The Cricketers of Hambledon
celebrates one of cricket’s nursery slopes. Although the game was played earlier in other places, it is Hambledon in Hampshire where the legendary figures immortalised by innkeeper’s son, John Nyren, in ‘The Cricketers of My Time’, form part of its historical tapestry. Eton and Oxford-educated song-writer Peter Warlock, pseudonym for Philip Heseltine, and poet, journalist and wine merchant Bruce Blunt, leaders of the bohemian Eynsford set, collaborated on the ballad which was written at the instigation of ‘The London Mercury’ as a protest against the encroachment of football into the cricket season. On New Year’s Day, 1929, a match between the Hampshire Eskimos and the Broadhalfpenny Brigands was arranged on the elevated and windy Down. Later in the day, the local hunt cavorted across the pitch and dropped into the famous Bat and Ball Inn only to find the cricketers had drunk it dry. Full of bibulous gusto and enjoyable bombast, the song was originally scored for brass band and heard in that form at the end of the game. Warlock, who had a predilection for riding naked on his motorbike, was apparently not present—it was too cold.
from notes by David Allen © 2011