During the first half of the 19th century Sherborne School boys used for games various pieces of ground dotted around the town, including The Terrace, a field near Oborne, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ field between the Bristol Road and Combe, and ‘Troy Town Close’ in Westbury.

The Upper and Lower

It was not until 1856 that the School first rented the present ‘Upper’ and ‘Lower’ from the Digby estate.  The land, then known as ‘Abbotty Hall’ or ‘Napperty Hall’, comprised eight acres of pasture with a ‘stall’ or cowshed that had formerly been in the tenancy of Mark Willis Sherrin (1802-1861), a farmer-butcher with a shop in Cheap Street.  The rent of £33 p.a. was raised in the first place by a pupil at the School, Henry John Rawlinson (1840-1926).  Rawlinson was the son of the Rev. Henry Rawlinson of Allington and attended Sherborne School (School House) from 1852 to 1859, during which time he was a member of the 1st XI cricket team in 1856, 1857 and 1858 (captain) and captain of games.

Extract from a map of the parish of Sherborne by Edward Thomas Percy, Land Surveyor & Architect, 1834. No.84 (‘Napperty’) is the site of the current Upper.

The new ground needed a lot of improvement before it was to become ‘the finest piece of ground in Dorset, perhaps in the south of England’.  After a large pond in the northeast corner had been filled in, four pitches were squeezed onto the ground: the ‘Upper’, the ‘Lower’ (then known as the ‘XXII Ground’) and two side grounds.  Originally the field had sloped away towards Westbury in the south, hence the naming of the ‘Upper’ and ‘Lower’ sections of the field, but in 1869 the field was generally levelled and an entrance was made from Horsecastles on the north.  The Horsecastles entrance was originally through a pair of mean wooden gates which were replaced by a fine iron pair of gates made in Milton Abbas that were dedicated at Commemoration 1948 to Merrick Beaufoy Elderton (1884-1939) who was Housemaster of Abbeylands 1919-1939, and for many years master i/c cricket.  In 1923, the stone gateway that had been erected in 1853 at the northern entrance to the School Courts was taken down and rebuilt on the Horsecastles entrance to the Upper.

The former gateway to the School Courts was rebuilt on the Upper in 1923.

The Pavilion

By 1860 the cowshed, ‘formerly used for cows, pigs and the like’, had been converted for use as the first Pavilion, a modest one-storied affair on the site of the present building.  But by 1863 the shed had become so ruinous that it was considered dangerous.  On 4 May 1863, plans for a ‘Cricket House’ were approved by Sherborne UDC’s Board of Health, with the cost of the new building being raised by subscription (£1 securing a locker and 10s. a peg for a boy’s time at the School).  Behind the Pavilion was a little shop for the cricket professional.  In 1873, it is recorded that the cricket professional caught two six-year-old children stealing gold watches ‘left by members of the XI in the King’s School cricket shed.’

Sherborne School 1st XI in 1869 posed outside the Pavilion built on the site of the former cowshed.

The present Pavilion dates from 1877 in its first form.  That year an agreement was made between Thomas Farrall (builder) and the Rev. Hugh Penderel Price (1844-1902), then master i/c of games, to rebuild the Pavilion.  The cost of about £400 was raised by subscriptions from the Masters and Old Shirburnians, with the largest donation being made by Headmaster H.D. Harper (£15).  The rebuilding began during the Easter holidays 1877 and was almost completed by June of that year.  When completed the new Pavilion contained a dining room and balcony upstairs, with on the ground floor a veranda, a dressing room for strangers, two dressing rooms for boys, and improved accommodation for the cricket professional and, more importantly, for refreshment.

The ‘new’ Pavilion built in 1877.

In 1913, the clock turret was added, designed by Old Shirburnian architect Robert Alexander Briggs (1858-1916) (Abbeylands 1872-1875).  Briggs had made one appearance on the Upper during his time at Sherborne when, in September 1872, he appeared with an Abbeylands team when they played the Town, unfortunately, Abbeylands lost by an inning and 16 runs.  In 1913, Cricket Lodge was built for the cricket professional at the southwest corner of the grounds.  In 1930, the upper part of the wings were built onto the Pavilion, in 1936 an eastern clock face was added to the turret, and in 1954 the balcony was doubled at a cost of £1000 paid by A.B. Gourlay.  On the west wall of the Pavilion hung the roll call bell that interrupted all afternoon games when it summoned the boys to the Pavilion to answer their names with the reply ‘Adsum’.

The Pavilion with the clock tower added in 1913. The roll call bell can be seen on the west wall.

The Upper’s first score box (small and ill-placed in the Pavilion balcony) seems to have lasted from Victorian times until after the Second World War.  A much larger replacement in the southwest corner of the ground was given, after some twenty seasons’ service, to the Thornford Club.  The present box was presented by the Pilgrims in 1965.


