Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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John Wisden and Co

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September 1922.

of Fitzgerald Works, Mortlake, London, SW14. Telephone: Putney 5181-3. Cables: "Wisdencric, Esheen, London". (1929)

of Penshurst, Kent. Telephone: Penshurst 370-1. (1947)

1826 John Wisden was born on 5 September, who's parents, William and Mary Wisden, had seven children. The family lived at Crown Street, Brighton. His brother William, who was six years older, set up in business as a sports outfitters (which has only recently closed). Their sister, Johanna, later inherited John’s business.

1848/49 He began his business activities when, with George Parr, he leased a field on the edge of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and levelled the site, intending it to be used as a cricket field.

1850, he began selling cricket equipment to the players at Leamington Spa, and this was the birth of John Wisden and Co. That year he was the finest cricketing all-rounder in England. He was given the nickname of “The Little Wonder”. On 5 July he performed a feat that has never been equalled in first class cricket. Playing at Lord’s for The North versus The South, he dismissed all ten South batsmen in their second innings, all clean bowled. Amongst his victims were his Sussex friends and colleagues James Dean, Tom Box and John Lillywhite. Wisden was playing for the North because he was based at Leamington Spa. Ten days earlier he had scored a century playing for Sussex versus Kent when Box and Lillywhite were his team mates.

1852 John Wisden lead a breakaway from the All England Eleven, objecting to the attitudes of the manager, William Clarke, and formed the United England Eleven with the assistance of James Dean. Wisden was aware of the financial insecurity of many of his fellow professionals and established a benevolent fund (which still runs today) to help those on hard times. He arranged with Parr their two elevens should play in what became one of the principal fixtures of the season, each Whitsun. Proceeds from the match went to the benevolent fund. Parr and Wisden also organised the first ever overseas cricket tour, to United States and Canada, in the autumn of 1859.

1860 John missed all of the season due to an injury sustained playing racquets. He returned in to play in 1861 but managed only eight first class matches – half his usual number and then only nine more in the next two seasons.

1863 At the end of the season he retired from cricket and concentrated on his business interests, now well established in London. In 1849 he had been engaged to be married to Annie Parr, sister of his partner George. Sadly Annie died before they could be married and John died a bachelor.

The company were initially equipment suppliers, but, in 1863, became involved in publishing when John launched his Wisden’s Cricketers Almanack. At that time it was just one of several such publications, but it is now the oldest continuously published sports handbook. The Almanack is now probably more famous than the man himself.

1884 John Wisden died of cancer at his London home on 5 April. He was 57 years old.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Cricket Bats and Balls. Tennis Rackets and Balls. Badminton and Squash Rackets. Hockey Sticks and Balls. Footballs. (Stand No. B.37) [1]

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Badminton, Lawn Tennis, Boxing, Squash, Cricket, Table Tennis, Football, Shove Halfpenny, Fives, Water Polo, Hockey. (Olympia, 1st Floor, Stand No. F.1826) [2]

John Wisden and Co are still trading today, though no longer making equipment. Their interest lies in publishing, The Almanack, a monthly cricket magazine and the major cricket website. The book is often referred to as “The Cricketers’ Bible”.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Middle Street Primary School (Brighton) Webpage