160th Anniversary Celebrated in Style

The Bluemantle Pursuivant hosted Bluemantle cricketers past and present at the 160th anniversary of the Club at a drinks reception on 11th April 2022.

The event took place on at the College of Arms in the shadow of St. Pauls, and marked a momentous occasion in the history of the Bluemantle’s CC.

Mark Scott, Bluemantle Pursuivant, gave a gracious and amusing welcome speech to all present, and then introduced the Club’s President, Nigel Wheeler to say a few words.

The President regaled us with an animated history of the Bluemantle’s CC since 1862, and whilst lamenting that much of the Club’s documents were destroyed by fire when the Nevill Ground Pavilion was burned to the ground in 1913, he respected the irony of it being the Suffragettes who had set fire to it.

It was a jovial evening for which we thank Nick Ogden, Chairman, for his careful and thorough organisation as ever, and Mark Scott, Bluemantle Pursuivant, for hosting us so ceremoniously in the historic birthplace of The Club.

History of The Nevill Ground

These are some edited extracts from the two volumes of Tunbridge Wells in Old Photographs on the two cricket grounds, which give the date of foundation of the Bluemantles, its relationship to the other cricket clubs in town, and the point at which it transferred from the Common to the Nevill Ground.

Cricket has been played on the Higher Cricket Ground on Tunbridge Wells Common since the mid-18th century. From 1845 until 1880 County matches were played here, but these ceased due to the poor condition of the pitch which was regularly trampled by the public and grazing animals. County matches only returned to the town in 1901 after the old ground had been superseded as the town’s chief cricketing venue by the new Nevill Ground, opened in 1898.

Throughout the 20th century and on to the present day, the Higher Cricket Ground has been the home of the Linden Park Cricket Club, founded in 1876. It had originally been shared with two other clubs, the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club, which traces its history back to the late 18th century, and the Blue Mantles, established in 1864; but these transferred their headquarters to the Nevill Ground in 1898.

Although cricket was played on the Higher Cricket Ground informally from the mid-eighteenth century, it was not officially set apart for the purpose until 1839, when the newly formed Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club received permission from the Freeholders to use and improve it, and to erect notices to deter abuse of the turf. The ground was subsequently enlarged in 1859 and 1875.

The Nevill Ground was opened in 1898 by William Nevill, 1st Marquess of Abergavenny, from whom the land had been acquired by the Tunbridge Wells Cricket, Football and Athletic Club Ltd. A contemporary guide said that ‘It deserves to be well patronised, for no expense was spared in making it perfect in every respect’. The first county cricket match on the ground was played in 1901, establishing a tradition that has continued to the present day.

In a county noted for its beautiful cricket grounds, the Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells possesses an unequalled charm and dignity; it has, in fact, frequently been described as the loveliest ground in England.’ So writes the town guide from 1951. When the Ground opened, the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club (1839) and the Blue Mantles (1864) transferred their headquarters there from the Common.

Higher Ground, Tunbridge Wells
The Nevill Cricket Ground at Tunbridge Wells Date: 1902.
The Nevill Pavilion was virtually destroyed in a fire on 11th April 1913. The blaze was widely believed to be the work of militant suffragettes, and it was reported that suffragette literature had been discovered at the scene. Date: 1913

Remembering Bluemantle’s Centenary – 1962

This is the team which played in the Bluemantle’s centenary match against The Duke of Norfolk’s XI at Arundel in 1962. And below are some words from the centenary dinner, held in London that year.

vs Duke of Norfolk XI Arundel 1962

Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones Memoirs

The pages shown here are extracts of the former Bluemantle Pursuivant, Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones, and tell with amusement how he favoured The Bluemantle’s over MCC…

Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones
Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones. Former Bluemantle Pursuivant

(click each for a larger version)

Kindly supplied by the current Bluemantle Pursuivant, Mark Scott.