The Hunter River District Cricket Association (later to be re-named the Maitland and District Cricket Association) was set up in 1894. Prior to that date a strong cricket tradition had already been firmly established in the local Maitland district.
A G (“Johnnie”) Moyes in his history of Australian Cricket devotes several pages to the development of Maitland cricket in the 1840s. He recognises Maitland as “one of the earliest country towns to organise cricket” and refers to “a mill-owner, named Honeysett”, as being the inspiration for the emergence of cricket in Maitland in the 1840s. In reference to the Maitland Mercuty (established in 1843) he also points out that “Maitland was fortunate to have a newspaper and editor whose keenness for the game enable us still to read accounts of its cricket in the earliest days”.
One of the earliest accounts of local cricket appears in an issue of the Maitland Mercury of March 16 1844. A reporter noted that “some admirers of this noble game have lately been playing occasionally in the afternoons in the open space near Mr Honeysett’s windmill, West Maitland”, and indicated that “they were about to form a club”. Honeysett’s flour mill was situated in what is now Elgin Street, West Maitland. It was then known as Windmill Hill and next to the mill was the “open space” and grassy area of land which was to be the ground where the first “organised cricket matches” in the local district were to be played.
The reporter’s prediction about the formation of a club in the near future proved to be correct. On January 22 1845 a meeting was held at Henry Reeves’ Albion Inn in High Street and the Maitland Cricket Club was formed. This is the first known cricket club in Maitland and it was to be followed in the 1850s by the formation of three other local clubs: the Australian; the Marylebone; and the Northumberland.
The prime movers in the formation of the Maitland Club were John Merthyr (a schoolmaster), Thomas Honeysett (a flour-miller) and James Holdstock (another early cricket enthusiast who later in the year was to open an inn called the Cricketers’ Arms). A resolution passed at the meeting was that members of the Club were to meet on the cricket ground to practise every Monday and Thursday from three to four o’clock in the afternoon, and any members who failed to attend would “subject themselves to a fine of threepence for such neglect”.
A fortnight later, on Wednesday February 5 1845, a match was played between teams selected from members of the Club, one led by Honeysett and the other by Holdstock. This was the first recorded cricket match played in Maitland and the Mercury reported that “the ground being in full view from High Street, and at a moderate distance from it, numbers of people were attracted to witness the playing”. For the record Honeysett’s side was beaten by Holdstock’s side by 10 runs. According to the local reporter “Mr Holdstock’s side was principally indebted for the victory gained to the activity of Mr Crumpton at long stop”.