The All England Eleven’s 1861-62 Australian Tour and Early Cricket Photography at the Sydney Domain

Photograph of the first All England team that toured Australia prior to their departure from England in 1861.
Figure 1: The All England team prior to their departure from England in 1861. Source: William Caffyn, Seventy one not out, after p. 172.
Introduction

The All England cricket team’s tour of 1861–62 generated unprecedented interest and excitement in the Australian colonies. Cricket’s popularity had increased from the mid 1850s, when regular inter-colonial matches began, and when Victoria and (to a lesser extent) New South Wales (nsw) were transformed by gold rushes.1See generally Stuart Macintyre, A concise History of Australia, Cambridge, 1999, ch. 5. In 1861 two Melbourne restaurateurs, Felix Spiers and Christopher Pond, contracted a team of English professionals captained by H.H. Stephenson to tour Australia. Stephenson and William Caffyn had been members of the pioneering 1859 All England tour to North America; however, the Australian venture—by virtue of distance—was a much longer journey, lasting well over six months.2William Caffyn, Seventy one not out: the reminiscences of William Caffyn, Edinburgh, 1899, chs. 14, 17. Although the highly successful Australian tour has been dealt with in cricket literature,3See, for example, David Frith, The trailblazers: the first English cricket tour of Australia 1861–62, Southlands, 1999. Warwick Frost has argued that historians have failed to recognise its wider cultural and historical significance.4Warwick Frost, ‘Heritage, Nationalism and Identity: the 1861–62 English cricket tour of Australia’, International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2002, pp. 55–69. In fact, the colonial press noted an unprecedented ‘cricketing mania’ in early 1862 and commercial photographers sought to profit from widespread public interest by recording various aspects of the tour including the English team’s arrival in Melbourne in late 1861, player and team portraits and scenes at various tour matches.5For cricket mania see, for example, Herald, 3 January 1862, p. 5; Argus, 11 January 1862, p. 4; Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, 11 January 1862, p. 2; Cornwall Chronicle, 15 January 1862, p. 5; Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, 25 January 1862, p. 2. While the latter were not the earliest photographs of cricket, they were part of the very early history of sports photography and, in some respects, represented significant developments in this field.6For cricket generally see Patrick Eagar and Richard Wilson, Caught in the frame: 150 years of Cricket photography, London, 1992.

Figure 2: Stephenson’s team arrive at Spiers and Pond’s Café de Paris in Melbourne, 24 December 1861 (likely taken by William Davies), Source: The Australian Sports Museum.

The first tour match commenced at the Melbourne Cricket Club’s ground at Richmond (now the Melbourne Cricket Ground) on New Year’s Day, 1862. This attracted reported attendances of between 10,000–15,000 paying spectators per day7Age, 2 January 1862, p. 4; 3 January 1862, p. 5; 4 January 1862, p. 5; 6 January 1862, p. 5. and copies of three photographs of players in the field attributed to Charles Nettleton are now held at the Australian Sports Museum.8See Herald, 7 January 1862, p. 5 for a description of an original Nettleton print 18 inches (46cm) wide taken at this match. A damaged historic print of another photograph taken of the Melbourne ground during this match is also held at the Australian Sports Museum. Following further matches in Melbourne, Beechworth and Geelong, the tourists voyaged by sea to Sydney where their first match was held over four days (29 January–1 February 1862) at the Outer Domain ground, the focus of this article. Stephenson’s Eleven were not regarded as strong as George Parr’s team which toured North America; they also were matched against colonial teams of 18–22 men; however, the tourists managed to overcome these odds against nsw before losing a second Domain match against a combined nsw-Victorian team a few weeks later.9For an outline of tour results see John Wisden’s Cricketing Almanack for 1875, London, 1874, pp. 17–18; see also Caffyn, Reminiscences, ch. 17.

Cricket at the Domain

From 1856 about eight acres (3.25 ha) of relatively flat land near parliament house had been adapted for organised cricket, including early first-class intercolonial matches between nsw and Victoria.10Empire, 8 December 1856, p. 5. Figure 3 below is a plan of the Domain drawn in 1861 while the subsequent map shows the old cricket ground area today.

Figure 3: 1861 Plan of the Outer Domain, Sydney. Source: State Library of New South Wales.

