In 1849 Stoneleigh Cricket Club played their first significant match at Rugby School. The match report or ‘Sporting Intelligence’ was published in the Leamington Courier in September 1849. The Rugby fixture is still played annually after 155 years.
The 1849 fixture was significant since ‘The Stoneleigh Club’ was represented by some of the best cricketers in the England, including three players who were to become future Presidents of the MCC, Lord Guernsey, Hon. Robert Grimston and Hon. Edward Chandos Leigh.! How did this happen ?
The establishment of a new cricket ground in Royal Leamington Spa in 1848 by John Wisden and George Parr attracted the best cricketers in the country to come to Leamington and some were to stay at Stoneleigh Abbey! John Wisden and George Parr were argueably the best bowler and batsman in England in 1848. During the next few years the Wisden & Parr ground hosted first class matches between the All England XI, England North v South matches, I Zingari and Warwickshire. Why did they come to Leamington ? There is some debate on this. Were they sponsored by Lord Guernsey ? There is no doubt that Leamington was geographically perfect for hosting important cricket matches.
In 1848 Edward Chandos Leigh was invited to play for the Leamington & District team v the All England XI. In 1849 he was invited to play for the Gentleman of Warwickshire v I Zingari. Lord Leigh at Stoneleigh Abbey and Lord Guernsey at Offchurch Bury hosted the cricketers from Warwickshire and IZ. Even though John Wisden, as a professional played for Warwickshire, managed to capture 13 IZ wickets in the match, the infamous I Zingari won by 60 runs!
Edward seems to have persuaded ten of the players to play for Stoneleigh Cricket Club at Rugby School a few days later. The Leamington Courier reports that it was the ‘scene of a large amount of scientific development as well as many very long scores’. Stoneleigh scored an incredible 273 runs against the boys from Rugby School who replied with 92 runs and 55 runs!
Edward Chandos Leigh, I Zingari and Robert Allan Fitzgerald
For the next few years Edward Chandos Leigh was to play for the Gentleman of Warwickshire v I Zingari at Wisden & Parr and Offchurch Bury until he was invited to play for the IZ’s in 1853. IZ’s were to continue playing in Warwickshire for a number of years, including Packington Hall.
He was to join argueably the best amateur side for the next 20 years. Most of the players were prominent members of the MCC including the most influential member Robert Allan Fitzgerald who was to become Edward’s brother-in-law and secretary of the MCC between 1863 – 1876. During his tenure as secretary of the MCC Fitz successfully reestablished the MCC and Lords as the guardians and home of cricket. He persuaded Gilbert W Grace to play for the MCC which resurrected the amateur game.
This history section is dedicted to the memory of Fitz. Most of the photographs shown on this website were taken by Fitz. He was a keen early amateur photographer and displayed his photographs in his collection of scrapbooks now on display at the MCC museum.
Fitz was clearly a popular personality and fun to be with. Lord Harris wrote of the magnificence of his swagger, the luxuriance of his beard, the fun that rolled out of him so easily and the power of his batting. Fitz’s favourite joke when a wicket fell was to pretend to catch a mouse in the grass!
He missed I Zingari’s match at Stoneleigh Abbey in 1872. Fitz was captaining and managing a MCC side to Canada and the US at the time! He wrote a beautiful book ‘Wickets in the West’ describing the American Tour which included WGGrace, Harris and Hornby.
Fitz drove himself too hard in administrating the MCC and cricket. He died tragically early in 1881.
Paul Smith – Club Activist – Stoneleigh Cricket Club Email