The Grace family had a close association with Thornbury Cricket Club from the time it was founded in 1871 by Dr Edward Mills Grace. In the next 100 years up to 1971, 24 members of the family played for the Club.
|1||Henry Mills||Doctor||Son of Dr H.M. & Mrs Martha Grace|
|2||Alfred Mills||Doctor||Son of Dr H.M. & Mrs Martha Grace|
|3||Edward Mills (E.M.)||Doctor||Son of Dr H.M. & Mrs Martha Grace|
|4||William Gilbert (W.G.)||Doctor||Son of Dr H.M. & Mrs Martha Grace|
|5||George Frederick (G.F.)||Doctor||Son of Dr H.M. & Mrs Martha Grace|
|6||George Henry||Doctor||Son of Henry Grace|
|7||Alfred Henry (Alfie)||Doctor||Son of Alfred Grace|
|8||Gerald||Doctor||Son of Alfred Grace|
|9||Arthur Sidney||Doctor||Son of Alfred Grace|
|10||Edward||Carpenter||Son of Edward Mills Grace|
|11||Francis Henry||Electrician||Son of Edward Mills Grace|
Son of Edward Mills Grace
|13||Mervyn Bruce||Engineer||Son of Edward Mills Grace|
|14||Norman Vere||Captain (Royal Navy)||Son of Edward Mills Grace|
|15||William Gilbert Jnr||Schoolmaster||Son of William Gilbert Grace|
|16||Henry Edgar||Admiral||Son of William Gilbert Grace|
|17||Charles Butler||Engineer||Son of William Gilbert Grace|
|18||D’Arcy||Engineer in South Africa||Son of Gerald Grace (no 8 above)|
|19||Edmund||Timber merchant||Son of Francis (no 11 above)|
|20||Edward Mills||Doctor Capt RAMC||Son of Edgar Mervyn Grace|
|21||Gerald Frederick||Lt-Col OBE RA||Son of Edgar Mervyn Grace|
|22||Edward Michael||Chartered Surveyor||Son of Gerald Frederick Grace|
|23||Patrick||Missionary||Son of Norman Vere Grace|
|24||Mervyn Harton||Schoolmaster||Son of Norman Vere Grace|
We are fortunate to have been allowed to see, and to use, the notes made about the the history of Thornbury Cricket Club by Dr Edgar Mervyn Grace. For this we want to thank Les Summerfield, Thornbury Cricket Club and Mike Grace. The notes include thumbnail sketches of many of the Club’s members. We have separated out the sketches relating to members of the Grace family. Click here to see the sketches of other players
Henry Grace – the eldest of the five brothers, Henry was no mean cricketer and played for Thornbury on several occasions. A short, stocky man, he made his name in the early sixties at Lord’s in a match between M.C.C. and South Wales, scoring a very good 63. He was a very good doctor in the mining district of Kingswood, where he was immensely popular. His best cricket was played before Gloucestershire County Cricket Club was established and he died in 1895 at the age of 63.
Alfred Grace – athletic in build and one of the finest riders to hounds with the Beaufort; a good boxer and billiards player, a great ‘shot’ and a lovable sportsman, Alfred was much better cricketer than the records show. He was the second of the five brothers and was born at Downend House on May 17th 1840. He captained Chipping Sodbury for several years and played frequently for Thornbury, scoring several centuries, and ‘Wisden’ had this to say of him: ‘E. M. scored 200 not out in a total of 286 for 5 wickets (including 18 extras) Dr Alfred Grace was 28 not out at the end of the day. A Doctor at the beginning and a Doctor at the end. Such is life.’ He died on May 24th 1916 at the age of 76.
Dr Edward Mills Grace (1841 – 1911) – ‘The Little Doctor’ or ‘The Coroner’ as E. M. was affectionately called, was born in Downend House on November 28th 1841, the third son of Dr H. M. and Mrs Martha Grace and was the eldest of the world-famous three Graces – E.M., W.G., and G.F. He first played in first-class cricket in 1854 when at the age of 13, he was summoned from school at Long Ashton to play against the All England XI on the big field behind the Full Moon Inn at Stokes Croft, Bristol.
