The Grace Family
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The Grace Family Group in 1892 with WG and his elder brother CSCC Captain Alfred Grace at the front.
The name of Grace is synonymous with cricket. Mention it to anyone who is only remotely interested in our great summer game and it will immediately bring to mind the name of "W.G."- Dr. William Gilbert Grace, the bearded giant of Victorian England, and his brothers, "E.M." (The Coroner) and "G.F."
It is, therefore, with considerable pride that we can record such a strong tie between the Grace family and Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club. In fact, their association with the Club extended over the first 50 years of its history.
From the early beginnings it was not unusual to find the name of a "Dr. Grace" in the Club scorebooks. Two Graces (father and son) captained the Chipping Sodbury Club for a period of several years and it has been established from available records that no less than ten members of the Grace family, including the great "W.G." himself, played for Chipping Sodbury.
But to begin at the beginning
Dr. Henry Mills Grace and Mrs. Martha Grace (nee Pocock) of The Chestnuts, Downend, had five sons-Henry, Alfred, E.M., W.G., and G.F.
Dr. Grace Snr. himself played cricket for Mangotsfield, and, with his sons, for West Gloucestershire and the Gentlemen of Gloucestershire.
When the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club was actually formed in 1870, its first officers included Dr. Grace Snr., Dr. Henry Grace (his eldest son) and his three youngest sons, E.M., W.G., and G.F.
In the County Club's first proper match against Glamorgan at Bristol in 1870, W.G. scored 197 runs, G.F. took nine wickets and E.M. seven.
The association between the Grace family and Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club began shortly after the Club's formation in 1860 when Dr. Alfred Grace, the second son of Dr. H. M. Grace, moved to Chipping Sodbury to practice medicine, having taken over Dr. Brookman's practice.
Alfred Grace was the elder brother of WG Grace and was club captain of Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club in the mid-late 1800s.
Born on May 17th, 1840, Dr. Alfred Grace, although not such a good cricketer as his three younger brothers, E.M., W.G. and G.F., was a player of considerable ability. In the M.C.C. Biographies he is described as a good cricketer who several times scored over a hundred.
One of the most important matches in which he took part was in 1855 at the age of 15 when he appeared in company with his father and two of his brothers for the XXII of West Gloucestershire against the all-England XI.
There is on record a rather unusual incident in which Dr. Alfred Grace was involved while playing for the West Gloucestershire Club v. Redland in 1858, when he was 18 years old. It appears that a noisy critic objected to the ground being cleared before the game, but Alfred soon dealt with him. However the critic returned with several companions in the afternoon, interrupting play an hour before the drawing of stumps.
Alfred suppressed him. However, the interruption developed into something more serious as the gang took up battle positions on a heap of stones, and declared war on all and sundry.
For a time, both teams, fighting side by side had rather the worst of the exchanges but then they charged shoulder to shoulder with stumps and bats carrying hostilities into the enemy's Camp.
There was an extraordinary scene for about half an hour; but then Dr. H. M. Grace returned with a magistrate who threatened to read the Riot Act if the intruders did not disperse. Thereupon the opposition collapsed-but the game had to be abandoned.
In 1863, Dr. Alfred Grace played for the XXII of Bristol against England at Durdham Down and scored three runs. When he came to live at Chipping Sodbury in the early 1860's it was not long before he was playing for the Chipping Sodbury Club which he subsequently captained for a time.
It was not unusual for him to enlist the services of one or more of his younger brothers and on one occasion G.F. played for Chipping Sodbury against Syston and district and scored over a hundred. Dr. Alfred Grace played and so did Alfred Pocock, his uncle, who knocked up half a century. It was Alfred Pocock - Mrs. Martha Grace's brother-who took W.G. under his wing and taught him his cricket.
G.F. also played in the match against Tetbury at Worcester Lodge, Badminton Park, on August 30th, 1869. He opened Chipping Sodbury's innings and scored an undefeated double century, carrying out his bat with 206 not out in a total of 287.
