When it comes to cricket, Bristol has some fascinating stories to tell - birthplace of one of the game's true greats, home of the largest score ever made and the ship that carried England’s first international cricket tour. 

Gloucestershire County Cricket Club 

Bristol is home to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, playing their fixtures in the city at The Seat Unique Stadium, located a few minutes off Gloucester Road – one of Bristol’s best known streets.  It’s a friendly club, welcoming fans from across the globe to international fixtures, county championship, one day and T20 fixtures. 

Its location means spectators are spoilt for pubs, bars and restaurants either before or after the match (as well as great refreshments being available at the ground).  

The Cricket World Cup came to Bristol in 2019, and you can see a statue of a cricketer with flags of all the countries who took part painted on it by locals at the time. The statue is close to the Grace Road gates entrance. The stadium also reflects the culture of Bristol with lots of street art around the ground, including city scenes and portraits of club legends. 

The club has had many famous faces play for them in the past, including former England wicket keeper Jack Russell and one of the all-time greats of the game – W G Grace. 

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Image - The Seat Unique Stadium

W. G. Grace 

One of the greatest cricketers and sportsmen of all time, WG Grace was born in Downend, just a short distance from central Bristol.  Between 1865 and 1908, he played first-class cricket for a record-equalling 44 seasons, and during this captained England, Gloucestershire, the Gentlemen, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and several other teams. 

There is a blue plaque at 15 Victoria Square, Clifton commemorating his residence at the address and a couple of pubs celebrating this famous son. 

"Without WG Grace, cricket might have remained a pastime rather than a great international sport." -former Wisden Cricket Almanac editor Matthew Engel 

There are  also two pubs in Bristol named after W. G. Grace, The Grace (short walk from ground itself) and The WG Grace on Whiteladies Road

Brunel’s SS Great Britain and the first international cricket tour 

Brunel’s SS Great Britain is well known as a ship of engineering firsts - at her launch in 1843, she was the largest ship in the world as well as the 1st screw-propelled, ocean-going, iron-hulled steam ship – a revolutionary vessel. The archives, held in the Brunel Institute, hold records of another first – a sporting one. 

Visitors to the ship, and to the Institute, can see a photograph taken in Australia in 1862. It shows a group of earnest looking men - the first ‘All England’ cricket team to tour Australia. The SS Great Britain played a key role in sporting history – she took the cricket team to tour Australia over 150 years ago in 1861. 

The tour was the brainchild of two Melbourne-based businessmen, caterers and wine merchants Felix William Spiers and Christopher Pond. Having failed to persuade Charles Dickens to conduct a lecture tour of Australia the two Englishmen turned their attention to cricket. The sport’s popularity was growing in Australia, so Spiers and Pond invited a team of leading English cricketers to tour the country. The tour’s phenomenal success changed sporting history and is widely recognised as sparking Australia’s passion for the game. 

It was also groundbreaking for other reasons – this was first tour to receive commercial sponsorship, from Spiers and Pond Ltd. And organisers first coined the cricketing term ‘test match’ to describe the games played during the tour. 

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Record score – AEJ Collins 

In 1899, 13-year-old schoolboy, A.E.J. Collins scored the highest ever recorded cricket score of 628 not out, playing in a junior school house cricket match at Clifton College between Clarke's House and North Town House. Taking place over four afternoons, the excitement was such that updates were reported in the Times. The record stood for over 115 years until it was broken in India in 2016. 

Collins never played professionally, instead joined the army and was tragically killed on Nov 11, 1914, at the First Battle of Ypres. 

The match was played on an outfield off Guthrie Road, Clifton. Now named Collins Piece, a small plaque commemorates this incredible achievement. 

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