The Very First Eleven

The second of June 2020 marks the 150th Anniversary of Gloucestershire’s first ever first-class match. The game, which had been advertised throughout the county since the middle of April was played on Durdham Down on what was then the ground of the Clifton Club. It was against Surrey and over the course of the three days was watched by upwards of seven thousand spectators. The result was a win for Gloucestershire by 51 runs. The side was led by E.M. Grace, the only time that he would captain them when the team included his younger brother W.G.

Of the Gloucestershire eleven on that day five, the three brothers Grace, Fenton Miles and Charles Filgate had previously played in first-class cricket. The rest had all played for local clubs or in odds matches* against various of the travelling sides and three, Halford, Matthews and MacPherson along with the three Grace brothers, had also been members of the Gentlemen of Gloucestershire eleven that had played at Lord’s in 1868 and had defeated a strong MCC side containing seven players with good county experience by 134 runs.

Had this 1868 game been the one that led the Grace family to believe that a County side could compete at the highest level and, two years later, lead to this game against Surrey? Most of the eleven went on to play for the County for a number of years some of them becoming well known, others less so. In fact one of them never played another first-class game. The surprising thing about the side was its age, or rather, its youthfulness with an average age of under twenty-three. Aged just over twenty-nine, Clifton College secretary, W.D. MacPherson was the oldest and both Fred Grace and J.A. “Frizzie” Bush were still teenagers. This article will hopefully remind us of things about the more well-known and also provide an insight into the lives and careers of the others.
In Batting Order
Edward Mills Grace Born 28 November 1841 – 20 May 1911 Played 253 matches from 1870 to 1896
The oldest of the three Grace brothers who played regularly for the County. (their oldest brother, Henry played twice in 1871) A doctor who was also the Coroner for South Gloucestershire. Although overshadowed by W.G. he was an excellent cricketer who, in his day was reckoned to be one of the best fielders at point and an all-rounder good enough whilst playing for MCC against Kent in 1862, aged twenty, to score 192 not out and then take 10 for 69 in the Kent first innings. Along with W.G. and G.F. he played in the first Test Match in England against Australia at the Oval in 1880, still the only instance of three brothers playing for the same side in a Test Match. After finishing his County career, he continued to play club cricket for Thornbury until 1909 despite increasing lameness.
William Gilbert Grace Born 18 April 1848 – 23 October 1915 Played 360 matches from 1870 to 1899
Certainly the most famous and arguably the greatest cricketer ever. The first man to score a triple century (in fact he hit a second triple within the week), the first man to complete the “double”, the first to score a hundred centuries, the first to score 2,000 runs in a season. In a first-class career that spanned 44 seasons (1865-1903) he scored 54,211 runs. He also managed to take 2809 wickets. His Gloucestershire career lasted until 1899 when he left the County to become Secretary of the then recently formed London County Cricket Club. Apart from this first game where the team was led by E.M. Grace, he captained the side in all his other 359 appearances.
Thomas Gadd Matthews Born 9 December 18455 January 1932 Played 29 matches from 1870 to 1878
A member of the Clifton Cricket Club he was one of the XX of Clifton* who played against the United All England XI in 1868. As a batsman his style was variously described as cramped, very slow and poky, but it was clearly good enough for him to score 201 against Surrey in 1871, the first double century by a Gloucestershire batsman. He was a member of the first Gloucestershire committee when the club was formed and was part of the Committee in 1888 that agreed to purchase the ground at Ashley Down. In his younger days he was also a keen horseman, taking part in steeplechase and point-to-point races. He hunted regularly with the Berkeley and Beaufort hounds until into his eighties. He died at his home, Newport Towers, north of Bristol aged 86.
Frank Townsend Born 17 October 1847 – 25 October 1920 Played 169 matches from 1870 to 1891
Proprietor of a school at Llantrissant House in the Avenue, Clifton. He seldom wore a cap when playing but one time that he did was in a colts match when, because of the cold, he wore an overcoat as well as a hard bowler hat. His style as a batsman was peculiar. As the bowler started his run, drawing himself up to his full height – he was not far short of six feet – he would swing his bat over his shoulder as if anxious to tickle his backbone. He was also a lob bowler. Three of his sons, Charles, Frank junior and Miles, also played for the county with one, Charles also playing for England, as did Charles’ son David.
George Frederick Grace Born 13 December 1850 – 22 September 1880 Played 85 matches from 1870 to 1880
The youngest of all the Grace brothers and said by some of his contemporaries set to become a better cricketer than W.G. He was always known as a good fielder; the catch he took in his one Test Match to dismiss George Bonnor has been called “the most famous deep catch in history” The batsmen had reputedly run two runs whilst the ball was in the air. During the game he developed a cold which, due to exposure to damp and wet weather over the next few days developed into pneumonia from which he died just two weeks after appearing in the Test. He was the first and the youngest of the eleven to die.
Charles Roden Filgate Born 16 October 1849 – 1 September 1930 Played 15 matches from 1870 to 1877
Irish born and bred, his father was the High Sheriff of Louth in Ireland. The youngest of six brothers who all attended Cheltenham College. Between 1865 and 1868 he was a member of the College cricket XI described variously as “a very fine bat” and “a beautiful field anywhere” Having left Cheltenham for London where he trained as a barrister, he became an MCC member and his first game for them was in a team which included W G Grace where they beat Surrey by 10 wickets and he scored the winning runs. Called to the Bar in 1872, he was for many years a member of the Oxford Circuit.
GCCC Heritage Trust have been unable to source a photograph
John Halford Born 21 April 1846 – Died 1 April 1901 Played 10 matches from 1870 to 1874

