Spencer Ponsonby-Fane

PONSONBY-FANE, SIR SPENCER CECIL BRABAZON, THE RIGHT HON., P.C., G.C.B., sixth son of the 4th Earl of Bessborough, was born in Cavendish Square on March 14th, 1824, and died at Brympton, Yeovil, on December 1st, in his 92nd year. He was a nephew by marriage of the famous Lord Frederick Beauclerk, and brother of the 6th Earl of Bessborough, who did so much for Harrow cricket, and assumed the additional name of Fane in 1875 upon inheriting Brympton from Lady Georgina Fane. He was by far the most interesting like with past cricket, seeing that he had visited Lord's for over eighty years (the last time being in 1913) and had always been in the closest touch with the game.

As a boy of fifteen he had played for the M.C.C. in 1839, although it was not until May 14th, 1840, that he was elected a member of the Club on the proposal of Mr. Aislabie, seconded by Lord Paget. His term of membership was without parallel in the history of the M.C.C., and during it he occupied almost every office possible, except the Presidency, which he declined several times. He served on the Committee 1866-68, 1870-73, and 1875-78; was Treasurer from 1879 until his death; and a Trustee from 1900 until the end of his long life. It will, perhaps be owing to the fact that he was responsible for the unrivalled collection of paintings, engravings, prints, etc., being made at Lord's that he will be chiefly remembered. His experiences in this matter he related in a short contribution to the second edition of the M.C.C. Catalogue, published in 1912.

He did so much for the Club as to merit fully the honour bestowed on him by the Committee in 1896, when they asked him to sit to Ouless for his portrait, which now hangs in the long room of the Pavilion. In 1845, when his brother and Mr. J. Loraine Baldwin, he founded I. Zingari, of which he was the Hon. Secretary and deeply-loved, though autocratic, Governor. For over fifty years he was a very familiar figure at Canterbury, either as a player or an Old Stager or both, and now that he is dead the Rev. Sir Emilius Laurie, Bart. -- the famous Emilius Bayley of other days -- is the only survivor of all the cricketers who took part in the first Festival, that of 1842. As a player Sir Spencer was very useful in his younger days. Scores and Biographies described him as "A free and lively hitter, forward and to leg. Also a good field, generally long-leg, middle wicket or point. Is remarkably quick between wickets, but has run himself and partner out very frequently."

He was a member of the original Committee of the Surrey County C.C., and played for the County in 1844, 1848, and 1853. He assisted the Gentlemen against the Players from 1851 until 1858. In important matches his chief scores were as follows:

54 Gentlemen of England v. Gentlemen of Kent, at Canterbury. 1849
67 Gentlemen of England v. Gentlemen of Kent, at Canterbury. 1850
76 M.C.C. and Ground v. Sussex, at Lord's 1853
89 I. Zingari v. Gentlemen of Kent, at Canterbury 1856
108 Gentlemen of England v. Gentlemen of Kent, and Sussex at Canterbury 1856
57 M.C.C. and Ground v. Sussex, at Lord's 1858

Since 1890 he had been President of the Somerset County C.C. When in congenial society he was full of most entertaining reminiscences, and it is much to be regretted that he could never be induced to give his experiences to the world. A man who could claim to have played with William Ward and to have been a regular habitue of Lord's for over eighty years would have had a most interesting story to tell. His contributions to the literature of the game were all too few, and by far the best in his Introduction to Lord's and the M.C.C., the volume published in 1914 in commemoration of the Club's completion of 100-years' tenure of their present ground.

By Sir Spencer's death Sir John Leslie, 1st Bart., the oldest cricket blue, becomes the oldest member of the M.C.C., and the only surviving original member of I Zingari: he was elected to the M.C.C. on May 31st, 1841. Apart altogether from cricket, Sir Spencer's career was a noteworthy one. He entered the Foreign Office in 1840; was Private Secretary to Lord Palmerston, the Earl of Clarendon and Earl Granville; Attaché at Washington 1846-7; Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's Office until 1901; Gentleman Usher to the Sword; and Bath King of Arms since 1904. He also brought from Paris the treaty which ended the Crimean War.


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