Although this section of the Domain had been a public recreation space for many years, in early 1861 the New South Wales Cricket Association, with the support of the Premier John Robertson, erected a fence and temporary stand for that year’s intercolonial game against Victoria.11Empire, 15 February 1861, p. 4. This private enclosure of public land caused an outcry that led to the formation of a parliamentary select committee inquiry upon land management at the Domain.12Empire, 20 February 1861, p. 3. The committee recommended the removal of the fence although within months a new temporary fence and stand were erected for the All England tour matches.13 Sydney Morning Herald, 3 May 1861, p. 2; 9 October 1863, p. 7; 21 October 1861, p. 3. Empire, 11 January 1862, p. 5. Likewise, Spiers and Pond built a very substantial (200 metre-long) temporary grand stand at the Melbourne Club’s ground to maximise takings.14Bell’s Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle, 30 November 1861, p. 4. Access to the smaller of the two Sydney stands was restricted to parliamentarians while the paling fence was required to limit attendance to those paying the requisite shilling.15Lionel Gilbert, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney: a history, 1816-1985, Melbourne, 1985, pp. 95-97. Sydney Morning Herald, 6 January 1862, p. 4; 28 January 1862, p. 1. Entrance to the public stand cost substantially more (seemingly 2s.6d). Most days’ play at Sydney drew reported attendances of about 20,000 (likely unprecedented, particularly in total).16Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1862, p. 4; 1 February 1862, p. 5Empire, 31 January 1862, p. 4. By this point, it was clear that the promoters would amass a large profit (reputedly £20,000)17Leader, 30 December 1911, p. 19. and at Sydney some youths and patrons who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pay were admitted for free.18Frost, ‘The 1861–62 English Tour’, p. 58. Sydney Morning Herald, 31 January 1862, p. 4.

While conflicting arguments about control over and access to the Domain are quite interesting in terms of an emerging public sphere in post-penal Sydney, it clearly was an unsuitable venue for first-class cricket and was abandoned for this purpose after 1866. Unlike the Melbourne Cricket Club’s ground established in 1853 upon a dedicated land grant, the Sydney Domain was then also used for stock depasturing, Volunteer military drills and parades and other public spectacles—serious rioting resulting in the death of a child had occurred after an aborted balloon ascent in 1856.19New South Wales Government Gazette, 13 August 1861, p. 1727; For the rioting see Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 1856, p. 8. See also Gilbert, The Royal Botanic Gardens, pp. 95-97. Note the beast grazing near the cricket ground area at the far left of this 1866 photograph. Eventually, these problems were resolved by the development of the Sydney Cricket Ground a few kilometres to the south. Despite the encroachment of modern transport infrastructure, the old cricket ground area of the Domain remains open and similarly-bounded parkland and now has a long association with outdoor public meetings and entertainment, sport and general recreation.

Thomas Glaister’s Lost Panorama of the Domain Match

Sydney’s population in 1862 was about 100,000.20Sydney Mail, 22 June 1861, p. 8. The city boasted a number of technically accomplished commercial and amateur photographers and at least two of the former, Freeman Brothers and Thomas Glaister, recorded the first and best attended match at the Domain.21Some of the published research upon Glaister contains factual errors but see generally Erika Esau, ‘Thomas Glaister and early Australian photography’, History of Photography, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1999, pp. 187–91. There’s little doubt that they sought to capitalise upon the real excitement that surrounded the tourists’ visit and the nascent sporting nationalism that spurred the comparatively large successive attendances. By this time the collodion process had superseded the earliest commercial photographic technologies, enabling successful images of outdoor crowds to be taken using relatively short exposure times. Unlike earlier Daguerreotype technology, paper prints could also be made from collodion glass plate negatives meaning that commercial photographers could sell multiple copies of a single image.

Regrettably, an enormous (2.75 metre-wide) six-frame panorama taken by Thomas Glaister of the first Domain match does not appear to have survived in original glass negative or paper print form.22Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1862, p. 5Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle1 March 1862, p. 3. Glaister was noted for his use of large format cameras23Esau, ‘Thomas Glaister’, p. 188. and streetscape panoramas were relatively common photographic subjects at this time; however, the application of the panoramic form to a sporting event on such a scale possibly was unprecedented in 1862. Glaister’s work was then claimed by the Sydney Morning Herald to be the largest photograph yet produced in nsw:

In the production of a comprehensive picture of the memorable scene, it was the aim of the photographer to represent, not only the English cricketers in the positions and attitudes by which they will be severally remembered, but also … the immense concourse of persons assembled to watch the game. With this object Mr. Glaister secured a convenient stand on the northern side of the ground, and took successively a series of six photographs of the imposing arena comprising the greater portion of the spacious amphitheatre. The accomplishment of this purpose has been very successful, and the result is the production of a colossal picture of the match, measuring no less than nine feet in length.24Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1862, p. 5.

Nonetheless, it was ‘quite impracticable’ to produce a ‘perfect picture’:

For example, the intense brilliancy of the sunshine produced such dark shadows in contrast, that the finer lights could not be brought out in the picture. The figures of each of the players will, however, be at once recognised by those who watched the game, and even amongst the spectators not a few well known Sydney faces are to be seen. The grand stand, the parliamentary stand, the various booths, and marquees, and indeed all the prominent features of the late memorable gathering are very vividly represented.25Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1862, p. 5.