In the same year-also against Tetbury- E.M. scored 109 for Chipping Sodbury. E.M. inflicted heavy punishment on the Chipping Sodbury bowlers when he appeared in the Frenchay side in the 1870 season, scoring 119 and on July 27th, 1872 on the new Thornbury ground at "The Ship," Alveston, in a two-innings match against Chipping Sodbury he scored 174 runs out of a total of 216 from the bat without being dismissed. He took eight Chipping Sodbury wickets in the first innings and two in the second.
It was on the " Ship" ground in 1877 that E.M. scored 200 not out for Thornbury against Kingswood in a total of 286 for 5. Dr. Alfred Grace of Chipping Sodbury, who was also appearing with his brother in the Thornbury side, was 28 not out at the end of the day's play and Wisden's comment was ''A doctor at the beginning and a doctor at the end. Such is life."
Such, too, were the feats of this family which was to earn a world-wide reputation for its prowess on the cricket field, and when Australia visited England for the first time in 1880 to play in the third series of matches between the two countries, the three youngest Graces, E.M., W.G., and G.F. played for England in the same match at Kennington Oval on September 6th, 7th and 8th, 1880.
W.G. and E.M. opened the innings and put on 91 for the first wicket, W.G. scoring 152 and becoming the first English batsman to score a century in Tests between Australia and England. G.F. had the misfortune to collect a pair of spectacles but he soon atoned for this in Australia's first innings by catching the giant G. J. Bonner from an on drive off Alfred Shaw, 115 yards from the wicket. So high was the hit that the batsmen had completed the second run from it before G.F. made the catch.
This was G.F.'s last great match as before the month was over he was dead. He caught pneumonia after sleeping in a damp bed at Gloucester when playing at Stroud. A most popular player, he was only in his 30th year at the time of his death.
The Sodbury Graces
The very nature of his profession made Dr. Alfred Grace an uncertain player and often during the course of a match at Chipping Sodbury he would leave the field of play in answer to a summons to attend to one of his patients.
Living in the centre of a famous hunting county and being one of the finest horsemen in England, Dr. Alfred naturally devoted some of his leisure hours to that sport. He took part in many historical runs including the " Great Wood" run and became as widely known as the "Hunting Doctor" as his brothers were known as the ''Cricketing Doctors."
His knowledge of horses and hounds was deep and accurate. He was a good shot and a billiards player, too.
Dr. Alfred had three sons-Dr. A. H. Grace (or " Alfie" as he was familiarly called), Dr. Gerald Grace and Dr. Arthur S. Grace. Dr. Alfie Grace emerged as a good all rounder and later followed in his father's footsteps as captain of the Chipping Sodbury Club.
In the very early 1900s Alfie Grace (the nephew of WG Grace) was captain of Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club. Alfie was a very good allrounder.
Born on March l0th, 1866, Dr. Alfie Grace first played in local Club cricket for Thornbury-in 1880 at the age of 14, scoring his first century in 1888 against Wotton-under-Edge. This was an extraordinary match, which produced some phenomenal scores. It was played at Alveston Ship, the home team batting first and being dismissed for 51. E.M. opened Thornbury's innings with C. J. Robinson and the pair put on 357 for the first wicket, E.M. scoring 145 and Robinson 199.
After their dismissal T. Robinson made 128 and Dr. Alfie Grace knocked up 104. When stumps were drawn, the score had reached 645 for 6 wickets! Dr. Alfie's younger brother, Arthur, also played in this match but did not bat.
Dr. Alfie Grace made at least ten centuries for the Thornbury Club and won a good many games by his clever bowling. He played for the County Colts and for Gloucestershire during the years 1886-1891. It was during the mid 1880's that he first played for Chipping Sodbury.
Four Chipping Sodbury Graces played in the family match between the Graces and the Robinsons at the County Ground, Bristol, in 1892. Dr. Alfred Grace was run out for a "duck"; Alfie was bowled for 10 and took four wickets for 27; Arthur fell lbw for 8 and had a bowling analysis of 0-12; while Gerald was caught for a single.
