The noted Hampshire cricketer Daniel Day was born at Streatham, on 14 June 1807, the seventh son of a builder who died when Daniel was a baby. He learned his cricket on the local common and at a school where his fellows included Alfred Mynn, the future ‘Lion of Kent’. In his teens he was engaged by the Lord's groundsman, Cobbett, as a practice bowler and went on to play for several leading Surrey clubs, notably the Camberwell Clarence side, through which he became friendly with the celebrated Nicholas Felix, a cricketing schoolmaster of many talents, whose innovations included a ‘Catapulta’ bowling machine and items of protective gear.
Probably with the help of Felix, Day patented in about 1827 his ‘tubular guard gloves’. These were initially water-filled and later air-inflated, but neither form provided sufficient protection for batsmen's hands and they were superseded by the solid rubber strip type of glove associated with Felix.
Encouraged by his mentor, Day moved to Southampton in 1842 to take the tenancy of the Antelope Inn in St Mary's Road (then still called Love Lane) and the cricket ground beside it. Day became the leading professional bowler for the South Hants Club, then the mainstay of Hampshire cricket, its members including Thomas Chamberlayne of Cranbury Park, Sir John Barker Mill of Mottisfont and Sir Frederick Harvey Bathurst, whose estate was near Salisbury.
In 1844 Felix enabled Day to stage “a most interesting and entirely novel match” at the Antelope Ground, involving his ‘Catapulta’ bowling machine, a development of the ancient Roman siege engine. This “great curiosity” was set up on 30 September, when “11 players of the county of Hampshire met 13 gentlemen of the South Hants Club, with the Catapulta”. The gentlemen had only to bat and field, for all the bowling against the professionals was done by the machine – whose “straight and powerful fire” they found hard to play. The match ended in a draw.
In 1844, after getting married to a widow, Mrs. White, Day left the Antelope and took over the lease of the Woolston Hotel and the field beside it, which he converted into a cricket pitch.
Day remained at Woolston until 1851, when he moved to Southsea. His absence from the Southampton scene seriously weakened Hampshire cricket, which languished through the 1850s without representative county matches. In 1863 there was revival of interest leading to the formation of Hampshire Cricket Club at a meeting held at the Antelope Inn on 11 September. Day was, by now, once again involved with arrangements at the Antelope Ground, where the newly formed Hampshire C.C.C. played until 1884.
Day built the Day’s Hotel in Terminus Terrace in the 1850s but was obliged to sell it at a loss a few years later. Thereafter he became landlord of a number of local inns including the Coburg and the Ship in Northam and the Red Lion in Bitterne.
In the 1870s he lived at Millbrook in a house called Gothic Lodge (or Cottage), then spent his last years at 9 Derby Road, the home of George Doswell, the son of the George Doswell who married Daniel Day's sister Mary Ann in 1855.
Aged 80, he caught a chill watching cricket at the old Antelope Ground and died on 22 November 1887. A few weeks before his death, he gave a bedside interview to a representative of the Hampshire Independent, which later published his reminiscences of a long cricketing life, primarily devoted to Hampshire.
Daniel Day was buried in the Old Cemetery, near the boundary with the Common. Interred with him, at his special request, were his walking stick, batting gloves and favourite old bat, worm-eaten with age.
‘Daniel Day: old-time stalwart of Hampshire cricket’, by A. G. K. Leonard in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 20, Autumn 2012, p13-18. (HS/h)
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