Dr Jill Adam on county connections as Yorkshire County Cricket Club celebrates its 150th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 10:06 18 January 2013 | UPDATED: 19:54 28 April 2016

Yorkshire County Cricket Club celebrates its 150th anniversary this year Photograph by VAUGHN RIDLEY/SWPIX.COM

Yorkshire County Cricket Club celebrates its 150th anniversary this year Photograph by VAUGHN RIDLEY/SWPIX.COM

Dr Jill Adam brings to light a range of sometimes surprising Yorkshire connections, made at home and abroad.

It’s this year that the great Yorkshire institution the Yorkshire County Cricket Club celebrates its150th anniversary and is my starting point for a journey that will call on South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Canada, a stately home and a number of well-known and lesser well-known references.


Cricket in Yorkshire may be traced back to as early as 1751 but as many will already know, the county club was launched in Sheffield on January 8th 1863. The Mayor of Sheffield, T.R. Barker (ironically a Derbyshire man by birth) was elected first president; George Padley was the first secretary and M.J. Ellison the first treasurer. However, given the significance of any 150th anniversary but of this great club in particular, I am conscious that much will be written in celebration across a range of popular media and so I will draw our connection from the generic theme of Yorkshire cricket and link us to our first destination.


In that same year, on September 30th 1863, a meeting took place at Harker’s Hotel in York, leading to the formation of the Yorkshire Gentleman’s Cricket Club. The Hon G E Lascelles became the first chairman, Lord Londesborough was elected vice-president, the Lords Feversham and Wenlock also agreed to join and Earl Fitzwilliam became the first president. Two hundred members enrolled and a seven-acre site behind Bootham Asylum was levelled for the ground. The club, as recorded in Lillywhite’s Cricket Annual, ‘challenged all comers’, a pioneering spirit perhaps first set by the club’s president Earl Fitzwilliam.

Part of the Rockingham/Fitzwilliam dynasty, William Thomas Spencer Wentworth-Fitzwilliam KG was the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam, a liberal politician and father to 14 children. Sadly, he was predeceased by his eldest son, the politician and explorer William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton, who died aged just 37 in 1877. Although his titles subsequently passed on to his grandson, William, his son Viscount Milton displayed a pioneering Yorkshire spirit as well as providing a connection to another 150th sporting anniversary.

However, before proceeding with this connection, we should pause to take in the splendour of the family seat, Wentworth Woodhouse, in the village of Wentworth, South Yorkshire. A Grade I listed country house, once ‘one of the great Whig political palaces’ and still one of the largest private homes in Europe. The house is not open to the public but the grounds and its vista are accessible to all.

Milton was born with epilepsy but this did little to prevent his pioneering spirit from flourishing. In 1862 he arrived in Quebec City and 150 years ago in 1863, together with his travelling partner Dr Walter Cheadle Butler (later to become Dean of Medicine at Great Ormond Street Hospital) became the first tourists to pass through the Yellowhead Pass of the Canadian Rockies.

The overall purpose and extent of his travels is captured in the preface to their co-authored book of the expedition The North-West Passage by Land: ‘one of the principle objects… has been to draw attention to the vast importance of establishing a highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the British possessions; not only as establishing a connection between the different English colonies in North America, but also affording a means of more rapid and direct communication with China and Japan.’

It is this spirit of making connections that will be the theme of each column, linking celebrations and locations of interest and intrigue to applaud and enjoy our great Yorkshire heritage.

Dr Jill Adam is executive director of Level Partnerships and chairman of Harrogate International Festivals. She is also a trustee of the Archbishop of York’s Youth Trust and a school governor.

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