History of the Devon Dumplings

The genesis of the Dumplings lies in a discussion in 1901 between three friends who were then all undergraduates at Exeter College, Oxford:  M.B.Baines and E.H.Banks, who had both been at Exeter School, and Lewis Cruwys, who had been ‘one of the best bats at Winchester’ and was later to play a leading part in the Club’s early seasons, including scoring the first Dumplings century.  

Their idea was ‘to get together a bunch of good fellows, who were also good cricketers and have a tour each year, playing important clubs in the county and in nearby counties’.  They mentioned this plan to Colonel James Fellowes, Honorary Secretary of the Devon County Cricket Club, who put it into effect by calling a meeting in Exeter on January 24th 1902 at which the Club was formally inaugurated, rules agreed and a committee elected, with Fellowes as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer.  Fellowes, who is thus generally regarded as our Founder, had played first class cricket for Kent and Hampshire, been Secretary of Hampshire CCC, in which capacity he had been responsible for buying and establishing the Southampton ground where the county played until 2001, and also founded our sister club the Hampshire Hogs.

The Dumplings archives, kept in five fine leather volumes, record four matches in the first season of 1902, all played on the County round at Exeter which was also newly created that season.  The opponents were United Services (Plymouth), A.H.Gibb’s X1 and two clubs played almost every year since, the Free Foresters and the Somerset Stragglers.  In 1903 the list expanded to 11 games, including two more opponents faced ever since, Blundells School and Incogniti.

Throughout our history our opponents have  fallen into five main categories: local  clubs, such as Exeter, North Devon, Seaton and Sidmouth; Devon public schools – AllHallows, Blundells, Exeter, Kelly College, West Buckland – and in the case of the first two their Old Boys; Service teams, pride of place going to the County Regiment in whose cricket week we always used to feature, as well as various Royal Navy sides from Dartmouth and Plymouth; sister clubs from other counties run on the same lines as ourselves – regularly the Somerset Stragglers and Dorset Rangers, occasionally the Hampshire Hogs, Gloucestershire Gypsies, Sussex Martlets and others; and finally wandering clubs from distant parts down here on tour such as the MCC (till 1934 and again in our centenary year), Free Foresters, Incogniti, Frogs, Sou’westers, South Oxfordshire Amateurs and the like.    

All these, for more than a century, have provided much highly enjoyable, sociable but serious midweek cricket for a wide range of members and guests.  Until 1939 Dumplings teams had a high proportion of clergymen, Army officers and schoolmasters, with a leavening of gentlemen of independent means, some of whom even offered their private grounds to play on, such as Knightshayes, then the family ground of  Heathcoat-Amory, and the Hunter’s now-vanished Bystock near Exmouth.  With the changed social framework, the only prevailing category to provide many players in recent years is the schoolmasters, the others now being replaced by university lecturers, farmers and assorted businessmen, with as always a smattering of undergraduates, schoolboys during the summer holidays and young overseas players, when our teams have usually been at their strongest and when most of our sternest opposition is met.

Up to 1914 the Dumplings went on annual tours, first to Hampshire (1905-1910) and then to Kent/Sussex (1911-1914). Between the Wars there were occasional forays for single matches and in 2011 we travelled to Oxford to play Incogniti as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations. This presaged the resumption of the Annual Tour and in 2012 there were three games played in Oxford against old adversaries. This continued annually until the Covid-19 plagued summer of 2020.  Otherwise our only regular ventures outside the county have been to play home and away matches against the Stragglers and Rangers. All other games have been played in Devon against local club sides and schools on their own grounds or against touring sides on hired club grounds.

The 2011 season was “a golden season” and the best in our history in terms of wins over losses (plus 10) with six centuries, seven century partnerships and one double century partnership. Our bowlers also performed at a high level winning eight games bowling out sides batting second almost entirely on good pitches.  The injection of a significant number of young cricketers over the past few years drawn from a wider number of Devon Clubs has largely been the reason for this success along with limited availability of overseas players. In 2019 there were three Test players ( two African, one Australian) who had at one time played for Dumplings. This diversity and talent harks back to the founding principles of the Club.

The full history of the first century of the Dumplings can be found in Peter Spencer’s Three Shades of Green. There was also a privately published Jubilee Book of Devon Dumplings Cricket Club 1902-1952, edited by Malcolm Elwin.