Club Tropicana

Peter Wynne-Thomas Talks About the Trent Bridge Library

26 October 17 words: Gav Squires

Peter Wynne-Thomas is the president of Nottinghamshire Cricket Club and also the curator of the library at Trent Bridge. He joins us at Bromley House Library to talk about cricket, Trent Bridge and how he became a cricket librarian.

Many people equate watching cricket to watching paint dry but Peter feels that it is more akin to watching the tide at the beach. Of course, that didn't stop Groucho Marx at Lords, having witnessed the first session of the day, from asking, "very interesting but when does it actually start?" The first laws for the game were written in 1744 and by the mid-1750s, these so-called "London Laws" were being used internationally. Because the game goes on for days, there is much more of a social aspect than there is in sports that were developed later, both between the teams and between the fans. You can see this in some of the famous literary cricket games. For example the one in Dickens' Pickwick Papers focuses more on the refreshment tent and a game in England, Their England has a fast bowler who goes back to the pub after he's bowled an over. 


The first recorded game of cricket in Nottingham took place at The Forest between Nottingham and Sheffield. It had a front page write-up in the Nottingham Journal and, of course, it ended in a punch-up. By 1830, William Clarke, who kept The Bell Inn, had developed a side that could easily beat Sheffield and Leicester so he started looking further afield for more of a challenge. In 1834, he invited Cambridge to come and play and, after they were defeated, challenged Sussex a year later. It took them three days to travel up by stagecoach and they too were beaten. In 1836 a North vs South game was staged with the MCC selecting the South team. There was uproar in Nottingham when the North game was staged in Leicester, despite featuring 9 players from Nottinghamshire. The ground in Leicester was enclosed, which meant that they could charge to get in, whereas games at The Forest were free. This clearly gave William Clarke an idea as after his wife died, he married the landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn and in 1838, he put up a fence around the field at the back of the pub and made a cricket ground. 


In 1845, Clarke fell out with his wife and moved to London where he set up the All England XI. These would tour the country playing games and were tremendously popular - these were days before football had been codified. In 1859, a new secretary took over at Nottinghamshire and from 1861, he had implemented a trial match at Easter between potential players and the first XI. It wasn't long until everyone else was doing the same thing. Notts were consistently in the top 2/3 sides in the country, apart from in 1881 when a player strike disrupted things. 

Notts County Football Club took over a third of the ground at the Fox Round end, which led to the pub quiz fact that the first England international at Trent Bridge was actually football, a game between England and Ireland in 1897. A number of other sports have also taken place at Trent Bridge. A golf driving range featured for a few winters and international hockey has been played there. The lacrosse World Cup has been hosted as were the Nottingham Tennis Championships and there used to be a cinder running track around the ground too. In 1899, Trent Bridge hosted its first test match, between England and Australia. The year before, the ladies' pavilion had been built because women were not permitted into the main pavilion. At the time, most of the seats would have been under cover, which, on rainy days, would be better than what we have now. 


Notts County moves out in 1910 as the football and cricket seasons started to overlap. Nottinghamshire struggled financially in the 1920s and 1930s, following the expansion of the County Championship. Fortunately, they had a wealthy benefactor, Sir Julien Cahn, who not only kept the club afloat but also spent a lot of money to put up two-tier concrete stands. Of course, the whole ground has been re-developed since then. The pavilion is one of the few parts of the ground that haven't been updated and during the first work war, the building was used as a hospital for injured soldiers. In the period immediately after world war 2, county cricket actually paid for itself, helped by the popularity of Don Bradman. 


AW Shelton owned an estate agents and after he took early retirement, he spent most of his time watching cricket at Trent Bridge. In 1938, the club's centenary, he asked people to bring in their memorabilia, this was the forerunner for the library. All of the items donated were on display in the long room in the pavilion until the late 70s, when it was re-developed so that it could host events such as weddings. At the time, one of the objects on display was the ball that Gary Sobers got for six 6s against Glamorgan. Unfortunately, after everything was taken out of the long room, it went missing, only to turn up at auction. It's now in India. Shelton also presented a full set of Wisden Almanacs to the club and these were put on a bookcase in the President's Room, which meant that they weren't really accessible to anyone.


Then in 1977, ERB Allcock left 7-8,000 books to the club. That was when Peter was invited in to come and have a look at the books and begin a library. Back in 1969, the ladies had revolted after part of their pavilion was made into a restaurant and so they were given their own room in the main pavilion. It even had a window so that they could look into the long room and see the men. The room was only used by the ladies for a year and so it became the first library. Shopfitters from Boots put up the bookshelves and Peter spent the winter cataloguing and putting the books up. He realised that a library is nothing without a librarian and so volunteered, initially driving in from Retford before moving closer. 


In 1988, Nottinghamshire opened their first museum but a year later the room was re-purposed to be used for the players to have lunch in. This meant that no-one could go and have a look around in the lunch interval and so the museum was moved to the library room. Hence, the library was moved to a larger room as they took over one of the old squash courts. Today, there are more than 17,000 books in the Trent Bridge library and anyone can look around, not just club members. There are school visits from all over the county and Peter delivers lectures to the visiting children.


The Trent Bridge Library is always looking for volunteers to help out with work at the library, cricket knowledge not necessary.


Nottinghamshire Cricket Club website

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