Mr Herbert Jenner-Fust, 1898

The oldest living cricketer

It may be news to a good many lovers of cricket that the once famous wicket-keeper and batsman, Mr. Herbert Jenner-now Jenner-Fust-is still alive and well, and bearing lightly the burden of 91 years. For him may safely be claimed the distinction of being the oldest living cricketer. There may possibly be others still surviving whose experience of cricket goes back as far, but certainly not any who came prominently before the public in connection with the game. Mr. Herbert Jenner, as one may still call him is the last survivor of a generation that, apart from himself, has entirely passed away. Born, as Mr. Arthur Haygarth tells us in Scores and Biographies, in Sackville Street, London, on the 23rd of February, 1806, he was over nine years old at the time of the Battle of Waterloo and played his first match at Lord's, for Eton against Harrow, in 1822-fifteen years before the Queen came to the throne. He was thus a contemporary of the famous Mr. Ward, who, in 1820, for the M.C.C. against Norfolk with three given men, made his great score of 278, still the record innings at Lord's. Apart form Mr. Ward's performance, the match between the M.C.C. and Norfolk has a strong claim on the remembrance of cricketers, since it introduced Fuller Pilch to Lord's ground. Herbert Jenner played regularly in the big matches from 1827 to 1836 when his practice at the Bar of Doctors' Commons compelled him to withdraw from Lord's. However he did not by any means give up his cricket, playing constantly for many years in one-day matches. I gather from an article contributed to the English Illustrated Magazine five years ago, by Mr. Philip Norman, that the veteran did not leave off playing till 1864, when he left his home in Kent to live on an estate in Gloucestershire which his father had inherited from the ancient family of Fust, whose name Herbert Jenner now added to his own. At Hill Court, Falfield, Gloucestershire he is still residing. Even so recently as 1880, when he was over 74 years of age, he made a final appearance in the cricket field, captaining his village of Hill against Rockhampton. Considering his advanced age his play on this occasion was remarkable. He bowled, so Mr. Norman tells us, at one end throughout, and when not bowling kept wicket. He did not, however, venture to run for himself, and through the over-eagerness of his substitute lost his wicket after scoring eleven. In various ways he got ten wickets, besides helping to run two men out, and he had the satisfaction of seeing his side win the game. Altogether a worthy close to his long career. It is recorded that in this, his last match, he used a bat which had been made in 1829 and presented to him in 1831 by Benjamin Aislabie then secretary of the Marylebone Club.

After leaving Eton he went up to Cambridge and in 1827 captained the Light Blues in the first match ever played by the two Universities. Of the twenty-two cricketers who took part in that memorable match of 70 years ago, Mr. Jenner tells me that he is the only survivor. The match was played at Lord's, according to Scores and Biographies, on the fourth of June, but Mr. Haygarth adds in a note to the score that Bell's Life says the game was not played on that date as intended, but was deferred for a few days. Herbert Jenner took five wickets and scored 47, but his side had much the worst of the match, the totals being-Oxford 258; Cambridge 92. As in the Eton and Harrow matches in 1822 and 1823, Mr. Jenner in this first meeting of the Universities found himself on the opposite side to the late Charles Wordsworth, afterwards Bishop of St. Andrews. The close association of the two old cricketers was recalled fifty years afterwards, when the Jubilee of the University match was celebrated by a dinner at Lord's. Their names were coupled in the following lines, which I quote from the English Illustrated Magazine:-

"Fifty years have sped since first,

Keen to win their laurel,

Oxford round a Wordsworth clustered,

Cambridge under Jenner mustered,

Met in friendly quarrel."

At this Jubilee dinner Herbert Jenner proposed the toast of Cricket, and enlarged on the changes in the game that fifty years had brought about. Mr. Jenner was President of the Marylebone Club in 1833, and is still President of the West Kent Cricket Club, to which he has belonged for 70 years. I may add in conclusion that on asking the veteran cricketer's permission to say something about his career in WISDEN'S ALMANACK for 1897, I received in reply a charmingly-worded autograph letter, which I shall always preserve among my cricket treasures. S. H. P.

© John Wisden & Co