In addition to the panorama, Glaister captured a number of stereoscopes of the Domain match (which, when viewed as intended, gave scenes a three-dimensional perspective). Unfortunately, the stereoscope images don’t appear to have survived either, and it seems likely that the negatives (and, possibly, some prints) were lost when fire broke out in Glaister’s Sydney studio in late 1870.26Evening News, 2 November 1870, p. 2.

To date, these photographs have not been noted by historians. I originally wrote this piece in 2018 and, intriguingly, I’ve since come across a likely fragment of Glaister’s panorama. In 1911 the Sydney Morning Herald published an extended anniversary article upon visiting English cricket teams which included a halftone photographic reproduction captioned as having been taken during during the first tour match at the Domain in 1862 (Figure 4 below).27Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 1911, pp. 5–6. Its elongated proportions intimate panoramic origins and its southerly perspective aligns with Glaister’s reported camera position; so too do elements of the subject matter (particularly the English team in the field). On the other hand, the Herald photograph doesn’t depict stands on the western side of the ground—which, as we have seen, were noted in the paper’s contemporaneous report of Glaister’s six-frame panorama.28Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1862, p. 5. Finally, as can be seen in Figure 4, the halftone image exhibits issues with contrast ostensibly similar to those noted in the Herald’s 1862 description of original prints. However, this technical deficiency may have been introduced or exacerbated in subsequent reproduction processes (I hope to clarify this once I get an opportunity to consult the original newspaper source).

Figure 4: Newspaper image of the first All England tour match at the Domain looking south, 1862. Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 1911, p. 5.
Freeman Brothers’ Surviving Image

Despite the likely loss of Glaister’s historically significant complete panorama, another photograph of the Domain match captured by the Freeman Brothers firm (Figure 5 below) survives in print form at the State Library of New South Wales.

Figure 5: Freeman Brothers, Cricket Match in the Domain, 1862. Source: State Library of New South Wales.

This image was taken looking west from a slight natural rise on the eastern side of the Domain, near where the John Robertson Memorial now stands. The comparatively few number of visible players again suggests that the English team again was in the field. However, the photograph was taken a considerable distance from the pitch and none of the players are identifiable. Clearly, the aim of the photographer was to capture the event rather than the match.

We don’t know what day or time the Freeman Brothers image was taken—or even who took it. That said, both stands on the western side of the Domain seem to be quite full. Freeman Brothers’ Sydney studio, including approximately two tons of glass negatives, was in late 1871 also destroyed by fire.29Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December 1871, p. 7. Nonetheless, another print of this photograph reached England relatively quickly (possibly with the returning tourists) as it clearly was the basis of a woodcut engraving published by the Illustrated London News in May 1862 (Figure 6 below).30Illustrated London News, 10 May 1862, pp. 474–75.

Woodcut engraving of cricket match at Sydney Domain in 1862.
Figure 6: Illustrated London News, 10 May 1862.
Figure 7: S.T. Gill, The Grand Cricket Match, 1862. Source: State Library of New South Wales.

In addition to the photographers already discussed, the noted colonial water colourist S.T. Gill painted a view of the same match (Figure 7 above). Thus despite the apparent loss of Glaister’s detailed photographic panorama, we have surviving visual representations of the first international cricket match played in Sydney from both the western and eastern ends of the Domain ground. Gill took a similar compositional approach to Freeman Brothers, capturing the spectators more vividly than the match; another artist, Henry Burn, did the same in Melbourne. Often in financial straits, Gill likely was trying to capitalise upon the great public interest in the contest as well. Five years earlier, he had composed a similar scene of the first inter-colonial cricket match held in Sydney (albeit from the opposite eastern side of the Domain ground).31Sasha Grishin, S.T. Gill and his audiences, Canberra, 2015, pp. 126, 131.

The Advent of ‘Instantaneous’ Cricket Photography?

As noted above, earlier photographs of cricket matches are extant: one of the first appears to have been taken by the famous English photographer Roger Fenton in 1857.

Embed from Getty Images

However, the Domain match photographs possibly represented a significant departure as the earliest cricket photographs generally were carefully staged due to technological limitations: typically, play was stopped by arrangement at a set time so that the players could pose for the camera in a statue-like manner to ensure that movement blur was reduced to a minimum. Barnett Johnstone’s very early photographic print of a match between Victoria and nsw, taken at the Melbourne Cricket Club’s ground in February 1860 (Figure 8 below), is a good example of this technique (note the handwritten caption and see this match report).32Eagar and Wilson, Caught in the frame, p. 27.

