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.

The All England cricket team’s tour of 1861–62 generated unprecedented interest and excitement in the Australian colonies. Cricket had surged in popularity in Australia in the mid 1850s, when inter-colonial matches began, and when Victoria and (to a lesser extent) New South Wales (NSW) were transformed by gold rushes. 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 undertaking, lasting well over six months.1William Caffyn, Seventy one not out: the reminiscences of William Caffyn, Edinburgh, 1899, chs. 14, 17. Although the successful tour of Australia has been acknowledged in cricket literature,2See, 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.3Warwick 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. Commercial photographers recorded various aspects of the tour including the English team’s arrival in Melbourne in late 1861, player and team portraits, as well as various matches. While the latter were not the earliest photographs of cricket, the match images were part of the early history of sports photography and, in some respects, represented significant achievements in this field.4For cricket generally see Patrick Eagar, Caught in the frame: 150 years of Cricket photography, London, 1992.

Cricket at the Domain

The tourists’ first match in Sydney was held over four days (29 January–1 February 1862) at the Outer Domain (see map above). Here some relatively flat land at the rear of parliament house had been adapted for organised cricket, including early inter-colonial matches, from 1856.5Empire, 8 December 1856, p. 5. This 1861 plan of the Outer Domain shows the extent of the ground at the time of the first All England tour. Although this portion of the Domain had been a public recreation space for many years, the advent of cricket as a truly viable spectator sport in 1861–62 saw a couple of temporary stands erected on the western side of the ground near parliament house. Access to one of the stands was restricted to parliamentarians while a temporary paling fence was erected around the entire ground to limit attendance to those paying the requisite shilling.6Lionel 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 crowds in the vicinity of 20,000.7Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1862, p. 4; 1 February 1862, p. 5Empire, 31 January 1862, p. 4. These attendances possibly were exaggerated somewhat but, nonetheless, also likely were unprecedented in a local context. The English Eleven were not regarded as strong as the team which toured North America; they also generally played amateur colonial teams of 18–22 men; however, they managed to overcome these odds against NSW (as they did in most of their tour matches).8Caffyn, Reminiscences, ch. 17. Note that the leading Australian cricketer of the age, Tom Wills, did not play against the tourists: he temporarily retired about a year earlier in order to manage a pastoral property in Queensland. This venture ended in tragedy: Wills’s father Horatio and eighteen others died in the Cullin-la-ringo massacre of October 1861 (considerably more Aboriginal people were killed in reprisals). Tom Wills later helped prepare the Aboriginal team that toured England in 1868.

A relatively democratic form of responsible government had been introduced in NSW in 1856 and the use of the Domain for private commercial purposes did not go without criticism from parliamentary radicals such as Daniel Dalgleish.9Sydney Mail, 18 January 1862, p. 3. That said, the tour was a resounding success and, in the end, some youths and patrons who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pay were admitted for free.10Frost, ‘The 1861–62 English Tour’, p. 58. Sydney Morning Herald, 31 January 1862, p. 4. While conflicting arguments upon public access to the Domain are quite interesting in terms of an emerging public sphere in post-penal Sydney, clearly it was an unsuitable long-term venue for first-class cricket. This portion of the Domain was then also used for stock grazing, military parades and other public spectacles—serious rioting resulting in the death of a child had occurred after an aborted balloon ascent in 1856.11For the rioting see Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 1856, p. 8. For land usage in the early 1860s see 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 couple of kilometres to the south. Despite the encroachment of modern transport infrastructure, the old cricket ground area of the Domain remains open parkland and is used (quite intensively) for lunchtime sport and general recreation.

Thomas Glaister’s Lost Panorama of the Domain Match

Sydney city, whose population in 1862 was about 56,000, 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.12For Sydney ward populations see Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1861, p. 5. Much 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. No doubt they sought to capitalise upon the real excitement that surrounded the tourists’ visit and the nascent sporting nationalism that spurred the comparatively large 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.13Sydney 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 cameras14Esau, ‘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 large scale likely was unprecedented in 1862. At the time Glaister’s work was claimed by the Sydney Morning Herald to be the largest photograph yet produced in NSW and, in the absence of the images, the paper’s description of the panorama deserves to be reproduced in some detail:

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.15Sydney 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.16Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1862, p. 5.

In addition to this gargantuan undertaking, 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 1870.17Evening News, 2 November 1870, p. 2. Note that Glaister (and most of his family) had emigrated to California in June 1869.

Freeman Brothers’ Surviving Image

Despite the loss of Glaister’s historically significant large-scale panorama, another photograph of the Domain match captured by the Freeman Brothers firm (Figure 2 below) survives in print form at the State Library of New South Wales.

