Artillery Ground

The Artillery Ground is centrally located in London and is situated In Finsbury, Islington. The construction on the ground was finished in 1730 and was last used in 1778 to host a first-class match. It belongs to the HAC - Honorable Artillery Company since 1638 and is presently surrounded by several office buildings as well as the Company Headquarters.

Since 1498, around 11 acres of land area from the huge 23-acre Bunhill Fields was kept reserved for shooting and archery practice. Later on, an 8-acre plot of land mass was granted to the Artillery Company which was converted to a cricket stadium. This ground is well known in the history of cricket and is the original home of the London Cricket Club. Until 1760s, before the creation of the Hambledon Club, this venue was the featured host of all cricket matches in London.

In the 18th century, the Artillery Ground was referred to as the Old Artillery Ground and was situated between the Chiswell Street and the Bunhill Fields with the later one being a cemetery. It was used not just for cricket but also for other forms of entertainment and sports. The earliest reference of cricket being played at the ground is in August 1730 when London played against Surrey. Unfortunately, no other details of the match have been recorded. Pretty soon the ground became a prominent venue for cricket matches in London with five matches played in 1731. By 1740s, the ground had gained much popularity and was for the next twenty years held the reputation which was at par to the Lord’s Cricket Ground.

In those times, single wicket cricket was the most popular form of cricket that was played between teams. These fixtures used to attract huge crowds just like nowadays and was a sport which was dominated by gamblers involving large proportions of money.

The keepers of the ground were in charge of maintaining order on the ground at an ongoing match. The very first known citation of the keepers is in The Craftsman dated 26th February, 1732. The most charismatic and popular keeper of the ground was George Smith who had several disputes with the HAC while serving his tenure at the ground. In later history, Vincent Lunardi flew a balloon from the Artillery Ground in September, 1784. This was the first such flight in England.

In 1857, the first photograph of the ground was taken by Roger Fenton and was named, A Cricket Match Played the 25th July 1857. It displays a match between the Hunsdonbury Cricket Club and the Royal Artillery. As of today, the ground is used for football and rugby games for the winters and for cricket matches in summer. HAC also rents the ground for special events and parties as a source of revenue. Local schools are permitted to organize sporting activities on the ground by the HAC. The ground also remains available for training purposes for the HAC Regiment.

Several trees adorn the Artillery Ground periphery that were planted back in 1996 and then again in 2000 to welcome the new millennium. There are seven magnolia grandiflora at the front of the Armoury House which were donated by the Royal Family members.

Abhay burande
Sports Pundit member

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