March 07, 1851, The Cedars, Lee, Lewisham, London
December 26, 1916, Bifrons, Patrixbourne, Kent, (aged 65y 295d)
Right hand bat
Frank Penn, the famous Kent batsman of a generation back, died on the 26th of December at his home, Bifrons, near Canterbury. Though little of nothing had been seen of him in the cricket field for 35 years he was far indeed from forgotten. Born at Lewisham on March 7, 1851, Mr. Penn had a short but very brilliant career, ranking for several years among the finest batsmen of his day. He had a free, commanding style, and combined strong defence with splendid hitting. Stepping out of ordinary club cricket into first-class matches, he was, from the beginning, thoroughly at home in his new surroundings. He began to play for Kent in 1875, and in the following year he was seen at Lord's for the first time, scoring 44 and 35 for M.C.C. against Yorkshire. No doubt was felt as to his class. Indeed he made such an impression that he was picked for Gentlemen against Players in 1876, both at the Oval and Lord's. Thenceforward he was in the front rank. Unfortunately, his health gave way just when he was at the height of his fame. In the season of 1881 he was attacked by an affection of the heart and, being forbidden to run, had perforce to give up the game. Among those who helped Lord Harris to re-establish Kent cricket no one did better work than Mr. Penn. His best year for the county was 1877 when he made 857 runs in twenty-four innings--three times not out--with an average of 40. He made many big scores for Kent, the highest being 160 against Surrey, at Maidstone in 1878; 148 against Surrey, at the Oval in 1877; and 135 against England, at Canterbury in 1877. Perhaps the innings of his life, however, was 134 at Lord's, for M.C.C. against Cambridge University, in 1879, when he treated A. G. Steel's bowling as it had never been treated before. He had finished with cricket before Test matches became frequent, but it was his privilege to play for England against Australia at the Oval in September, 1880, in the first of the long series of contests in this country. Scoring 23 and not out 27, he made the hit that gave England a victory by five wickets in that memorable game, cutting George Palmer for four. Now that he is dead the only survivors of the England eleven of 1880 are Lord Harris and Mr. A. P. Lucas. Mr. Penn was a member of Lord Harris's team in Australia in 1878-9. He appeared eight times for Gentlemen v. Players, batting well, but without any conspicuous success. His best score was 52, at the Oval in 1876. As a batsman, Mr. Penn had one advantage over many of his contemporaries. Learning the game against bowlers not devoted to the off theory he knew the joy of real leg hitting. He could hit as hard to square leg as William Oscroft. He was President of the Kent County Club in 1905.--S.H.P.
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