In Eastbourne's long 20th-century heyday there was a cricket week: two three-day county games and, as often as not, matches against the universities or the tourists. This was the ground on which AC MacLaren's personally selected amateur XI defeated Warwick Armstrong's seemingly invincible Australians in 1921, thereby giving Neville Cardus the only scoop of his career. There were important matches being played at The Oval and Leyton at the same time and Cardus' editor felt he should have been covering those. That opinion was strengthened when MacLaren's side was bowled out for 43 on the first day. By the second morning Cardus had sent his luggage to the railway station and was ready to leave; but he stayed instead and watched Aubrey Faulkner make 153. The Australians lost by 28 runs.
"At Eastbourne cricket is played to a background of croquet and bowls, old Colonels and straight-backed memsahibs going about their daily ritual, indifferent to the pock of bat on ball and the marauding seagulls," wrote Alan Ross, for whom India and Sussex were twin lodestars and who found his loves united in the batting of Duleepsinhji in the summer of 1932.
And one scarcely has to look to see deeper histories and other aristocracies at Eastbourne. Behind the trees at the Larkin's Field End is the Compton Croquet Club, one of many references in the environs to the estate that owns acres of prime land in the town. The land on which cricket, hockey and soccer are played is still owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Seniors at the club pass on the stories they were told of horse-drawn carriages that set off from the Duke's Compton estate and travelled down the tree-lined Old Orchard Road into town. When I first visited the ground in September 2015 almost the only noise one could hear in the late afternoon was the gentle cracks of mallets on croquet balls. The players were dressed in communion white and moved slowly around the lawns in the soft sunlight of early autumn.