The Earliest Known Written Rules of Cricket, 1727 (Goodwood Mss 1884)

25 Goodwood MS 1884r25 Goodwood MS 1884v

Chosen by James Peill, Curator at Goodwood House

25 James Peill - he hopes to provide the original

This thin sheet of heavily-folded paper is probably the single most important document in the Goodwood archive. It is the earliest known written rules of cricket in existence. They were drawn up for matches between the 2nd Duke of Richmond’s XII (instead of the ususal XI) and Mr Brodrick’s men, the first match taking place at Peper Harow, near Godalming, on 27th July 1727 and the second at Goodwood on 28th August.

25 Goodwood MS 1884r detail (12 players)
Detail from document recording that twelve ‘Gamesters’ would play for each side, instead of the more usual eleven (Goodwood Mss 1884r, detail). Reproduced with kind permission of the Duke of Richmond.

I love the simplicity of the document: written in a neat hand and signed confidently by the Duke and Brodrick. The Duke appears to have doodled a Palladian floor plan on the reverse (he loved architecture) and his descendant, the 8th Duke of Richmond has scribbled a note of what is within when it’s folded up. This humble document lies right at the heart of a quintessentially English sport and England’s greatest sporting estate.

25 Goodwood MS 1885
Earliest known complete scorecard for a cricket match, 2 Jun 1744 (Goodwood Mss 1885). Reproduced with kind permission of the Duke of Richmond.

Cricket at Goodwood goes back even further – in 1702 the 1st Duke of Richmond gave brandy for Arundel men following a cricket match – and there is evidence that the game was played in the county as far back as the early 17th century, with the churchwardens of Boxgrove reporting a number of parishioners to the Bishop for ‘playing at cricket in the churchyard on Sunday the fifte of May’ 1622, despite having been given ‘sufficient warning to the contrary’. Not only was it against religious rules, but it also appears to have been a perilous game, with the churchwardens stating that the men might ‘breake the churchwindowes with the ball… [and] that a little childe had like to have her braynes beaten out with a cricket batt’ (ref Ep/I/23/8).

Goodwood MS E4995 part
Detail from a map of East Dean (Goodwood Mss E4995). Reproduced with kind permission of the Duke of Richmond.

Goodwood today comprises a stately mansion, a magnificent park, a flourishing estate with its own private airfield, motor circuit, golf courses, and one of England’s most famous and beautiful race-courses. It hosts three annual sporting events: the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Quatar Goodwood Festival, and the Goodwood Revival. Three hundred years ago, however, it was a small unknown house with a modest park and farm, barely suitable as the hunting lodge for which the young Charles, 1st Duke of Richmond, bought it in 1697. The history of the estate which the Duke and his successors created at Goodwood is elaborately and exhaustively covered by the huge collection of archives listed here.

Sketch of ‘Doxey’, one of the Goodwood hounds, 1737 (Goodwood Mss 2003 p.43). Reproduced with kind permission of the Duke of Richmond.

The documents in the archive give a very complete picture of Goodwood’s history, covering many of the major developments at Goodwood, including its famous race-course. Since 1802, when the 3rd Duke first constructed the course, it has been one of the foremost in the racing world. The first permanent grandstand was built in 1904.

From the family and personal letters we learn about the writers themselves, their immediate family and friends, and events in their day-to-day life, not only in this country but, for example, in Italy,

Letter from Patrick Copland to the 4th Duke of Gordon relating to a formula for curd paint, c 1803 (Goodwood Mss 1173). Reproduced with kind permission of the Duke of Richmond.

Germany, France or Canada; some personal letters also incorporate vivid accounts of events which now find a place in our national history, such as those written during the Jacobite Risings and the Napoleonic and South African Campaigns. The picture built up from the personal papers gives an important insight into the individual tastes and characters of members of the family as a whole.

To find out more about Goodwood, please visit their website:




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