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The cricketing Packes

Joan Shaw

Men and boys have been playing some form of cricket ever since they have been able to whittle a bat and roll a ball from a clump of mud and sheep's wool, and no doubt village versus village matches have been held from time immemorial. By the middle of the sixteenth century the game had become known as cricket (more or less, there are several spellings), the name being derived from the Flemish kricke or stick.

Matches were organised by the wealthy and influential: the dukes and earls, the lords of the manor, the estate owners. Teams were made up of members of the aristocracy, local gentry, yeomen, craftsmen, labourers and servants. A considerable amount of money could be involved with huge bets laid on important matches; bribery and corruption were not unknown and affluent patrons employed talented players as their grooms or gardeners.

The first known County match took place in 1709 between Kent and Hampshire, and the first record of cricket in Leicestershire was 1776, when the Leicester and Nottingham Journal gave notice of a game to be played between Barrow and Mountsorrel. In May 1780 the Journal advertised a meeting at the White-Heads Inn in Leicester 'to give gentlemen an opportunity of becoming members of a cricket club founded upon eligible principles' and in August of that year a game was played on St Margaret's Pasture between Leicester and Loughborough. From then onwards the press regularly reported on matches between local teams.

On 22 September 1820, a match was played between 'Leicester New Club' and 'Leicestershire Gentlemen' and among those listed on the county side were three of the sons of Charles James Packe of Prestwold Hall: 28-year-old Charles William, George Hussey, 24, and Edmund, 21.

All five of Charles James Packe's sons were enthusiastic cricketers and sixteen years later, on 22 August 1836, Edmund was still representing the 'Leicestershire Gentleman', playing this time alongside his two younger brothers, James and Augustus, against the 'Gentlemen of Derbyshire'.

Nor was this the end of the cricketing Packes. Edmund's grandson, Lt Col Edmund Christopher Packe of the Royal Fusiliers, played for the Middlesex County Cricket team and captained the 'Leicestershire Gentleman'. He was also vice-president of the Leicestershire County Cricket Club and all three of his sons – Robert Julian, Charles William Christopher and Michael St John – were renowned cricketers and played for the county.

Late nineteenth century cricket match between Sussex and Kent at Brighton.

England versus Australia at the Oval. Probably 1890s.

At Burton in 1891 the Duke of Somerset had a fine wicket laid out for the village team on his park and provided them with a complete set of cricket equipment, in Loughborough Mr Paget organised several matches that were played on Southfields Park, and in August 1895 a flower show was held on the cricket ground of Stanford Hall. We can find no direct reference to a ground at Prestwold but there was a Prestwold cricket team and in July 1919 there was a sports day on the park which began with a cricket match. Many of the local landowners had their own cricket field, the Packes surely would have been among them.

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