Edward Mallet Young (1839-1900)

‘Young’s’ or the ‘Third Ground’, lying to the west of the Upper, was purchased by Headmaster Edward Mallet Young in 1888 from Wilmott’s, the silk weavers, for £860.  The field was originally known as ‘Pigeon House Close’ and had previously been used by the Blackmore Vale Archery Club.  Young was born at Cookham, Berkshire, on 24 January 1839, and was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge (where he was awarded the Browne medal in 1860 for his Latin ode on the fate of Franklin). He worked for a brief time as private tutor to Lord Beaumont, then a boy at Eton, and also to His Royal Highness the Duke of Albany. He taught at Harrow from 1864 to 1878, where he is credited with introducing the game of Fives.

In 1878, Young was appointed Headmaster of Sherborne School, where he remained until 1892. During his time at Sherborne, Young instituted Commemoration Day, wrote the words for the School song, Carmen Saeculare, and built the West Cloister (1879), the gymnasium (1885), and the Sanatorium (1887).  After leaving Sherborne in 1892, he was appointed rector of Rothbury, Northumbria (1894-1900) and was an Honorary Canon of Newcastle (1897-1900). Young died on 19 December 1900 and was buried in All Saints churchyard, Rothbury.  By his will, Young devised ‘Pigeon House Close’ to the School on the condition that within three years of his death the Governors should purchase the adjoining Upper and Lower.  In 1902, thanks to the representations of Mr. Digby, his trustees agreed to sell the field to the School Governors at the low price of £2200.  The purchase money was subscribed by Governors, Masters and Old Shirburnians, with the more generous donations being made by J.K.D. Wingfield Digby MP (£300), Headmaster F.B. Westcott (£250), Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury (£100), and Henry Robinson King (£100). The profits from the working of an old gravel pit on its southern edge were used to level the ground and build up the west wall securely against Ottery Lane, which considerably increased its area.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In June 1899 and June 1901, the Upper was graced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who made two appearances with the Incogniti Cricket Club when they played the School 1st XI.  In June 1899, Doyle opened the batting for the Incogniti, scoring 9 before being run out.  He also bowled but conceded 72 runs in 14 overs without taking a wicket and the match was drawn.  In June 1901, Doyle returned with the Incogniti and again opened the batting, scoring 11 before he was stumped when the ball rebounded from the wicket keeper’s pads onto his stumps.  Later, he bowled taking 4-49 and 3-51 the match again ended in a draw in favour of the Incogniti.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sporting his Incogniti C.C. blazer on the Upper in 1899.


By 1899, the School was also using the ground by the cottages on what is now ‘Carey’s’ playing field, playing up and downhill with a ditch as one touchline.  In 1913, the School Governors purchased from Sherborne Almshouse nineteen acres of agricultural land at Hyle Farm, an area known formerly as ‘Hickpark’ and ‘Hyle Cow Leaze’.  The area was levelled by E.J. Freeman (former Essex & Dorset XI, cricket professional at Sherborne School 1910-1946 and Head Groundsman 1910-1949) and his grounds staff, assisted intermittently by boys and masters.  A.H. Trelawny-Ross reckoned that nearly a quarter of a million turves (3 ft. x 1 ft.) were cut, taken up and relaid, some 82,000 square yards of ground levelled and about 46,000 cubic yards of heavy soil shifted.  Added to this about 520 yards of solid hedge and bank was removed and some two thousand yards of land drains laid.

A.H. Trelawny-Ross’s plan showing the development of Carey’s (The Shirburnian, March 1932).

In 1927, Old Shirburnian Howson Devitt (1909-1996) presented a smaller pavilion for the new field. Known as the Devitt Pavilion, it was unfortunately badly damaged when Sherborne was bombed on 30 September 1940 and was replaced by a brick shelter.

Godfrey Carey (1872-1927)

In 1928, the whole area was named ‘Carey’s’ in memory of Godfrey Mohun Carey (1872-1927), a former pupil of the School (Abbeylands 1886-1891) who went on to play rugby for England, Blackheath and Somerset, and returned to teach at Sherborne School in 1897, becoming Housemaster of Abbey House (1908-1927), until his death on 18 December 1927.  For 25 years, Carey was master-in-charge of the School Games and Fields, and in 1923 he founded the Sherborne Pilgrims, a society for encouraging Old Shirburnian sporting activities.

In Carey’s memory, the Sherborne Pilgrims gave a pair of wrought-iron gates, designed by Leonard David (art master at Sherborne School) and made by Mr King, which were hung upon pillars of Ham Hill stone built by Mr J. Park at the entrance to Carey’s playing field.  At the formal opening of the gates on 24 December 1928, Littleton Powys (Vice-President of the Sherborne Pilgrims) said that the memorial bore witness to the deep affection which the Sherborne Pilgrims and Old Shirburnians and many others held the memory of Godfrey Carey.  Littleton Powys added that it was principally due to Carey’s enthusiasm, energy, foresight, and initiative, coupled with the industry and devotion of E.J. Freeman (the School’s cricket coach) and many others, and the support of the Governors, that the School now possessed those splendid playing fields which so rightly bore Carey’s name.

