George Seaton de Winton
George Seaton de Winton
5 September 1869 – 28 June 1930
Gloucestershire 1890 – 1901
Highest Score 80
At a height of 6ft. 9in. Professor Augustin de Winton would have struck an imposing figure as he strode across the Downs to his School for Young Gentlemen at Westbury Lodge. Born in France in 1828 to James Winton, a Captain in the 17th Foot Regiment (the ‘de’ was added to the surname around 1850) and Fanny Hughes, James’ second wife, the de Winton family was believed to be direct descendants of George Seton, 5th Earl of Winton (c1678-1749), who was sentenced to death for his part in the 1715 Jacobite rising. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, awaiting execution, he made his escape and fled to Italy, dying in Rome at the court of the Young Pretender on 19 December 1749.
Augustin married Caroline Fitch in London in 1865 and by 1867 they had set up their school at Westbury Lodge (Fees varying between 50 and 60 guineas per annum). Having spent his early years in France, the French language “held a prominent position in the instruction and converse of the establishment” and as early as June of that year, he was taking his pupils on the forerunner of the school trip abroad to “introduce his pupils to the study of Paris and its celebrities.”
It was into this atmosphere that young Seaton was born, the third child but the first son of six siblings and it was here, under his father’s supervision, that he completed his education before joining the Army and enlisting as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters in 1888 even though the 1891 census shows him living at Westbury Lodge and described as a scholar.
The school ran its own cricket eleven playing against local club sides and Seaton is seen playing for them as a thirteen year-old in 1883 alongside another future Gloucestershire cricketer, Walter Troup and three years later, still only sixteen, he is a regular player in the Clifton Second eleven.
The atmosphere at the school seems to have been relaxed. Troup recounts in his biography, Sporting Memories (Hutchinson & Co. 1924) how during the summer of 1887 he played cricket six days a week, confining his studies to just Sundays. His uncle, his guardian complained to de Winton about the lack of time spent studying to which he received the reply “You saw from the papers daily that the lad was playing and made no objection, so I sat tight and did nothing.”
That 1887 season sees de Winton making his debut for Westbury-on-Trym, the club with whom he would go on to win the Bristol Cricket Challenge Cup Competition in 1888.
The Gloucestershire County season usually began with a game against a side comprising twenty and more young cricketers from clubs within the county which served the double purpose of early season practice for the county players as well as an opportunity to look at any up and coming youngsters. At the end of the 1889 season a second game was played for which de Winton was selected. Although he scored only sixteen runs he had come to the attention of W.G. Grace and when early in May the following year Grace was invited to take a team to play against eighteen of Herefordshire on the Hereford Cathedral School ground, de Winton was included.
A fortnight later he made his first-class debut against Kent at Maidstone where batting at No.10 he failed to score in the first innings but made 19 in the second innings as Gloucestershire lost the game by five wickets. Also making his debut for Gloucestershire was H.W.H. Brown and of their performances in the game, the opinion of the Bristol Mercury correspondent was that “the two young cricketers from Bristol failed.” Whilst that opinion was possibly overly critical, neither would go on to command a regular place in the eleven, Brown appearing sixteen times over the next five years and de Winton twenty-eight in twelve although in de Winton’s case part of the reason would be that he had moved away from Bristol.
Of those twenty-eight appearances eleven came between 1890 and 1893 during which time he posted his highest score of 80 against Somerset at Cheltenham College in 1893, the game still remembered for W.H. “Sam” Brain’s hat-trick of stumpings off the bowling of Charlie Townsend. Interspersed between army duties he also found time for trips to Ireland and Scotland with teams organised and captained by W.G. Grace.
The Gloucester Journal of Saturday 10th March 1894 carried the announcement that Gloucestershire cricket would be losing the services of Mr. S. de Winton who had departed for America where he was to take up farming but just over twelve months later on the 9th April 1895, the paper’s sister publication the Gloucester Citizen announced that Mr. S. de Winton was home again and would probably be invited to take a place in the County Eleven. The invitation was extended and accepted but he made just four appearances, the most that he would make in any season until his final game in 1901.
Precisely where he went in America, how long he stayed and whether it was intended to be a permanent move is uncertain because he seems to have retained his army rank and position and on the 7th March 1895, a month before the announcement of his return, his promotion to Captain is announced. His return to army life, however, is short lived with an announcement on July 27th in the Army & Navy Gazette that he has resigned his Commission.
Whilst still maintaining his Bristol connections he now takes up farming in Essex near Upminster as the joint owner of Westbury Farm, Cranham, a 300 acre dairy farm sending milk to London and growing wheat and oats. He joins the Upminster Friars Cricket Club – known locally as a “gentleman-farmers team” and also the Upminster Club. In May 1896 he plays host to W.G. Grace on an overnight visit after Gloucestershire’s game against Kent at Gravesend and before their game against Surrey at the Oval, two of the three games that de Winton played for the County in that season. The hospitality was presumably well received – Grace later became President of the Friars Cricket Club.
In December 1896 he returns to Bristol and marries Ethelind Kate Ashley at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Stoke Bishop and they return to Upminster where they would live for the next thirty or so years.
Thereafter, apart from two matches at Bristol in 1900 his Gloucestershire appearances are limited mainly to games in London against Surrey and Middlesex where he can stay at home supervising the farm. His final game is in May 1901 against Surrey at the Oval. In his first innings for the county back in 1890 at Maidstone he had been bowled by Frederick “Nutty” Martin for a duck. Here at the Oval a similar fate befalls him in his final innings, the bowler this time another England cricketer, Tom Richardson
His co-owner of Westbury Farm, the splendidly named Edwin Sidney Woodiwiss left Upminster in January 1900 when he enlisted with the newly formed Imperial Yeomanry and departed for South Africa, serving in the Second Boer War, His share in the farm, together with a number of other properties owned by him were bought by Sir Edward Payson Wills the father of de Winton’s brother-in-law Ernest.
Whilst he had been in America his younger sister Caroline had married Ernest Salter Wills, a member of the well-known Bristol tobacco family and it was a marriage that would prove significant for Seaton in his later life.
Ernest Wills was the younger son of Sir Edward Payson Wills, 1st Baronet of Hazelwood and succeeded to the title in 1921 on the death of his older brother, Sir Edward Channing Wills. As well as properties in Wiltshire and Berkshire he was the owner of The Meggernie Castle and Estate in Perthshire and the photograph below shows Wills and de Winton out with an estate shooting party in 1926.
Wills also had a passion for field sports, hunting and racehorses and it was this last interest that he had in common with his brother-in-law. From 1912 onwards de Winton trained horses owned and raced by Wills on the flat and over jumps, both at Upminster and in later days at Littlecote. Expert opinion was that although he never had any prominent horses under his charge he succeeded in turning out a fair proportion of winners.
The last of those winners, Rialto Bridge had won the Forest High Weight Handicap at Windsor on Saturday 21st June 1930, just a week before de Winton’s sudden death from heart failure.
At his funeral which took place at Froxfield the following week, the stable lads attended dressed in the Wills racing colours.