Eagar, Kelly, Lovitt, Beldham – their images seize the vacant mind – but in the van of cricket photographers is Roger Fenton (1819 – 69) whose pioneering work in the Crimea is justly better known.
On 25th July 1857 Royal Artillery played Hunsdonbury and Fenton was there to capture probably the first photograph of a cricket match.
A visit to the Great Exhibition in 1851 sparked a fascination in photography and, as a man of means, he was able to visit Paris to learn the calotype techniques of Gustave le Gray.
In 1855 Fenton took his assistant, Marcus Sparling, a servant and his photographic van to the Crimea. From 350 usable large format negatives, 312 prints were made and exhibited in London where they were seized on by an Establishment keen to counter the revelations of incompetence published by The Times.
A restless pioneer, Fenton dabbled in the art for a few more years before giving it up entirely in 1862. Not, however, before capturing forever the moment when these ardent cricketers, many of them sporting stylish double teapots, waited impatiently for the bowler to begin his run up.
“Oh, get on with it Carruthers, stop playing to the camera!” “But I tell you I want another slip, Psmith. Why can’t I have a second slip? I think I could get him if I had another slip.”
The Fentons owned Dutton Hall and much property in and around Hurst Green. This is a photograph taken in 1859 of a bobbin mill in Shire Lane where it dips down into the beech lined Dene before rising steeply to the village – a demanding pull for old Dobbin harnessed to the van.