The Carey memorial gates.

Between 1928 and 1931 the last area of the western end of the field was levelled and in 1932 the work was brought to a close by the completion of three more grounds, nos. 8, 9 and 10, the whole being much improved by the laying out of hedges, fencing and paths, the erection of bicycle racks and the Tuckshop Pavilion; the latter was surmounted in 1950 by a much-needed clock, the parting gift of Headmaster A.R. Wallace.

The Central Pavilion was put up on Carey’s (for some obscure reason known as the Chinese Pavilion) and in 1927 the Devitt Pavilion was erected, though unfortunately it was badly damaged when Sherborne was bombed on 30 September 1940 and was replaced by a brick shelter.  A handsome wooden pavilion, built in 1968 from War Damage money marks the boundary between Carey’s and Ross’s.

The Tuckshop Pavilion, damaged by bombing on 30 September 1940.

An Artesian well on Carey’s with hydrant points dates from 1953; this was divined in the first place by a hazel twig.

Drilling an Artesian well on Carey’s, Summer 1953.


A.H. Trelawny-Ross (1884-1967)

In 1928, Alexander Hamelin Trelawny-Ross (housemaster of Lyon House 1914-1946) purchased Westbridge Farm and 30 acres with the intention to secure the amenities of these grounds for the use of the School. Trelawny-Ross was born in Ireland on 10 September 1884. He attended Sherborne School (School House) from 1899 to 1905 (where he was Head of the School, and Captain of Cricket and Football for two years) and went on to Merton College, Oxford.  After a brief stint as a master at Sandroyd Boys’ Preparatory School, Cobham, Surrey, he returned to Sherborne in 1911 as an Assistant Master.  He was made Housemaster of Lyon House in 1914 at the early age of 30 and from 1927 to 1936 he was Master in charge of Games and Playing Fields.  He retired in 1946 and became a Governor of the school in 1958.  He moved to Hyle Farm where he died on 28 January 1967.  In 1952, the School Governors had purchased 12 acres of Hyle Farm.  The whole area was eventually bulldozed and thanks to the boys working en masse one summer Sunday afternoon in 1961 removing stones, the area was brought into general use in 1962 under the name of ‘Ross’s’.  It was first used for cricket by the Duckhunters on 19 May 1962.


The games pitches on the far side of the New Pavilion are named ‘Freeman’s’ in memory of the groundsman who did so much to develop those fields.  Edward John Freeman (1880-1964) was born in Ladywell, Lewisham, Kent on 16 October 1880.  He was appointed cricket coach at Sherborne in 1911, on the retirement of Tom Bowley.  Freeman has started his cricketing career at the age of 13.  He played for Essex 1904-1910 and Dorset 1913-1928.  Freeman came with a wide experience as a cricket coach, having been head cricket coach at Leyton and having coached boys of Merchant Taylors’ and Bancroft school, Woodford.  He had also been appointed coach at Lords and would have again filled the position had he not been appointed to Sherborne.  Freeman held the post of cricket professional at Sherborne School from 1911 to 1946, and of Head Groundsman from 1911 to 1949.  He died at Sherborne on 22 February 1964 and was buried in Sherborne cemetery, overlooking the playing fields he loved.

Tribute to E.J. Freeman by Headmaster R.W. Powell

The School Grounds staff on Carey’s in 1932.
(left to right) C. Bartle, W. Bown, C. Mears, R. Walters, E.J. Freeman, A. Bartle.

Hughie Holmes Astroturf

H.F.W. Holmes (1910-1993)

On 6 June 2003, the Hughie Holmes Astroturf hockey pitch was officially opened by Daphne Holmes, the widow of Hugh (‘Hughie’) Francis Winnington Holmes (1910-1993). The opening ceremony was followed by a training session run by Sherborne hockey’s Director of Coaching, Rob Hill, former England and GB international.  The new pitch was paid for by two generous Old Shirburnians had been members of Lyon House where Hughie Holmes was housemaster from 1946 to 1961.  Hughie was born at Queenstown, Co. Cork in 1910 and educated at Haileybury. He captained the Public Schools’ Rugby XV and then played for Cambridge (narrowly missing a Blue) and Eastern Counties. Having read French at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1932 Hughie was appointed modern languages master at Sherborne.  During his time at Sherborne, Hughie was master i/c rugby football 1947-1964, Second Master 1964-1972, Registrar 1972-1980.  He represented Dorset at tennis, and at the age of 78 reached the veterans’ doubles final at Wimbledon, only to be beaten by a partnership that included Jaroslav Drobny. He died in Sherborne on 18 September 1993.

Maps of the Pitches at Sherborne School

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist

Further reading:
The early days of rugby at Sherborne School
A.B. Gourlay, A History of Sherborne School (Sherborne, 1971).
D.F. Gibbs, A History of Football at Sherborne School (Sherborne, 1983).
Robert Hands, Rugby Football at Sherborne School  (Sherborne, 1991).

For further information about the Sherborne School Archives please contact the School Archivist.

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