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To the manor born.

Byline: Keith Newton

In this cricket mad summer when maidens have been bowled over by men in white, there is only one dark blot on the sunny landscape. England lost the first Test at Lord's.

It was only a brief set-back and the nation's newly declared interest has brought the crowds hurrying to other cricket grounds and to Lord's other place.

This lies not in London but just down the A19 at Thirsk. Here, at 14-16 Kirkgate just off the Market Place, is the Thirsk Museum which has a very famous place in cricketing lore.

As the blue plaque outside proudly proclaims ... "Birthplace of Thomas Lord 1755 founder of Lord's cricket ground."

How appropriate that the upsurge of interest in the national summer game has come in the 250th anniversary year of his birth.

"He was a very shrewd businessman," says Cooper. "We have the only known document bearing his signature.

"It's a receipt for arrears of Lord Mulgrave who owned land in North Yorkshire. It's dated 1792 and he owed pounds 2 2s in old money, his subscription to the MCC.

"They were originally known as the White Conduit Club, had no ground of their own and played on the equivalent of the local rec but it was regarded as infra dig for the aristocracy to play in front of the great unwashed.

"Thomas Lord was asked to find them a ground. He leased land called Dorset Fields near London's Dorset Square where the first match was played in 1787. The ground became known as Lord's Cricket Ground and the Marylebone Cricket Club was founded.

"When that was sold for redevelopment in 1809, Thomas moved the ground to a new site in Regent's Park.

"Five years later when the Regent's Canal was cut through that, he moved to a site in St John's Wood, the Lord's Cricket Ground where the MCC has remained ever since."

They might have moved on to somewhere else, however, if Thomas had had his way.

"He was intending to sell it but he either retired from the MCC or was retired. Legend has it that on each move, Thomas rolled up the turf and relaid it on the new ground."

Thomas made his money through the liquor business and he cunningly made sure his bank balance was boosted by his cricketing friends. How?

"The original entry to Lord's was through his wine and spirit shop, possibly on St John's Wood Road," explains Cooper.

Thomas came from a labouring family and normally anyone from such a background would never have achieved his exalted heights.

"His father William Lord was a member of a northern land-owning family and may have been a Roman Catholic," says Cooper. "He was certainly a supporter of the Stuart cause.

"The story goes that William Lord was dispossessed and forced to work on land he once owned but there's no evidence of any land owned here by William Lord.

"He got married just along the road at South Kilvington where I live and we think he came and worked for John Bell who was the Lord of the Manor here.

"The regulations at the time said that if you were working in a parish to which you did not belong, you were the responsibility of your home parish.

"Elderly people would be wheeled to their own parish and dumped there. That's why it was important to know where you were born.

"That would have been the end of the story but other records show Thirkleby parish paid his coach fare to London. Normally labourers would have been expected to walk.

"They paid his fare and paid for letters from him.

"They paid the rent on his cottage and they paid the fare for his wife Rachel and their family to go to London to join him.

"If he was a political liability, he would have been a bit of a hot potato and they would have wanted rid of him.

"The family next turn up at Diss in Norfolk where Thomas went to school and there's now a Lord Road in Diss.

"I tell our visitors 'Thomas left here and set off for fame and fortune'. He made his money as a wine and spirit merchant and was a useful cricketer.

"He was groundsman and secretary of the MCC and we have sketches of him playing in a pig-tail.

"Our claim to fame is that he was born here.

"We can't claim he ever played cricket for Yorkshire and we don't know if he ever came back here but he was obviously aware of his background because of a punchbowl in London.

It emerged in the Eighties and was sold at auction in 1984.

"It's sort of chinaware and made in the Far East. It's the one, only known example that has a cricketing scene.

"The Chinese artist obviously had no idea what he was painting and all the cricketers have coolie hats."

How is this connected to Thomas Lord and Thirsk? "There's a ship on the inside," says Cooper, "and if you look closely, its name is Thirzk which is obviously Thirsk.

"The only person likely to have the money to pay for this and have an interest in Thirsk is Thomas Lord."

Thomas retired to Hampshire, where he died in 1832. His grave is in the churchyard in the village of West Meon.
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Title Annotation:Column Friday Interview
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2005
Words:894
Previous Article:Saying it with flowers.
Next Article:And they're off.

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