In the 18th century cricket was a booming sport that caught the imagination of the public and spawned dozens of heroes of bat and ball. One of them was Noah Mann who was born in Sussex in 1756 at Northchapel near Petworth.
Mann was an outstanding all-rounder and his heyday came as a player with famous cricketing pioneers, the Hambledon Club. As a left-handed batsman and bowler he made his first-class debut in 1777 and went on to make at least 55 appearances at grounds all over the country. Mann was extremely athletic and was also an accomplished horse rider, being skilled in the saddle. One of his party tricks was to lean down and grasp handkerchiefs from the ground whilst galloping full tilt.
Noah Mann’s early death in December 1789 came about through a bizarre accident. After a shooting expedition in the Sussex countryside he and a group of friends repaired to the Half Moon Inn at Northchapel where Mann was landlord. Though wet and tired, they evidently enjoyed more than a few beers and caroused on late into the evening. Mann stubbornly refused to go to bed and declared he would sleep all night in his chair in front of the fire.
Now it was the custom at the end of an evening in the Half Moon to heap together all the ashes on the hearth as this made it easier to get the fire going again next day. At some time during the night, Mann’s clothing caught fire, most likely because the intoxicated cricketer woke up and in a befuddled state stumbled into the embers. He was discovered unconscious and terribly badly hurt. He died the next day. A verdict of accidental death was returned at the inquest.
It is reputed that Noah Mann haunts the Half Moon Inn to this very day.