Figure 2: Freeman Brothers, Cricket Match in the Domain, 1862. Source: State Library of NSW.

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 suggests that the English team was in the field at the time. However, the photograph was taken a considerable distance from the pitch and none of the distant players are identifiable in the surviving image. Very clearly, the aim of the photographer was to capture the event, rather than the match.

Sydney Domain looking west.
Figure 3: Sydney Domain looking west, 2018, approximating part of the view of the 1862 photograph by Freeman Brothers (Figure 2 above). Mature fig trees now predominate in this area.

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. Unfortunately, Freeman Brothers’ Sydney studio, including approximately two tons of glass negatives, was in late 1871 also destroyed by fire.18Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December 1871, p. 7. Nonetheless, another print of their surviving Domain match photograph reached England (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 4 below).19Illustrated London News, 10 May 1862, pp. 474–75.

Woodcut engraving of cricket match at Sydney Domain in 1862.
Figure 4: Illustrated London News, 10 May 1862.
Figure 5: S. T. Gill, The Grand Cricket Match, 1862. Source: State Library of NSW.

Interestingly, the noted colonial water colourist S.T. Gill painted a view of the same match (Figure 5 above), meaning that despite the loss of Glaister’s detailed photographic panorama, we have surviving visual representations of the first international match played in Sydney from both the western and eastern ends of the Domain ground (see map below). Gill took a very similar compositional approach to Freeman Brothers, capturing the spectators more vividly than the match. Often in financial straits, he likely was trying to capitalise upon the great interest in the contest as well. Five years earlier, Gill had composed a similar scene of the very first inter-colonial cricket match held in Sydney (albeit from the opposite eastern side of the Domain ground).20Sasha 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 may have represented a significant departure as the earliest cricket photographs generally were carefully staged due to the limitations of the technology: 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 photograph of a match between Victoria and NSW, taken at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1860 (Figure 5 below), is a good example of this technique (note the handwritten caption and see also this match report).

 
Figure 5: Barnett Johnstone, Cricket Match at Melbourne, 1860. Source: State Library of Victoria.

One of the English tourists’ earlier matches in Melbourne was interrupted in a similar manner in order to be photographed. However, detailed reports of the Sydney Domain match do not mention play being stopped for photographic purposes (some rampant dogs did invade the pitch on the first day, briefly halting proceedings).21Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 1862, p. 4. Ultimately, it’s not clear whether Glaister’s panoramic images were specially posed. That said, his additional stereoscopes of the match explicitly were advertised as ‘instantaneous’ and, possibly, were very early match play or action photographs.22Bell’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 visible in the near foreground do not appear to be 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 clarity until the early twentieth century.23Argus, 18 January 1862, p. 5; Sydney Morning Herald, 24 January 1862, p. 2. 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 6 below) is not the matchplay image it first seems to be, but rather a carefully staged photograph taken at very close quarters.24For Beldam and the Trumper photographs see Gideon Haigh, ‘Trumper, in light and shade‘, Cricket Monthly, September 2016.

Victor Trumper, Oval, c. 1905
Figure 6: 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, London, 1905.

The ordered structure and sometimes languid pace of cricket, of course, tended to facilitate 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 rather than active matchplay. Nonetheless, even in far-flung colonial Sydney 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 (lens, shutter and photographic process developments all played a part here).

Sport and sporting heroes long have been important constituents of Australian national identity (particularly in its masculine and conservative iterations) and cricket long has been the main source of truly national male sporting heroes.25See Jed Donoghue and Bruce Tranter, ‘On Bradman’s bat: Australian sporting heroes’, National Identities, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2018, pp. 143–56. One of the reasons for this ascendancy is that, unlike either of the Rugby codes or Australian Rules Football, cricket has always garnered mass support throughout Australia (despite exhibiting very real historic tensions in terms of class and race). While much attention has been paid to the international/Ashes contests between England and Australia inaugurated 1877–84, the 1861–62 English tour serves as an earlier reminder of the historic appeal of the game. Commercial photographers such as Thomas Glaister and the Freemans must have been keenly aware of the public’s 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. Although Thomas Glaister is now regarded as one of the leading colonial photographers of his day,26Esau, ‘Thomas Glaister’, p. 187. he emigrated to 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 until quite recently, recording generations of Sydneysiders (portraiture was their stock in trade). Cricket, of course, continues as the national men’s sport—in some part due to competitive traditions nurtured in 1861–62.

© 2018–2021, Andrew Messner. All rights reserved.