 
Figure 8: Barnett Johnstone, Cricket Match at Melbourne, 1860. Source: State Library of Victoria.

Tour matches played in Melbourne in 1862 were similarly interrupted. On one occasion, players in the field initially adopted ‘absurd’ (likely humorous) poses before dutifully submitting to the photographer.33Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January 1862, p. 3. However, quite detailed reports of the first Sydney Domain match do not mention play being stopped for photographic purposes (some rampant dogs invaded the pitch on the first day, briefly halting proceedings).34Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1862, p. 4. Ultimately, it’s not clear whether Glaister’s panoramic images were specially posed. That said, his match stereoscopes explicitly were advertised as ‘instantaneous’ and, possibly, were very early match play or action photographs.35Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, 1 March 1862, p. 3. Freeman Brothers were also able to take advantage of a typically bright Sydney summer day to capture what also seems to be an ‘instantaneous’ exposure: the seated crowd in the near foreground do not appear to be specially posing for the photographer and some ghosting caused by their movement is evident.

In any case, photographers continued to struggle to represent sporting activity with precision until the early twentieth century.36Eagar and Wilson, Caught in the frame, ch. 3 and elsewhere. It’s worth remembering that George Beldam’s famous photograph of Victor Trumper stepping out to drive at the Oval in London in about 1905 (Figure 9 below) is not the match play image it first seems to be, but rather a carefully staged photograph taken at close quarters.37For Beldam and the Trumper photographs see Gideon Haigh, ‘Trumper, in light and shade‘, Cricket Monthly, September 2016.

Victor Trumper, Oval, c. 1905
Figure 9: George Beldam photo of Victor Trumper at the Oval, c. 1905. Source: G.W. Beldam and C.B. Fry, Great batsmen: their methods at a glance.

The ordered structure and sometimes languid pace of cricket, of course, facilitated its very early photographic reproduction (contrast the relatively brief and intense movement of horse racing, another popular spectator sport in colonial Australia). It’s likely, however, that Glaister’s ‘instantaneous’ stereoscope images of the Domain match captured relatively still interludes exposed for some seconds rather than active match play; the (likely) extant fragment from his panoramic image also seems similarly composed (as far as can be determined from the poor quality surviving copy). Nonetheless, even in far-flung colonial contexts as early as 1862 we can see the beginnings of both a creative vision and technical progression that, ultimately, led to the development of sports photography in its modern form (long lens, shutter and photographic process developments all played a part here).

Concluding Remarks

The All England Eleven ended up playing eight matches in Victoria, three in nsw and one in Tasmania. Of these heavily skewed contests, they won six, drew four and lost two. A couple of photographs captured during these matches were described in some detail in the colonial press—and without these textual sources we likely would have no knowledge of Thomas Glaister’s innovative efforts in Sydney in 1862. When the travel-weary tourists reached the gold rush town of Ballarat in early March, locals reportedly could readily identify them individually due to the preponderance of photographs in general circulation.38Star, 6 March 1862, p. 1. When they left Australia at the end of the month, team members exchanged photographs with friends as mementos.39Herald, 27 March 1862, p. 5. Finally, soon after the team arrived home, photography provided a means for the English illustrated press to render a Sydney match setting with reasonable accuracy (in woodcut engraved form—the only practicable mass media image technology at this time).

From the early 1860s sport became an increasingly important constituent of Australian national identity and cricket has always been the main source of truly national male sporting heroes.40See Jed Donoghue and Bruce Tranter, ‘On Bradman’s bat: Australian sporting heroes’, National Identities, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2018, pp. 143–56. One reason for this ascendancy is that, unlike any of the football codes, cricket consistently has garnered mass support throughout Australia (despite exhibiting very real tensions in terms of class and race). While much attention has been paid to the first-class international/Ashes tradition between England and Australia inaugurated in 1877, the pioneering 1861–62 English tour serves as an earlier reminder of the historic appeal of the game. Photographers such as Thomas Glaister, Charles Nettleton and William and James Freeman were keenly aware of the Australian public’s evident fascination with an unprecedented sporting contest pitting comparatively untutored colonials against seasoned English professionals and, in response, they sought to record the spectacle in a technically advanced manner that moved beyond easily-executed team portraits. Although Glaister is now regarded as one of the leading colonial photographers,41Esau, ‘Thomas Glaister’, p. 187. he left for California in 1869 (and thus was not present when his Sydney studio caught fire in 1870). Freeman Brothers recovered from their roughly contemporaneous disaster: in fact, the firm continued to operate into the twenty-first century, recording generations of Sydneysiders. Cricket, of course, continues as the national men’s sport—in some part due to competitive traditions nurtured in 1862.

© 2018–2022, Andrew Messner. All rights reserved.

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