The beginning of a New Year sparks a revolution in the minds of many to leave the house and take up a new hobby. Unfortunately, the beginning of a New Year also entails a lot of miserable weather, meaning that anyone wanting to try an outdoor sport will likely acquire a bit of mud. Of course, nobody wants this. The whole thing actually sounds like a perfectly designed excuse not to follow through on that new productive lifestyle.
During the early days of St Bride Foundation, we made sure that you couldn’t avoid one summer sport over the winter period. This was cricket.
The earliest evidence we can find of cricket being played here is from The Illustrated London News, published November 1905.
This illustration depicts ‘Women’s Day at St Bride Institute’. Play took place above the swimming pool, which was usually boarded up over the winter months. The stumps were made from black rubber and attached to a solid white board. This wicket system may appear rather simple, but in fact it was quite cutting edge for the time. Upon contact with the wicket, the ball would trigger an electronically connected bell.
It seems that St Bride Foundation eventually became one the best places in London for a game of indoor cricket. Certain features such as ‘remarkable electric lighting’ and ‘perfectly smooth felt and coconut matting’ ensured that players could actually improve on their game during the winter months.
This booklet (see right) was printed at the Foundation to advertise the sport. Inside there are many testimonials from publications such as The Manchester Guardian, The Gymnasium and The Sphere. Another source of praise was the professional players. Many of them used the swimming pool area to refine their skills whilst the fields were abandoned. Some of these players included the finest players around at the time. For instance, Frank Tarrent (pictured below) who scored almost 18,000 runs and over 1,500 wickets during his long career.
So it seems that back in the early 20th century, St Bride Foundation was a good place to be during the winter months. Fancy mechanisms, long opening times and some critical acclaim ensured that, at the very least, you couldn’t blame the weather for not playing a bit of sport.
Nowadays the swimming pool area is where you can find the Bridewell Theatre. We have a whole array of shows on this year. Click here for more info.