Obituary

Charles Thornton

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THORNTON, MR. CHARLES INGLIS, born at Llanwarne, Herefordshire, on March 20, 1850, died suddenly in London on December 10, aged 79. With his death there passed a great personality in the history of cricket. He had long given up active participation in the game, but in his day he was one of the biggest--if not actually the mightiest of all time--of hitters. To the present generation he was only a name, but in the memories of those who, like Lord Harris and Mr. A. J. Webbe, were his contemporaries, his famous deeds must remain firmly implanted.

He went to Eton in 1861, to the Rev. G. R. Dupuis's house, and was in the Eleven in 1866, 1867, and 1868, being captain in his last year. He also played in Oppidan and Mixed Wall and Field Xl's, won the School Fives and was Keeper in 1867 and 1868, and won the Double Rackets and Putting the Weight in 1863, and Throwing the Cricket Ball in 1867. Going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, he played in the Eleven four times from I869, being captain in 1872, the year that Cambridge, thanks to a fine innings of 130 by W. Yardley and some effective bowling of W. N. Powys, beat Oxford in an innings. Thornton was on the winning side for Cambridge three times out of four. The year that Oxford won was in 1871, when S. E. Butler took all ten wickets in the first innings of Cambridge. Thornton also played from 1867 onwards for Kent, and a little for Middlesex in the middle seventies. To him more than to anybody else was due the success of the annual Scarborough Festival, He was largely instrumental in starting it, and although he had long given up cricket he never lost his interest in the famous Week, even until last season. To mark the esteem in which he was held and to recognise his services to the Scarborough Festival, which had then been in existence a quarter of a century, he was, in 1894, presented with a silver loving-cup subscribed for by the members of the Scarborough Cricket Club. He received another presentation in 1921 and was also given the freedom of the borough.

Like many others of his day, Thornton always regarded cricket more as a game than as a serious business. Adventurous by nature, he felt that in cricket he could indulge this spirit to the full. Whenever he was captain he liked going in first. Individual in style, he jumped quickly to the ball in making his magnificent drives, and in this respect differed from the famous Australian hitters, Bonnor, McDonnell and Lyons, all of whom were fast-footed. In his brilliant career he put together many scores of a hundred in remarkable time, and the length of some of his drives was enormous. It is on record, for instance, that in the North v. South match at Canterbury in 1871, he hit a ball from NV. M. Rose strictly measured 152 yards, while at the practice nets at Hove the same year he sent it 168 yards 2 feet and 162 yards. Playing against Harrow at Lord's in 1868, he drove the ball over the old Pavilion, and at the Oval he accomplished the same feat, while it is noted that at Canterbury he hit V. E. Walker out of the ground each ball of an over. The over then consisted of four balls.

A good story is told of him when, visiting the neighbourhood of Oakham school and going to the cricket ground, he was asked to play as a substitute. Nobody at the time knew who he was, but they had reason to before the day was out, for in the second innings he scored 188 out of 216 in two hours, sending the ball out of the ground thirteen times. Hitting the ball out of the ground was a feat he always took a delight in accomplishing. On one occasion at Scarborough, off the bowling of A. G. Steel, he drove a ball over a four-storeyed house into the adjoining street, called Trafalgar-square.

To slow bowlers Thornton was a terror, and on James Southerton, in particular, he was generally very severe. He often threatened to hit Southerton out of the Oval, and at length succeeded. As the ball sailed over the fence Thornton dropped his bat, put his hands on his hips, and laughed uproariously, saying, " I told you I would do it, Jim." Southerton shook his head, and replied, " Quite right, Mr. Thornton, but I shall get you out." And get him out he did. As a matter of fact he hit Southerton twice over the Pavilion, once over the scoring-box, and also for a 2 in a four ball over, and, altogether, he hit out of three sides of the Oval. Once, in a match between Kent and Notts, Thornton hit a ball back to Shaw, who, although knocked off his feet, held it and thus brought off a marvellous catch. In the power and consistency of his driving, Thornton was by himself, constantly bringing off hits that have become more or less historic in the game. As showing the difference between cricket in his days and now, he took part, in six seasond for Kent, in only eighteen matches. Still, in thirty-four innings he got three hundreds.Probably his finest exhibitions in the latter part of his career were a couple of hundreds at Scarborough for the Gentlemen of England against I Zingari. In the game of 1866, he made 107 out of 133 in seventy minutes in twenty nine hits- eight 6's, twelve 4's, two 2's, and seven singles. A.G. Steel was among the bowlers on that occasion. Thornton stood 6ft. and had rather sloping shoulders, so that he was admirable proportioned for the batting style he loved.

In business Thornton was in the timber trade for thirty-five years, and retired in 1912. A keen motorist, he was also extremely fond of travelling, having been all through Japan, Siberia, and Russia. When the war broke out he was in Berlin, and was very nearly caught. In his book, "East and West and Home Again," he described a trip round the world. He had been a member of the M.C.C. and of the Orleans Club for fifty years. He married Fanny, daughter of Mr. Charles Dowell, of Croydon, but left no children.

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