Stoneleigh Cricket Club hosted a Warwickshire match in 1872. This is officially recorded in the Warwickshire County Cricket Club’s records. The WCCC was actually officially founded ten years later in 1882 a few miles from Stoneleigh Abbey at the Regent Hotel in Leamington Spa!
The Fourteen Gentleman of Warwickshire played the infamous I Zingari at Stoneleigh Abbey on the 5th September 1872 as part of the week’s celebrations for the coming of age of the Hon. Gilbert H.C. Leigh, eldest son of Lord Leigh.
The cricket match was the highlight of the week’s festivities at Stoneleigh Abbey which included “illuminations, fireworks, feasting and frolics”. Gilbert was invited to play for the I Zingari which was captained by his uncle Edward Chandos Leigh and included his uncle “Jimbo” Leigh. Hon. Rupert Leigh his brother played for the Gentleman of Warwickshire.
As was the usual format for cricket matches, the game was played over two days. On the second day though the match was postponed for two hours whilst the cricketers had a pony race!
The match report describes the events on and off the pitch with typical flowery prose from the pen of John Lorraine Baldwin, a founder member of the I Zingari who detailed all of I Zingari’s matches from it’s formation in 1845 till his death 50 years later. These reports, paintings, prose, poems and postcards are beautifully bound and can be found at the MCC library.
As was typical of the I Zingari, Baldwin pens a short verse in recognition of the match and Lord Leigh’s hospitality:
“Yes, ’twas a goodly sound to hear, The hearty universal cheer, Which hailed the health of the eldest son – For he was just returned twenty-one, ‘And success to the heir of the house of Lord Leigh, ‘ Was the toast that was drunk by I Zingari” JLB
The Fourteen Gentlemen of Warwickshire batted first and scored 117 runs – Higgins took 7 wickets with Law taking 6 wickets. I Zingari replied with 121 runs. The Leighs batted together at the bottom of the order with Edward Leigh contributing 2 runs, James Leigh 12 runs and Gilbert Leigh not out with 10 runs to his name.
Warwickshire’s second innings was interrupted by the pony race and on their return they collapsed to 114 all out. The match finished with I Zingari in trouble at 10 for 3, Gilbert the last man out scoring a duck. “When all was finished there seemed a lingering desire on both sides not to leave the ground, as they gazed at the old Abbey calm and beautiful in its grandeur… “ JLB
For Edward Chandos Leigh this was to be one of his last matches for the I Zingari. He had returned home to where he had started his cricketing career at Stoneleigh thirty years earlier