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FAMOUS PUPILS - JOHN 'LITTLE WONDER' WISDEN

Those interested in county cricket, and most Middle Street boys are, will remember the name of JOHN WISDEN, the 'Little Wonder' - he was only 5ft. 4 1/2 in. high (and weighed only 7 stone)- who made his first appearance for Sussex in 1846, in the match v. M.C.C. when he captured six wickets. In 1850 in the North v. South match, his off-break proved so effective that, in the second innings, he took the whole of the ten wickets, all clean bowled. He shone as a batsman too, at times, for in the same year, 1850, he made100 runs against Kent at Tunbridge Wells, and in 1855, 148 against Yorkshire. Wisden became a pupil at the Union Schools in 1837, at the age of 11.

The Middle Street School, Brighton, 1805-1905 by Geo. Haffenden   p. 40

"John Wisden was for years one of the best all-round men in England, being a splendid fast bowler with a beautiful length, a grand little batsman, and an excellent fellow withal. Wisden was known as the 'pendulum' player, from the way in which he swung his bat backwards and forwards."
                                                                                                                          from Kings of Cricket by Richard Daft

Wisden is still the only man in history to have achieved the feat of bowling out an entire team. For many years (until the mid-1990s) there was a Wisden's sports shop with family connections, in Duke Street just round the corner from our school.  Brighton bus number 863 is named after him (more details
here) and he has also been commemorated on an Alderney stamp (see above).

   COPY 1/119 folio 199

From Stephen Baldwin, who has been researching the life of Wisden for some years, we have received the above portrait and the following information:

"We have been able to correct the name of JW's father from Tom to William, his mother was Mary. It would seem that the impression of JW being from a family of limited means may not be accurate. There is emerging evidence of him belonging to an extended family that in the first half of the nineteenth century was bust developing that part of Brighton that lies to the North of Western Road and the West of the present Queen's Street. They also appear to have owned the land on which Churchill Square now stands, when it was a farm-yard.

In JW's first year at Middle Street he played for a cricket team that we would now call Brighton Schools Under-14 XI. In that team were two boys called John and James Lillywhite. The Lillywhites were a family from Westhamnet, near Chichester, and whose name is perpetuated in the sports equipment firm. JW was at one stage a business partner of another Lillywhite, Fred and his brother a Brighton Sports Outfitters that has only just closed."          

Mr Baldwin has sent a more detailed biography of Wisden which you can read here

A new book about Wisden - "The Little Wonder" - is being published in April 2003. To quote from the publishers ( Bloomsbury):
"Through the telling of Wisden's story, we also glimpse the history of English, and world, cricket. The book is a window onto the game's most charismatic characters, its high points, lows and political storms. In The Little Wonder Robert Winder traces the central role the game has played in national life for so long. The book's 150th anniversary in 2013 is the ideal time to tell the extraordinary story of Wisden’s – and cricket’s – journey from Victorian times to the modern world. New every year, it feels as though it has been with us for ever."


Wisden went on to set up his famous sports equipment business and in 1864, founded the 'Wisden Cricketers' Almanac' which still bears his name today. This almanac has appeared every year since, and is known as the cricketers’ bible, containing every detail anyone could wish to know about the game. An 1864 edition can now fetch up to £25,000.
For a history of Wisden and his company  click
here

                                                         
 


Wisden (seated on chair on left) with the England cricket team, on board ship at Liverpool, setting off for America (1859).

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