In 1862, in his 21st year, he not only scored 192 not out, going in first for M.C.C. v Kent at Canterbury, but in the county’s 2nd in nings took all ten wickets. Between 1860 and 1866 E.M. was acknowledged to the best all-round cricketer in the world, and his fielding at point, during his long career, has never been surpassed.
During the (English) winter of 1864/64 he toured Australia and New Zealand with George Parr’s team which did not lose a single match, even against odds, and also played several single wicket games.
As the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club was not formed until 1870, his statistical record for the County does not reveal his real worth, but he was instrumental in winning many matches. In 1863 he scored 3,071 runs and took 349 wickets, while in 1906 – that is to say, 43 years later – his ‘bag’ of wickets was 352, and although he was unable to play in either 1885 or 1908, because of a knee injury, his full record was 75,762 runs and 11,906 wickets.
It was in 1871 that E.M. founded the present Thornbury Cricket Club, and in 1872 the ground at ‘The Ship’ at Alveston, where the Club still plays, was brought into use, and for 40 years he was Captain, Secretary and Treasurer.
It was in 1880 in his 40th year that he was selected on his merits to play in the first Test Match in this country versus Australia at the Oval, and with his brother Gilbert (W.G.), 7 years his junior, put on 91 for the first wicket. His great feats as an all-round athlete are too numerous to recall here, suffice it to say that he won many races at all distances, excelled at the pole, high and long jump and threw the cricket ball over 100 yards both ways.
It is also on record that he could jump a five-barred gate in full hunting kit, while as a fearless rider to hounds over rough country he was unsurpassed. And considering that he was a very busy Doctor, holding a large number of public appointments, he was always a conscientious churchgoer and Sunday observer, a non-smoker, and was beloved by all his patients and friends. He died on May 20th 1911 at the age of 69, and was buried at Downend.
Dr William Gilbert Grace (1848 – 1915) – ‘W.G’, as he was always known, was the fourth of Dr H. M. Grace’s five cricketing sons and the last to be born at Downend House on July 18th 1848 which was also his mother’s 36th birthday. It is alleged that through having to lie in bed with pneumonia and rheumatic fever at the age of 16 he grew to be the tallest member of the family, reaching 6 feet 2 inches. Until he started putting on a lot of weight ‘W.G.’ was a very remarkable athlete. His favourite distance was 200 yards.
But what can be said of him that has not already been said. It was he who made cricket the great game it was until a few years ago, and in 1865 made his first appearance at Lord’s at the age of 17. Two years later he surpassed his elder brother, E.M. to become the most famous cricketer in the world. W.G. was coached and taught to play with a very straight bat by his uncle, Alfred Pocock – ‘Nunky’ as he was affectionately called, making such progress that he soon became the ‘King of Cricket’. In 1876 he scored 839 runs in five days play, while in 1895, in his 47th year, he reached 1,000 runs in May, going on to complete his ‘Century of Centuries’. At first he was a very good fast, round arm bowler but later on changed to become a cunning slow bowler, who took a large number of wickets with his innocuous looking deliveries. As a fielder he was good at first in the outfield but as his weight increased (he turned the scale at 19 stone!) he made his mark at point, where, having huge hands he rarely if ever missed a catch.
W.G. played occasionally for Thornbury in both home and away matches between 1874 and 1898 when he had completed his half-century of life, proving so successful that his record at the ‘Ship’ was 1,745 runs and 75 wickets, while in away games he scored a further 1,774 runs and dismissed 119 opponents to make his full record for the Club no fewer than 3,519 runs and a ‘bag’ of 194 wickets. In 1880 he played against Thornbury for the Bristol Medicals and was undefeated with 168 to his credit. A great all-rounder in every sense of the world, he excelled on the dance floor during the winter when he also enjoyed beagling as well as shooting and fishing. In 1901 he took up bowls and instituted International matches, for six years captaining the English team, during the first two years of which he personally did not lose a single game.
