William Nicholson

MR. WILLIAM NICHOLSON, D.L., J.P., of Basing Park, Hants., a Trustee of Lord's Cricket Ground, and one of the oldest members of the M.C.C., died at 2, South Audley Street, London, on July 25th. He was born at Upper Holloway on September 2nd 1824, and was in the Harrow Eleven for three seasons, commencing in 1841, and captain in his last. Scores and Biographies (iii.-39) says of him:-- Height, 5ft. 10ins., and weight, 11st. 7lbs. Has been a most successful batsman for several years, getting his runs exceedingly fast and well in the best matches, especially about 1852, when he was not to be excelled. Is one of the best wicket-keepers in England, standing up pluckily to the fastest bowling, and has at that important post in the field received many a severe blow. Also an exceedingly fast runner between wickets, a capital judge of a short run, and is altogether an energetic cricketer. Was Captain of the Harrow Eleven in 1843, when, by his strict management and fine play, he helped much to win both against Winchester and Eton. ... His elder brother, Mr. John Nicholson, played for Harrow in 1840 and 1841, and for Cambridge in 1845. Among his contemporaries at Harrow were E. M. Dewing, Arthur Haygarth, and J. Marshall. In the matches with Eton he scored 4 and 9, 7 and 35, 11 and 0, while against Winchester his innings were 4, 1 and 52, 21 and 6. He became a member of the M.C.C. in 1845, and appeared for the Gentlemen against the Players from 1846 to 1858, and in the Canterbury Week from 1847 to 1869. For many years he played for the celebrated Clapton Club, of which Messrs. Craven, Gordon and Key, and the Walker brothers were great supporters. His most successful season was that of 1852 when he made the highest score (39 and 70) in each innings for England v. Kent at Lord's, and made 86 for Gentlemen of England v. Gentlemen of Kent at Canterbury. In the former match his side were set 156 to win and obtained them for three wickets, which was exceptional scoring for those times, especially against such bowlers as Mynn, Martingell and Willsher. Few men attended the Canterbury Week more regularly than did Mr. Nicholson, who was an enthusiastic Old Stager and one of the oldest members of I Zingari. As a curiosity it may be mentioned that, when keeping wicket for M.C.C and Ground v. Cambridge University at Fenner's in 1853, he stumped the first three men off Mr. F. Walker's bowling.

Great as Mr. Nicholson's skill as a player undoubtedly was, it is probable that he will always be best remembered for the unstinted support he was ever ready to accord the game. In Cricket of January 1886, it was told how, when the fate of Lord's was almost in the balance, before the sudden increase of wealth from Eton and Harrow and University matches, Mr. Nicholson stood in the gap, and after all England had been drawn for subscriptions to save the ground--for few escaped Mr. Roger Kynaston and his red book--he advanced the money as mortgage on a security which the outside public would not take. Little was said about it, as men who do such things do not talk about them, but there is no doubt he saved Lord's from the builders. The celebrated Mr. William Ward did a similar thing many years before. He drew a cheque for £5,000, and gave it to Lord for the lease, and as it happened this turned out a good investment as indeed did Mr. Nicholson's mortgage also, though he ran the risk for the love of cricket, and the sum advanced was a large one--a very long way into five figures. This action on his part should cause his name always to be gratefully remembered, not only by members of the Marylebone Club, but by all English cricketers in whatever part of the world they may be domiciled. His generosity enabled the old Club to purchase the freehold of Lord's: but for him the ground might have been built over and the M.C.C., the recognised head of the game, have been rendered homeless. In 1879 Mr. Nicholson was elected to the Presidency of the Club. Although he led a very busy life his interest in the game and his old School was always of the strongest: in fact fifty years after he had led the Harrow XI. he purchased a large piece of ground at Harrow and presented it to the School

Mr. Nicholson became M.P. for Petersfield, Hants., in 1866. He lost his seat at the General Election in 1874, but regained it in 1880, only, however, to be unseated again five years later. At first he was a Liberal in politics, but subsequently a Conservative. His portrait can be seen in the large picture published in 1908 by Messrs. Dickinson, of New Bond Street, entitled Eton v. Harrow.

© John Wisden & Co