In the seventeenth century, the related sport of "Stow-Ball", or "Stob-Ball" was being played in north Somerset, as in neighbouring Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, as well as parts of Dorset. This sport most likely used either the base of a tree or its remaining stump as its wicket, as both 'stow' and 'stob' are dialect words for 'stump'. However, 'stow' could also refer to a frame used to support crawling tunnels in mines such as those lead mines in north Somerset, providing another possibility for the wicket. The ball was made of a leather case, stuffed with boiled quills, and was four inches in diameter, roughly the same size as a modern softball, while the bats, known as 'staves' were shaped similarly to a field hockey stick and typically made of withy or willow. The earliest confirmed reference to cricket in Somerset is a match on 13 July 1751 that was played in memory of the late Frederick, Prince of Wales who was a noted patron of the sport. The first officially organised club to be recognised in Somerset was Lansdown Cricket Club, formed in 1825, although a Bath cricket club seems to have preceded it with a similar collection of enthusiasts from around 1817–1824. With a limited number of other organised clubs to play, fixtures were few and far apart in the founding years, with matches being played against Clifton, Sidmouth and Teignmouth. Lansdown placed Somerset in the cricketing world, and played a number of matches against 'England XI' in various forms.
In 1865, the first attempt at a county side was made with the formation of Yeovil and County Cricket Club. They performed poorly in their opening matches against local club sides, and on one occasion, even lost three players to their opposition the day before the match was scheduled to begin. In spite of these problems, they did play a 'county' fixture, against the Gentlemen of Devon; the match was abandoned due to rain. The first recorded occasion of a Gentlemen of Somerset side playing comes five years previously however, when a Somerset side travelled down to Culm Vale to take on the Gentlemen of Devon, this match also resulting in a draw. The formation of Somerset County Cricket Club was decided in 1875 after the playing of one such match between the Gentlemen of Somerset and the Gentlemen of Devon at Sidmouth in Devon. Having played a two-day match, which the Somerset team won by eight wickets, the Gentlemen of Somerset and their friends held a meeting and resolved that Somerset should have its own county cricket club. Somerset is the only one of the present first-class counties in English cricket whose county cricket club was founded outside the boundaries of the traditional county. After their resolution, the gentlemen continued playing games under the name Gentlemen of Somerset, but their fixtures became more regular; rather than occasional games against the Gentlemen of Devon, they played host to teams from Dorset and Devon in 1876 and in 1877 visited Dorset, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire in addition to their trip to Devon.
Somerset CCC played its initial first-class match against Lancashire CCC at Old Trafford on 8, 9 and 10 June 1882 and joined the (then unofficial) County Championship. This first-class status lasted for only four seasons: after the 1885 season, Somerset failed to arrange sufficient fixtures with the other first-class teams to be accorded first-class status. In 1890, following a successful recruitment policy at universities by the club's first full-time secretary, Henry Murray-Anderdon, Somerset played 13 games, including 2 against Middlesex, winning 12 of them and tying the other against Middlesex, the following year they became a first-class county (again). In Somerset's second season, 1892, they finished third, but it was to be 66 years before they finished as high again. Until the Great Depression, the team regularly comprised a number of more or less talented amateurs and just a handful of professionals. They enjoyed over many decades a reputation for cheerful inconsistency, highlighted by three wins over an all-conquering Yorkshire side in 1901 and 1902, when they did not lose to any other county. Famous names from the pre-First World War period included the England players Sammy Woods, Lionel Palairet and Len Braund; the fast bowler Tom Richardson also played for the county once after his retirement from Surrey. In 1908, Woods persuaded the England rugby union international John Daniell to become captain with the team struggling financially, and Daniell stayed, mostly playing as captain and often acting as secretary too, for almost 20 years.
In the winter of 1880, Somerset County Cricket Club, prompted by an article in the Somerset County Gazette describing cricket in Taunton as being "in a sorry plight", were considering building their own ground. Athletics was booming in the town, and it was an amalgamation of sporting clubs that leased seven and a half acres of land known as "Rack Field" from local gentleman farmer John Winter for £50 per year. A cricket pitch, cycling-track and running-track were all laid on the ground with great difficulty; with the land lying next to the River Tone. Although Edward Western promised that Somerset could play fixtures on the ground, he acknowledged that the cricket pitch belonged to Taunton Cricket Club. The new sports centre was opened on Whit Monday 1881, with an athletics fixture held on the newly laid running-track to mark the occasion. Although some cricket was played at the ground in 1881, it was not yet ready for first-class matches. Taunton Athletic Society, thanks to money raised by Western, funded the erection of a grandstand and pavilion on the ground ready for a 15-mile bicycle race between French champion Frédéric De Civry and John Keen in August 1881. Known as the Taunton Athletic Ground, Somerset County Cricket Club played their maiden first-class game there in 1882. Originally a nomadic club, Somerset played their home matches across the county, relying on the good will of other people. Four first-class matches were played at the ground in 1882.