Taking his degree at Guy's Hospital, Dr. Alfie Grace qualified as a medical practitioner in April 1897. He commenced practising in Chipping Sodbury and worked for many years with his father, Dr. Alfred. Just before the turn of the century he was appointed Medical Officer of Health to the Chipping Sodbury Board of Guardians-a position which he held for 30 years.
As well as being a cricketer of considerable ability, he became well-known in other sporting activities in the West of England as a popular rider with the Beaufort and Berkeley Hunts and as a one-time champion hurdler of the West of England.
Arthur Grace was a brother of Alfie and the pair frequently turned out for Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club. In 1905 he left for South Africa.
Throughout the nineties and early 1900's the two brothers, Alfie and Arthur Grace played regularly for Chipping Sodbury, Arthur having also appeared with the County Colts earlier in his cricketing career. Both made some useful scores and Dr. Alfie, who had taken over the captaincy of the Chipping Sodbury Club by the turn of the century excelled as an all-rounder.
It still remained a common practice among members of the Grace family to turn out as guest players for other clubs and it was not uncommon for one or more of the Sodbury Graces to play for the Thornbury Club on occasions during the season and for the Thornbury branch of the family to assist Chipping Sodbury. For example, the brothers, Alfie and Arthur, would drive over from Chipping Sodbury to play for Thornbury and it is interesting to note that Arthur, who was a stolid, steady bat, topped the Thornbury Club's batting averages in 1904.
A game which aroused considerable interest took place at Chipping Sodbury's ground at The Ridings on Monday, July 18th, 1904, when E.M. and his nephews, Alfie and Arthur appeared on opposite sides. Dr. Alfie Grace made 25 and Arthur, 26, E.M. claiming both their wickets. However it was Alfie who took the bowling honours by dismissing seven Thornbury batsmen.
During the luncheon interval, the health of Dr. W. G. Grace was drunk, and, it being his 56th birthday, a telegram congratulating him on his '56 not out " was sent.
In the following year, the Chipping Sodbury Club bade farewell to Arthur Grace on his departure for Springs, Benoni, South Africa, where his brother, Dr. Gerald had preceeded him some years previously.
Gerald Grace was a brother of Alfie and Arthur, son of Alfred and nephew of WG. He played for CSCC but was shot dead by South African police in a tragic accident.
But before he sailed to take up his appointment there, members of the Club made a presentation to him during the course of a smoker which was presided over by the captain, Dr. Alfie Grace, at the Club's headquarters at the George Hotel, Chipping Sodbury.
Wherever there was a game of cricket being played, there too was a member of the Grace family or more, be it a Club game or a representative match. And they were always among the runs and the wickets. Take, for example, the match played between the Chipping Sodbury Board of Guardians against the Thornbury Guardians at The Ridings, Chipping Sodbury, on Monday, July 24th, 1905.
Dr. Alfie Grace, skipper of the Chipping Sodbury Club and Medical Officer, turned out for the local Guardians and completely dominated the day's cricket. He knocked up a score of 152 in a total of 217, being stumped off the bowling of his uncle, E.M. Then he proceeded to take seven Thornbury wickets at a cost of 62 runs, bowling E.M. for 1. Little wonder that the Sodbury Guardians recorded a handsome victory!
Few could equal Dr. Alfie Grace as an all-rounder in local Club cricket during the first decade of the 1900s and the Chipping Sodbury Club owed many a win to his brilliant performances with bat and ball.
The following are some of his outstanding achievements of that era:
July 9th, 1904
81 not out in a total of 161 for 1 and 5 wickets for Chipping Sodbury v. Wotton Alliance C.C. at Wotton.
August 8th, 1904
90 not out in a total of 120 and 7 wickets for Chipping Sodbury Guardians v. Barton Regis Guardians at The Ridings.
August 13th, 1904
73 out of 153 for Chipping Sodbury v. Old Elizabethans at The Ridings.
June 16th, 1906
61 out of 106 for Chipping Sodbury v. Tytherington at The Ridings.
