Henry William Russell Bencraft
March 04, 1858, Southampton, Hampshire
December 25, 1943, Compton, Winchester, Hampshire, (aged 85y 296d)
Also Known As
Sir Russell Bencraft, Henry William Russell-Bencraft
Right hand Bat
Right arm Fast
St. Edward's School, Oxford
Sir Russell Bencraft, JP, MRCS, LRCP, one of the most prominent citizens of Southampton for many years, and always devoted to cricket, died on Christmas Day at Compton near Winchester, aged 85, six months after his left leg was amputated above the knee. Born is Southampton on March 4, 1858, he lived there until his residence was destroyed by enemy action.
In the local playing fields as a boy he grew fond of the game, and at St. Edward's School, Oxford, he captained both cricket and football teams, as he did at St. George's Hospital, while as scrum-half he showed to advantage for Trojans, then the best Hampshire Rugby club.
A long biography in the Southern Daily Echo, of which Sir Russell Bencraft was chairman of directors, among several business offices which he held, mentioned his batting ability when a student at the Hospital. Most remarkable was the feat of playing a three-figure innings on every day of one week, including one of 243, and only being dismissed once.
No one did more towards advancing Hampshire in the world of cricket. Playing first for the County in 1876, when 18, he helped to beat Kent at Faversham by an innings and six runs. Three years later he took a prominent part in saving the County Club from extinction by becoming Honorary Secretary, and during a period of sixty years he occupied every office, including that of President, which he held when retiring from close participation in the game in 1936. He succeeded F. E. Lacey captain in 1894, and, as the outcome of their good work, Hampshire were in the autumn ranked by M.C.C. as first-class for the season, but did not enter the championship competition until the next year, together with Derbyshire, Essex, Leicestershire and Warwickshire. So, quite appropriately, he captained the side when first taking part in the chief county tournament, but in 1896 gave way to Captain E. G. Wynyard; and taking part in only three matches, ended his active career when 37 years old, largely because of his medical duties. Always known as Dr. Russell Bencraft in those days, his best playing years were enjoyed before Hampshire's promotion, and in 1889, when he averaged 53, his most noteworthy innings, 195 against Warwickshire at Birmingham, was the highest played for any county that season.
Russell Bencraft helped materially in the move of the county club form The Antelope to the ground still the headquarters of Hampshire cricket. Among a big store of reminiscences he found most satisfaction in recalling that he led Hampshire to victory by two wickets over Yorkshire at Sheffield in 1895; though scoring only four in each innings he was not out when the match was won.
Of medium height and robust build, he bowled fast as a youth and fielded with dash, usually at cover-point; but batting alone brought him real prominence and he was losing form when regularly facing strong opposition. As a legislator he was a valuable acquisition in all sports. For many years a member of the M.C.C. Committee; he was first president of the Southern Football League and held a similar position in the Hampshire Rugby Union and the Southampton Civil Service Sports Association, founded in 1923. He was knighted in 1924.
The Hampshire club entertained him to a Diamond Jubilee Banquet in January 1937, Sir Stanley Jackson and many cricketers of high repute being present, while G. O. Allen, captain of the England team, cabled congratulations from Adelaide, where the fourth Test match with Australia was in progress.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Batting & Fielding