When he left Bristol in 1899 to manage the London County XI at Crystal Palace, he severed his connection with Gloucestershire cricket, and took up golf, at which he was soon playing down to a handicap of 18 – a great achievement for a man of his age.
He died on October 23rd 1915 aged 67, and was buried at Elmer’s End. He is commemorated at Lord’s by a handsome pair of gates, known as the Grace Gates, and the inscription reads simply: ‘To the Memory of William Gilbert Grace The Great Cricketer 1848 – 1915 May He Rest In Peace’.
George Frederick Grace – Fred, as he was affectionately known, was born on December 13th 1850, the youngest member of the Grace family, at the Chestnuts at Downend, and was not only a great cricketer but also a charming and much beloved character. Like his brothers Fred studied medicine and helped in his father’s practice at Downend. A splendid athlete he excelled on the dance floor and was also a champion skater even playing Cricket On Ice at the Prince’s Club in London for two years. A good shot he was a welcome member of many shooting parties and a fearless rider to hounds in the Beaufort country.
From a very early age he was a brilliant all-round cricketer and W.G. always affirmed that he would have become the greatest of the three brothers if he had lived.
An exceedingly correct batsman, with an upright stance, he made many good scores and always appeared at his best when a special effort was required. He bowled very fast round arm and at times was quite unplayable, while in the field he was unsurpassed, especially in the deep, being very safe and fleet of foot. His amazing catch in the first ever Test match at the Oval against Australia in 1880 has been variously described many times, but is still regarded as the best ever. It dismissed the great hitter, G.J. Bonner, off our best slow bowler, Alfred Shaw, and rose to such a great height that the batsmen, running the third run, had crossed twice before the ball finally descended into Fred’s safe hands. Alas, within a fortnight, he was dead from pneumonia after sleeping, it is said, in a damp bed in a Gloucester hotel, following a game at Stroud, all the hotels in the neighbourhood being full for a highly successful Three Choirs Festival in Cheltenham.
Fred’s record for Thornbury was 12 innings 3 not outs 922 runs, highest score 192 not out, average 102.4, while he also captured 36 wickets at a cost of 5.5 runs each.
A.H. Grace – always known as ‘Alfie’ to distinguish him from his father, Alfred, the second of the five brothers, all medical practitioners and the son of Dr H. M. and Mrs Martha Grace, of Downend, first played for Thornbury in 1880 at the age of 14, and scored his first century in 1888 against Wotton Under Edge; altogether he made at least ten hundreds and won a great many matches by his clever bowling. He played for Gloucestershire once or twice and appeared regularly in the Colts matches from 1886 to 1891 and was very popular, having a ready wit. His peculiar characteristic was in batting without any pads, declaring he could run much better without them and that if the ball did hit his leg, he was much more likely to be given not out for l.b.w. He was Vice-Captain from 1911 to 1914 and although he played in four matches after the War in 1919, he had the misfortune to damage his hand while fielding and was forced to retire from the game. A very loveable person, who practised with his father in Chipping Sodbury and like him a marvellous horseman, who hunted regularly with the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds and took part in ‘The Great Wood’ run, he was great rider to the hounds and loved to snatch a day over the Berkeley Vale on his famous hunter ‘Johnnie’ who loved the Marsh Rheens.
In 1888 he scored 104 against Wotton Under Edge in a colossal total of 645 for 6, being one of four individual century-makers, the others being C. J. Robinson (199), E. M. Grace (145), and Theo Robinson (128). Four years later he made 123 against Stapleton at Alveston; he and E.M. (120 not out) adding 253 for the second wicket.