July 7th, 1906
9 wickets for Chipping Sodbury v. Holy Trinity at The Ridings.
August 18th, 1906
102 not out in a total of 167 for 4 and 4 wickets for Chipping Sodbury against Park House. 2nd XI at The Ridings.
Aug 3rd 1907
7 wickets for Chipping Sodbury v. School- masters A at The Ridings.
August 17th, 1907
130 not out in a total of 172 for 9 for Chipping Sodbury v Greenslades at The Ridings.
July 17th, 1908
33 in a total of 95, 9 wickets and caught the tenth man for Chipping Sodbury Guardians v. Gloucester Guardians at Gloucester.
August 14th, 1909
7 wickets for Chipping Sodbury v. Pucklechurch who were dismissed for 33 at The Ridings.
July 25th, 1910
75 out of a total of 148 and 6 wickets for Chipping Sodbury v. D. S. Stinchcomb's XI at The Ridings.
He finished the 1908 season at the top of the Chipping Sodbury batting averages with a total of 384 runs (average 25.6) and took the highest number of wickets (57) for an average of 9.70. Two seasons later, he again headed the Club's batting averages and took 28 wickets. Such was the cricketing ability of Dr. Alfie Grace, who, incidentally, usually batted without pads!
In 1911, Dr. AIfie Grace relinquished the captaincy of the Chipping Sodbury Club but continued to play for them. Other members of the Grace family who played for Chipping Sodbury C.C. during this period included: Edgar M. Grace, M. B. Grace, N. V. Grace, and F. H. Grace. Dr. Alfie, M.B. and Edgar played together in the match against Wickwar on July 4th 1908 while E.M., Alfie and N.V. Grace appeared together in the Chipping Sodbury team which played St. Saviour's, Coalpit Heath. on August 23rd, 1910.
Just over six months after the death of his younger brother, the great W.G., and two years following the death of his second son Dr. Gerald Grace in a distressing accident in South Africa, Dr. Alfred Gace of Chipping Sodbury died on May 24th, 1916 at the age of 76.
Up to the last he had taken a keen interest in the game of cricket and he rarely missed seeing at least a part of most of the matches played by Gloucestershire at Ashley Down.
Until he became afflicted with deafness there were few pleasanter ways of watching a game of cricket than by sitting by his side for he was well versed in the lore of the pastime.
Dr. Alfred was a prominent citizen in Chipping Sodbury and held a variety of offices in the town. He was the last surviving member of the Old Corporation of Chipping Sodbury and had served the office of bailiff. He was a leading member of the Chipping Sodbury Town Trust, the Town Lands and Grammar School Trust and Church Lands Trust, serving also on the Board of Governors of Chipping Sodbury Grammar School.
On his death, his practice at Chipping Sodbury was taken over by his eldest son, Dr. Alfie Grace, who, after the First World War, had the misfortune to damage his hand while fielding in a match and was compelled to retire from the game he loved so much.
Dr. Alfie Grace died at Backfield, Iron Acton, on September 16th, 1929, at the age of 63 and there was a large crowd present at his funeral service which took place at Chipping Sodbury parish church. His son, Dr. Alan Grace, after qualifying, practised in Chipping Sodbury for some time, before moving to Downend.
The last of the cricketing Graces of Chipping Sodbury - Dr. Arthur S. Grace - died in Pretoria, South Africa, on his 73rd birthday in 1943, shortly after retiring from his hospital work.
His son (a grandson of Dr. Alfred Grace of Chipping Sodbury), who was born and lives in South Africa, was selected to tour England with the South African XI but, unfortunately, he was unable to make the trip owing to business reasons.
Now, alas, the Graces are no longer to be seen at The Ridings, Chipping Sodbury, and the entry " Dr. Grace" has long since disappeared from our scorebooks.
But today, years after the Graces were turning out for Sodbury, the members of CSCC are indebted to them for their valued contribution to the Club over such a long period and are deeply conscious of the great cricketing tradition we have been privileged to inherit from such an Illustrious cricketing family as the Graces.