Cheltenham Cricket Festival is the longest running Cricket Festival on an out ground (Festival Ground) in the world. It was started by James Lillywhite in 1872 with the first match being played against Surrey and was won by Gloucestershire. No other Cricket Festival in the world has been played on the same ground for that length of time and no other cricket festival in the world lasts for twelve days or more.
In 1872 an invitation came for the team to play at Cheltenham College. The match was organised by Lillywhite, who at the time was the cricket administrator and coach at the college. He was originally from Sussex and had come to Cheltenham College in 1855 at the age of 30. He lived with his family in Montpellier, in a building immediately opposite Le Petit Blanc Brasserie. The family occupied the upper floors of the building and on the ground floor, Lillywhite ran a sports shop. He also founded “Cricketers Companion”, a rival to Wisden.
It was originally customary for a band to play at all matches at both Clifton and Cheltenham College Grounds, although in 1874 a motion was put to the committee for this to be discontinued but was defeated by one vote and the band continued to attend and play.
In 1873 Lillywhite was allowed £10 to manage another County Game at the College Ground and, in 1874, he was paid £45 and £35 for expenses. By 1878 the annual Cheltenham game had proved so popular the College Council gave its permission for the occasion to be extended to two matches, and so the “Cheltenham Week” had arrived. Lillywhite was consequently paid £120 for the organisational duties, including his local expenses.
In 1878 the committee obtained tenders “for putting canvas around the College Ground”, and fringe events also took place. These included a banquet in honour of WG and his team at The Plough Hotel.
In 1879 the County Committee suggested that all five Gloucestershire home matches were to be played in Bristol but the majority voted against this motion and the Festival continued.
James Lillywhite sadly died in 1882 but his son-in-law, Edwin Lawrence, took over the Festival organisation and successfully continued in his footsteps. The following year the entire proceeds from the Festival were handed to James’ widow in recognition of the esteem in which her late husband was held during the early years at Cheltenham.
In the late 1800’s the committee took over the organisation of the festival and Edwin Lawrence was made an honorary life member of the Club. In 1888 three matches were organised to be held at Cheltenham, but one of the games was played at Charlton Park, not at the College.
In 1898 WG played his last Festival matches at the age of 50 and scored his last century for Gloucestershire at the College Ground.
The Cheltenham Cricket Festival continues to be held each year at the Cheltenham College Ground, amongst the magnificent college surroundings.
We look forward to welcoming Members, Supporters and Hospitality Guests to this years Visit Cayman Islands Cheltenham Cricket Festival.
Location – The postcode for the festival is GL53 7AB
Train - Cheltenham Spa Station is located approximately 1 mile from the ground. Contact 08457 484950 or click here to plan your journey.
Bus - Cheltenham and District L from town centre. There is a bus link from Cheltenham Spa Station to the town centre.
Car - From North and West: from M5 junction 11 take A40 (east) towards Cheltenham, continue on A40 (Gloucester Road then Lansdown Road), at Island Filling Station turn right on to Andover Road. Go over traffic lights into Suffolk Road. Go over traffic lights into Thirlestaine Road.
From South: from Cirencester (A435) continue to junction with A40, turn left on to A40 and continue on this road to Cheltenham College.
From East: follow A40 towards Cheltenham town centre, the College is on this road.
Parking - Parking is at the College Lawn Entrance of the ground, please note, this car park can only be used if a parking pass has been purchased.
Additional parking is available at Reeves Field which is around the corner from the College Ground. Parking for a whole day at Reeves Field is only £10.
If you have any questions about the Festival please give us a call on 0117 910 8010 and we will be happy to help.
Ground Map -