranged with carpets, to view the cricket-match below; the Buxton band playing “God save the King”".The match was played in front of 300 specially invited guests.
The first recorded match, is of an interdepartmental game being played at Chatsworth in 1833. Sir Joseph Paxton Head Gardener at Chatsworth 1826-1858 lead a team of gardeners against house staff in a match. The gardeners won a two innings match by five wickets. These interdepartmental matches would have been common at the time.
However, cricket was probably being played at Chatsworth some time before this date due to the interest and support of the sport by successive Dukes. In April 1730 the Duke of Devonshire along with the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Albemarle played a match in Hyde Park, with 100 guineas at stake. There is mention of the Duchess of Devonshire in 1777 lampooning the Duke of Dorset’s cricketing ability. There is also a 1799 portrait by Henry Howard showing William George Cavendish the 6th Duke of Devonshire holding a half-length cricket bat.
It's not surprising that successive Dukes of Devonshire would be showing an interest in cricket in the 18th century. Many aristocrats, landowners and gentry of the time, beginning in south east of the country, were forming cricket teams, selected from their households, tenantry and local villagers. These matches attracted royalty, prize money, paying crowds and saw large sums of money being gambled.
Originally the cricket ground along with the golf course was much closer to the main house and was just north-west of a building known as Queen Mary’s Bower as shown on this historic Chatsworth map dated 1858. Although, not obvious at first, the cricket ground can be seen to the left of the map under the legend and can be seen when magnified.
In August 1842 Chatsworth played hosts to the Wednesday Cricket Club (from which in 1867 Sheffield Wednesday football club was formed) Wednesday won by 2 wickets. Afterwards a local MP captained a side against the 6th Dukes head gardener again Joseph Paxton.
There also appears to be a return fixture in September 1842, played at Hyde Park in Sheffield, at which Chatsworth won by 9 wickets. This could explain the 6th Dukes diary entry dated 13th September 1842 “Grand Cricketing – Chatsworth victorious”
In early September 1851, it was reported that a match between Chatsworth and Staveley took place with £25 going to the winners. After this match 2 Chesterfield gentlemen arranged a single-wicket match, with the light fading and despite lanterns and candlelight neither man made a run.
It was in May 1874 that the Derby Mercury made reference to the state of Chatsworth pitch, “the player’s heads being in much more danger than the wickets”.
Two years later in August 1876 the police were called to the ground where Mr George Hill, a blacksmith, was arrested and charged with being drunk and refusing to quit. Mr Hill was fined 10 shillings or faced 14 days prison.
By late 1800s, Chatsworth Cricket Club had over 200 paying members and was becoming a focal point for the local community and would hold regular social events to raise funds for the club.
In November 1904 King Carlos and Queen Amelia of Portugal visited the Club after battling snowdrifts to get to Chatsworth. Snow shovels where used to clear the cricket pitch so a hockey match could take place. Shortly after the King and Queen arrived at the ground the match was abandoned due to more snow.
When the 9th Duke, Victor Cavendish, succeeded in 1908, the cricket club went through some major changes. With the 9th Duke being an avid cricketer it was decided to relocate the cricket ground in 1911 to its present location and saw the pavilion being built at a cost of £385. The cricket ground is now situated on what was part of the old golf course, one of the original tee’s can still be seen to the right of the pavilion. The cricket ground was also home to the Chatsworth Sports Club founded in 1909 consisting of football, rifle shooting, golf, bowls, quoits, tennis and athletics.
By early 1900's a large number of Chatsworth Cricket Club members were from Baslow and in 1909 the 9th Duke allowed the laying of a new ground at Baslow, resulting in Baslow Cricket Club being formed.
Sometime after this the clubs results began to falter much to the annoyance of the 9th Duke and despite the best efforts of Francis Hartopp, sourcing players. The run of poor results saw an advert being placed in several local newspapers “Wanted. Plumber for estate maintenance work. Must be a good wicket-keeper”.
Francis Hartopp captained Chatsworth Cricket Club for 30 years after joining Chatsworth in 1908 eventually to become the agent for the Duke of Devonshire's estate in 1919.
Cricket resumed at Chatsworth in 1919 after World War 1 but several members including Allan Bowering, Richard Morton, Harry Bond and Jesse Harrison would never get the chance to play for Chatsworth again.
In May 1930 the Duke played host to the Australian Cricket team after they had just beaten Derbyshire by 10 wickets. The Australian side which included Donald Bradman, were shown the house and antiques including a bible used by King Henry IV. In return they promised to send an autographed cricket ball to the Duke, it is not known if a ball was received!
In 1939 and World War 2, Chatsworth was taken over by 250 schoolgirls from Penrhis College in North Wales. During this time, the cricket pitch was used for multiple games of netball and lacrosse, however, there is one recorded cricket match against the Home Guard in 1942 before cricket resumed again in 1946.
It was around the 1970s that Chatsworth Cricket Club started to raise its profile as a scenic destination to play cricket, attracting a mix of teams from across the country.
On 9th August 1970 a Duke of Devonshire IX played a celebrity XI lead by the light entertainer and cricket enthusiast Leslie Crowther. Chatsworth ran out winners by 99 runs.
Also in August, 1979, the club was one of the hosts of the Derbyshire Festival which saw a Derbyshire XI including Mike Hendrick, Bob Taylor, Geoff Miller and David Steele play a Vic Lewis XI featuring Robert Powell, Peter Davidson and Reg Scarlet
Chatsworth Cricket Club has also regularly hosted touring sides from abroad, such as on 16th June 1988 when the Australian Aboriginal international side played, a match which the aboriginal side easily won.
It was also in the late 1980’s that the cricket ground saw its first significant flooding in living memory to be repeated again in November 2019. For more information on the 2019 flooding click here
In more recent years, a ladies team was formed in 2002 who play matches through out the season against teams in the area and in 2012 the Cricket Club welcomed the MCC to Chatsworth to play, a match that was won by the MCC.
Finally in 2018 Chatsworth Cricket club saw one of its biggest events in recent years, when it hosted a 6 a side testimonial cricket tournament for former Derbyshire cricket captain Wayne Madsen, a day that also included Shivnarine Chanderpaul, former West Indies cricket captain.