By the start of the twentieth century, the ground was, according to Roebuck, "an intimate and lovely place". A section of the ground known as the "Hen Coop" was used by the important families in Taunton, and although there were no official seat reservations, no one else occupied these seats in the absence of their regular user. For the less well off, hard benches were placed around much of the ground, and the floor was used by many others, particularly under some chestnut trees. A public bar was erected soon after, and was well used, especially after the First World War. In 1925, some of the seats were removed in one corner of the ground, and a hill was built to provide a superior view of the ground, using 400 lorry-loads of earth. During the Second World War, the ground, like many others in the country, was lent to the military. It was used by local soldiers and firemen alike, but the groundsman was careful to maintain the cricket surface throughout the war, in preparation for use again at its conclusion. In 1989 the Somerset Cricket Museum was opened at the ground within the Old Priory Barn. The exhibits and displays in the museum primarily cover the cricket club's history including Test match players such as Ian Botham and Marcus Trescothick. It also has a section devoted to the England women's cricket team, due to the County Ground being their headquarters. The museum also hosts a collection of I Zingari memorabilia, a club to whom current chairman Charles Clive Ponsonby-Fane has strong family links. In June 2010, Somerset County Cricket Club officially reopened 'The Colin Atkinson Pavilion' after undergoing redevelopment; this, together with the construction of the Marcus Trescothick Stand (in 2008), the Somerset Stand (in 2009), and the Ondaatje Pavilion (in 2011), has enhanced the capacity of the County Ground to 8,500; it is part of phased development plans which will eventually see the venue expand to a capacity of up to 15,000 (including temporary seating) and capable of hosting Test matches.
The largest stand at the County Ground is the Somerset Stand, which was opened at the start of the 2009 season. The stand was built as the first stage of a ground development project, and can accommodate over 3,000 spectators. The Old Pavilion is located at the southern end of the ground, and has a small number of seats on its upper tier. On the ground floor, it houses a bar and restaurant. Between the Old Pavilion and the Somerset Stand is Gimblett's Hill, an area that backs onto the churchyard of St. James Church. This section of the ground has a small number of wooden benches at ground-level. To the east of the Old Pavilion is St James Street Stand, a covered section of the ground with a shallow incline. The eastern side of the ground holds both the Family Stand and the front of main scoreboard stand. Between the two are the Ondaatje Pavilion and the Andy Caddick pavilion, the newest of the pavilions on the ground, and the one that currently houses the team's changing room facilities. To the north of the front of main scoreboard stand is the Colin Atkinson Pavilion. A member's area, this has a small number of seats and accommodates the member's bar and restaurant. The second tier, formerly the player's changing rooms, has been converted into a Long Room which seats over 180 spectators. The Sir Ian Botham Stand is at the northern end of the ground, and provides covered member's seating. To the west of this is the Marcus Trescothick Stand, which was opened in June 2008. Scoreboards are located in the north-east and south-west of the ground, and in addition to the restaurant facilities in the Old Pavilion and the Colin Atkinson Pavilion, food outlets are also located in the Somerset Stand, the Sir Ian Botham Stand and the front of the main scoreboard. The club shop is situated behind the St James Street Stand.
Carers are free. There are designated spaces available for disabled supporters available on a first come first served basis, and these are available to book 2 weeks in advance of the match date by phoning 0845 337 1875 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a limit of 5 spaces per match day. Live commentary of Matches is available through BBC Radio Somerset and streamed online through the BBC Website. They also have a limited number of tablets available to hire free of charge from the Andrew Caddick Pavilion. The Public Address system will give live scores and updates of key developments during the match. Guide dogs are permitted within the Ground. A hearing loop has been installed in both the County Room and the Long Room, for meetings and events. Hearing dogs are permitted within the ground. There is a wide array of seating available for ambulant disabled supporters, at a variety of locations, heights and angles. For the 2016 season, they would be grateful if all ambulant disabled supporters entered via either the Priory Bridge Road or St James Street entrance in order to ensure safe movement around the ground. All the main pavilions and stands are equipped with dedicated toilet facilities for the disabled.
Location : St James Street, Taunton, Somerset TA1 1JT
Transport: Taunton (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes: 1, 2, 15, 18, 23, 25, 28, 625, 90, T1 and T2 stop nearby.
Capacity : 8,500
Opening Times: Daily 09:30 to 17:00
Tickets County/One Day : Adults £13.00; Juniors £3.00
Tickets T20 Blast : Adults £22.00; Juniors £5.00
Tickets Tourist: Adults £20.00; Juniors £5.00
Tickets Womens ODI: Adults £10.00; Juniors £1.00
Tickets Museum: Adults £1.00; Juniors £0.50
Tel: 0845 337 1875