Barry Phillips and Stephen Hill’s book on Somerset cricketers 1876-1890

SOMERSET County Cricket Club was founded in a smoke-filled room in 1875.

For years not much was known about the pioneers of cricket in the county. No longer.

In their latest book Somerset Cricketers 1876-1890: The Rise to First-Class Status, Stephen Hill and Barry Phillips offer entertaining biographies of the 84 pioneers who turned out for the county in the early days.

The 307-page hardback book is profusely illustrated with early photographs and facsimiles of the players’ autographs.

It’s being published in a strictly limited edition of just 110 copies, signed by the co-authors and priced at £25 (including UK p&p). It is only available from the authors and anyone wanting a copy should e-mail Barry Phillips at bpwg@sky.com.

The two authors, both brought up and educated in the Taunton area, had previously charted the lives of all the men to play first class cricket for Somerset up to 2000.

Barry said: “We expect to sell out quickly, and we hope that most of the copies will be snapped up by genuine Somerset fans, who’ll treasure the book.

“The idea was sparked when I was approached by someone who wanted to know why his ancestor, Robert Savery, had been omitted from our previous books on Somerset cricketers.

“It was because Savery had played all his 14 matches for Somerset when they weren’t a first-class county.

“Still a schoolboy on debut, he’d broken every Taunton School batting record and his achievements would stand for 125 years until Somerset’s current captain, Tom Abell, came along.

“I thought: Savery and his teammates deserve to have their story told.”

Apart from a few well-worn scorebooks, still retained by Somerset Cricket Museum, there wasn’t much to go on at first, but Barry and Stephen managed to piece the stories together, bit by bit, with reference to historical documents and family albums.

Stephen said: “We met some rogues and many larger-than-life characters along the way,

“Some of the tales of fortunes gained and lost, fraud, assaults and suicides are remarkable.”

Barry added: “We feel a sense of satisfaction that we’ve unearthed the life story of every man who’s played for Somerset up to the year 2000. That’s well over 650 men.

“And we’ve uncovered some wonderful stories and some evocative images.”

Somerset County Gazette | News