White Conduit Fields

White Conduit Fields in Islington was an early venue for cricket and several major matches are known to have been played there in the 18th century.

It was the original home of the White Conduit Club, forerunner of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The cricket field was adjacent to the former White Conduit House, immediately south of the modern junction between Dewey Street and Barnsbury Road.

The earliest match known to have been played at White Conduit Fields was the controversial encounter on Monday, 1 September 1718 between London Cricket Club and the Rochester Punch Club. This game provoked a legal case when the Rochester players walked off in an attempt to save their stake money, London clearly winning at the time. The case focused on the terms of the wager rather than the rules of the sport and the judge ordered the game to be played out. It was concluded in July 1719 at the same venue and London won by 21 runs. London’s 21-run victory is the earliest known definite result of any cricket match.

The next known match was on Wednesday, 19 August 1719 between London and Kent. Kent won and the contemporary report concludes with: “The Kentish men won the wager” (i.e., the wager was more important than the match). London and Kent met again on Saturday, 9 July 1720 and this time London won. There was no definite use of White Conduit Fields again until 1773.

White Conduit Fields fell into disuse after 1720 because the London cricketers preferred to play at Kennington Common and the Artillery Ground. Apart from a solitary match in 1773 between a London XI and a team called “England”, the venue remained unrecorded until the formation of the White Conduit Club (WCC) around 1780. It became a major venue again from 1784 to 1786 when at least four matches involving the WCC were played there. It is believed that the club members were dissatisfied with the venue because it was “too open” and so they sought a more private location. They authorised Thomas Lord, one of the ground staff bowlers, to do the necessaries and find another venue.

Before the 1787 season, the club moved to what is now called Lord’s Old Ground in Marylebone and White Conduit Fields was abandoned.

White Conduit House, and the conduit head from which it was named, 1827
Credit: Robert Chambers (1832)

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