Windmill Down Cricket Ground


Broadhalfpenny Down was always an unlikely location for cricket ground; away from the village, on an exposed, uneven hilltop. Surprising perhaps that it was not until 1782 that the club acquired another ground. What was equally surprising was that this was also another hilltop ground, albeit a little closer to the village. This ground was at Windmill Down and it was here that they played their home matches for then onwards.

Unlike Broadhalfpenny Down however, there was no public house in the vicinity, but a club house was built which may well have served refreshments. This building is marked in a map of 1791, around what seems to be the south of the ground. There is no trace of this building now. No trace whatsoever.

The move to Windmill Down took place at the time when the centre of cricket was relocating to London. In fact, One of the principal patrons of the Hambledon Club, the Earl of Winchilsea, was instrumental in encouraging Thomas Lord to open a new ground in London in 1787, one which was to become the home of the famous Marylebone Cricket Club. Richard Nyren left the club in 1791 and the days of grand matches were nearly at an end. The Hambledon Club held its last meeting in 1796 attended by only three members. The club in fact reformed in 1800 and had several successful years, albeit reduced in status to a more normal village cricket club. This club itself suffered a decline in the 1820s and it seems that the last cricket took place there in 1836. The Cricket House was demolished and the field was ploughed over and forested in the 1880s. The summit is now split between arable land on the west and a large vineyard on the east.

After 1936, occasional games still took place involving the village, but the modern Hambledon Cricket Club properly traces its origins to a meeting in 1857. The ground adopted by the new club, one which is still used to this day, was at Ridge Meadow, Brook Lane, less than half a mile from Windmill Down, in the direction of Park House. The Club is thriving with a large youth membership, boys and girls, and strong representative teams.

Meanwhile, the Windmill Down ground is unmarked and all but forgotten. It takes finely-tuned sensibilities to detect the echo of the cricket of ages past.

Important matches

18 Aug 1782HampshireEngland
25 Sep 1782HampshireSussex
38 Jul 1783HampshireKent
426 Aug 1783HampshireEngland
519 Sep 1785HambledonFarnham
613 Jul 1786HampshireKent
73 Sep 1787HampshireKent
813 Aug 1788HampshireSurrey
913 Jul 1789HampshireKent
104 Aug 1790Earl of Darnley’s XIEarl of Winchilsea’s XI
1113 Jul 1791HampshireEngland
1216 Jul 1792HampshireSurrey
1319 Jul 1792HampshireBrighton
1412 Jul 1793EnglandSurrey
1520 Jul 1795Earl of Winchilsea’s XIR Leigh’s XI


Two maps of Windmill Down, adjusted so the scales are similar. The map on the right was published in 1810 by Colonel Mudge and shows ‘Cricketers Down’, the site of the ground. Pleasingly, the road layouts are fairly similar, and Old Park House is shown on both. The numbers 1 and 2 highlight my interpretation of key points; in essence, both maps have two road leading north at these numbers – I believe these are the same tracks although in the modern map, the road to the East look more prominent than it does in the ancient map, while the reverse applies re the road to the West. The ellipse on the modern map is my guess as to where the ground was, I have moved this towards the southern end of that marked on the ancient map so as to capture the brow of the hill. Maybe it should be more to the east as well, which would push it more onto the land of the present-day vineyard.
Here is a photo of Windmill Down as it is now, taken from the north, near the mark 1 in the maps above, on a rainy day The presumed location of the ground is towards the crown and the famous Hambledon Vineyard is to the left. I must add that this photo was taken at some personal cost, both in enduring the rain and suffering the derision of my companions (from the car) for engaging on such a supposedly pointless exercise. Barbarians!
And this unremarkable photograph was taken on a nicer day on the down itself, nearer the peak. Hereabouts the hill you see is a gentle dome; it is just about possible to imagine the stumps been pitched at the peak with slopes leading away in all directions. Above, we see the Western side of the down. The East and South is now planted with the vines of the vineyard.

Wines from the Hambledon Vineyard, occupying part of Windmill Down. Established in 1952, it is the oldest Commercial Vineyard in England. The bat and ball logo from Broadhalfpenny Down features on the neck label, emphasising the village’s connection with early cricket. In 2022 the vineyard produced over 400,000 bottles of premium quality sparkling wine; by 2035, they aim to produce one million bottles. With Climate change, the optimal area for growing the variety of grapes that produce complex sparkling wines is moving northwards and this factor, combined with the chalk-type and eco-sytem of the South Downs, mean that the wines of this area are becoming the equals of Champagne. This industry can be expect to grow and grow.

A tour of the Vineyard is certainly recommended.