As Sussex prepares to start the celebrations of their 175th anniversary with the Hove Festival of Cricket next week it is time to remember George Leopold Langdon, without whom there might not have been a Sussex County Cricket Club at all.
It was Langdon, as its first secretary, who understood the need for a county club. Cricket had of course been played in Sussex for many years prior to the formation of Sussex CCC in 1839. Long before then, according to historian Roger Packham, strong Sussex teams had taken on sides such as MCC, England and Kent with mixed results.
Private individuals promoted these games, arguably the most famous in 1827 when Sussex bowling (i.e. round-arm) was tested against the under-arm style prevalent then for the first time.
In 1832 the Sussex Cricket Fund was established to finance county matches and continued until 1853. This was not the county club and there is actually no record of the club’s formal establishment. Minute books only began in 1880.
But what does exist is a circular sent by Langdon on 1st March 1839 advising its recipient of his election as secretary and inviting him (it could have been a her, but unlikely) to a dinner at the Royal York Hotel on 2nd April. A few days later the Sussex Agricultural Express no less reported on the dinner and reminded its readers that the club had been formed at the end of the previous season, suggesting a start date in 1838.
One of Sussex’s earliest historians Alfred Gaston wrote in 1894 that the club was formed on 1st March 1839. He may have gleaned that information from Langdon’s letter.
Langdon, it seems, was something of an all-rounder. As well as dipping his quill to take care of the club’s administration, he also played for Sussex as a left-handed batsman and could apparently write a tune or two. At that first dinner he and another player, Charles Taylor, sang two songs composed by Langdon “which were much admired and highly applauded,” according to a report in the local paper.
As part of next week’s celebrations, there is a Real Ale festival during the matches against Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire. Surely someone will raise a toast to George Leopold Langdon, the first ‘CEO’ of Sussex cricket.