A well-known cricketer in the north of the county and a member of the Cheltenham and County of Gloucester CC, one of the clubs, along with the West Gloucestershire Club, the Bristol based club of the Graces, which merged to form the Gloucestershire County XI. Mainly a batsman but an occasional bowler and wicket-keeper, he kept wicket in the first match before being succeeded by JA “Frizzie” Bush. A member of the XXII of Gloucester* who had played against and defeated the All England XI and the United South of England XI in 1867 and 1868.

GCCC Heritage Trust have been unable to source a photograph
John Mills Born 20 April 1849 – 14 April 1935 Played 1 match in 1870
The son of Henry Mills, the proprietor of the Bristol Gazette and a member of the Clifton Cricket Club. As a schoolboy he had attended the Redland Knoll School, the Reverend Barber’s academy on Durdham Down along with Fred Grace. By profession he was an engineer and he worked for the Bristol Wagon Company, eventually becoming its Joint Managing Director. After retirement he moved to Yorkshire and he died in Switzerland, aged 85 in 1935 at which time he was the last remaining member of the original eleven.
James Arthur “Frizzie” Bush Born 28 July 1850 – 21 September 1924 Played 136 matches from 1870 to 1890
Indian born when his father was serving with the Army in Cawnpore, the family returned to Bristol and he attended Clifton College where he excelled at all sports. In cricket he was not overly concerned about his batting; in fact W.G. Grace once suggested that he was too lazy to make runs. As a wicket-keeper, however, he excelled. Also an English Rugby International (he played five times between 1872 and 1876) he also played association football, and kept goal for Clifton. A good friend of the Grace family, he was best man at W.G.’s wedding.At the time of his death he held the “Ancient and Honourable Office of Swordbearer to the Lord Mayor of Bristol “.
Robert Fenton Miles Born 24 January 1846 – 26 February 1930 Played 59 matches from 1870 to 1879
Although born in Nottinghamshire where his father was Rector of Bingham, the wider Miles family were well known in Bristol business circles as partners in various private banks in the city. One of his brothers played football for Notts County whilst another was a talented artist. Educated at Marlborough and Oxford, where he obtained his cricket blue in each of the years from 1867 to 1869. He was very much a tail-end batsman but his slow left-arm bowling was one of the mainstays of the early Gloucestershire attack. Business commitments – he was a partner in the firm of Miles Cave Baillie and Co. of the Old Bank in Bristol – meant that his county appearances were restricted, but he continued to play club cricket for Knole Park and for Clifton until well into his fifties. He died at his home in Bristol of pneumonia, aged 84.
William Douglas Lawson MacPherson Born 15 May 1841 – 21 February 1920 Played 3 matches in 1870 and 1871
Along with his older brother, Archie he was another of the XX of Clifton* who played against the United All England XI in 1868. An occasional wicket-keeper, his appearances for the Clifton club were infrequent because of school commitments at Clifton College where he was Secretary to the Governors from 1864 until ill health caused him to retire to Devon in 1912 where he spent his final years. Another to serve on the Gloucestershire Committee from 1872 until his move to Devon, he was frequently described by Bristol journalist Archie Powell as “a dour Scotsman”
Scorer: John James “Jack” Smith   Born 11 March 1844. Died 13 July 1899
He was the Gloucestershire scorer from 1870 until shortly before his death from consumption in 1899. His final match as scorer had been the game against Somerset at Gloucester at the end of June and he passed away, less than a fortnight later, on the opening day of the match against the Australians at Ashley Down. Known amongst his fellow scorers and the members of the Press as “UGS”, the Urbane Gloucestershire Scorer, he was a man with a quiet sense of humour – he once refused the offer of a guinea for the pencil with which he scored WG Grace’s thousand runs in May.
Umpire: Charles King Pullin Born 3 November 1838 – 2 April 1894
He had been one of the umpires on Durdham Down in 1863 when XXII of Bristol and District* beat the England XI by an innings and 20 runs. In the days when each county supplied its own umpire, he was Gloucestershire’s man, umpiring in all their games until the system changed in 1882 when he continued as a first-class umpire until 1893. During that time he stood in ten Test Matches between England and Australia. It was said that he had a good reputation all over the country and was acknowledged to be a wonderfully good judge of the game. He played as a professional for the Clifton Club where he also coached. He was described as a “middle paced and round arm” bowler. He owned and ran a cricket outfitting shop on Blackboy Hill.
* Matches Against Odds In the early days there were a number of Professional Elevens who toured the country playing matches “against odds” against local teams containing anything up to twenty two players, all of whom would bat and all of whom would field together

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