By Brian Maelik – ACT
For those not familiar with the term “cricket buckles”, it refers to 1850’s to late 1890’s belt buckles with a cricket motif or cricket emblem on them. In general, cricket buckles were an ephemeral (short live) item. Made from a thin brass plate, their locking mechanism of a buckle plate tongue and belt loop was ideally suited for the often-colourful India rubber elastic belts of the time period.
These cricket buckles may also have had a phrase of the day, a single word, or the name of a famous player. A few may have also had an English registry mark on them as well. From a search of past UK registered design records, the 1st registered design was by Edwin Ade, 11 January 1854 and the last by Richard Ford, 23 August 1872. In the mid 1800’s cricket was the sport of the day for Australia, Canada, England and the United States. Its these countries were metal detectorists regularly find cricket buckles.
It’s also a misconception, that belts with a cricket buckle, where only worn by cricketers – not true! They were used by anyone who wanted a belt to hold their pants up! Makes sense doesn’t it? And it’s also evident from photographs from the mid 1800’s.
Now a lot of cricket buckle designs have “Grace” on them, but what about cricket buckles with Australian cricketers? So far, I have found only three examples. As we know, in 1868, the first Australian Aboriginal Cricket team toured England. The following “England Canada Australia” cricket buckle would be from the time period of that tour.
This cricket buckle depicts an English and Aboriginal cricketer and lists the names: “Jupp”, “Pooley”, “Willsher”, “Lillywhite”, “Bullocky”, “Mullagh”, and “Cuzens”. It lists the names of 3 players from Australia’s first tour of England in 1868: Harry Bullocky, Johnny Mullagh, and Johnny Cuzens. It is the earliest identified cricket buckle to list Australian cricket players.
This “England Australia” cricket buckle lists the teams and scores of the 1st official test match in England against the Australia team in 1880. It also lists three brothers playing together in a Test match: W.G., E.M., and G.F. Grace. During the match, G.F. Grace developed a cold as he was exposed to wet weather over the next few days, and it escalated to pneumonia. He died, aged 29, only two weeks after playing for England.
This same cricket buckle was also mentioned on page 4, 1st column, 2nd last paragraph in the Melbourne Cricket Club newsletter, “The Yorker” of 2007/2008.
In an article written by the editor of the Cricket Memorabilia Society No 14 March 1992 it is told how an Aborigine 1000 miles north of Perth found a buckle early last century and the theory is that it was possibly a memento of a gold prospector. As well as motifs of the lion and kangaroo, the design incorporated scores of the first Test match played in England and so was probably produced for team members of both sides in that 1880 match. It is noted in the article that the buckle was given to the East Molesey club in Surrey by the visiting Australians in 1953.”
I contacted the Surry Cricket club, and they did have this buckle in the past, but it was sold off in the 1980s/1990s when the club was cleaning out their collection. This cricket buckle somehow ended up in the private collection of Alex Picker!
The “Spofforth The Bowler” cricket buckle is the only buckle identified so far that specifically mentions a single Australian cricketer. The Ashes legend started after the ninth Test, played in 1882 at the Oval in London. Fred Spofforth, “The Demon Bowler”, was instrumental in Australia’s 1882 victory over England with 14 wickets for 90. Was this cricket buckle in honour of Spofforth for that event?
More great buckles and stories in up coming articles. For those interested in looking at “the buckle book“, please click on the link. Please note, that due to it being too large to preview in a web browser, the book has to be downloaded manually to access and view I’m also very happy to receive any pictures you have of your own cricket buckle finds to help grow this free resource! – Cheers Brian!