A.S. Grace – Arthur, like his brother, Alfie, was a good and very enthusiastic cricketer, who played for the Colts against Gloucestershire on several occasions, and was a very steady, defensive batsman and an excellent fielder. He and his brother used to drive over from Chipping Sodbury to Thornbury in an Irish gig, and in 1904 Arthur headed the batting averages with 7 innings 3 not outs, top score 65 not out 168 runs for an average of 42. The following year, however he took up a hospital appointment at Benoni, Pretoria and spent the rest of his life in South Africa, dying on his 73rd birthday in 1943. His son, Arthur, who was born and lived in South Africa, was selected to tour England with the South African team, but unfortunately was unable to make the trip owing to business commitments.
F. H. Grace – second son of E. M., Francis, who was born at Thornbury on December 30th 1878, was very short and slight of build, but amazingly agile and active. In his 13th year he took part in the Graces versus Robinsons match on the County Ground at Bristol and fielded very well. The following year he played his first game for Thornbury and carried on for the next 56 years, during which he was Joint Secretary with Edgar in 1910 and 1911 when he also vice-captain, and from 1919 until his death thirty years later he was a very keen Committee member and was elected Vice-President in 1948.
A great wit, Francis was an extremely popular member of the Club and a good steady opening batsman, holding a very straight bat, left elbow well forward, with a powerful slashing cut, unusual for such a small person. On several occasions he dealt with short balls or ‘bumpers’ as if he were serving at tennis with great effect. In 1941 in his 63rd year, he was third in the Thornbury batting averages with an average of 24.50 and a top score of 63 – one run for every year of his life. The year 1941 marked the Centenary of his father’s birth and in the match at Downend he opened the innings with his brother, Edgar, scoring 20 and running out a Downend batsman with a magnificent pick up and throw in from extra cover, but during that year he had the misfortune to fracture his left arm when facing a fast bowler. His best all-round performance was when he not only captured all ten wickets but also made 28 not out for the ‘Old Boys’ of Wellington College (now The Wrekin) against the School and Masters. At school, apart from cricket, he was a very good long distance runner and broke the mile record.
Francis bowled legbreaks round the wicket with an easy swinging action, commencing with his hand and the ball behind his back, and was often very successful. His fielding was always very good and keen, being exceptionally quick off the mark, while he especially excelled when fielding at forward square-leg (midway between the bowler’s wicket and the square leg umpire) to his father’s ‘lobs’ where he caught many catches which would not have been reckoned even a chance to an ordinary fielder. Being absolutely fearless, he never turned his back on the hardest hit.
Dr Edgar Mervyn Grace – Edgar Grace was born on October 6th 1886 at Park House, Thornbury, and inherited his zest for cricket from his illustrious father, Dr Edward Mills Grace, the elder of the three famous Grace brothers – E.M., W.G., and G.F.
He made his debut for Thornbury at the age of 9, when he acted as substitute in the 2nd innings against Cinderford, and with his high-pitched ‘lobs’ took 6 wickets for 24 runs.
Educated at Wellington College (now The Wrekin) he was Captain of the XI in 1904 and 1905, and later played for Christ’s College, Cambridge, St Bart’s Hospital, London and Ashtead, while for Thornbury in 1909 he scored two centuries at the Ship. Was only 19 when he first started helping his father as Secretary and Treasurer, succeeding him in 1910. It was in 1919 that he became Captain of the first XI, a position he was to hold with great distinction for 36 years and in 1920 he enjoyed an enormously successful season, during which he completed the ‘Double’, scoring over a thousand runs for the Club, as well as taking 146 wickets at a cost of only 7 runs apiece. On two occasions he captured 9 wickets in an innings, while he was chiefly responsible for routing the Bristol Police for 14 by taking 6 of their wickets for 6 runs! Against Clifton he made 111 not out and with Major Veal (132) put on 250 for the first wicket. In 1927 Edgar played his highest innings for Thornbury – 143 against Oldbury, and was unlucky not to reach his hundred before lunch. He made his eighth and last century for the Club in 1945, an exhilarating 100 not out in 100 minutes v Bristol Grammar School. Altogether he reached three figures on 17 occasions, including two hundreds for M.C.C. and two for Gloucestershire Gypsies.
In 1948 he was presented with a gold watch by the Club, and eight years later completed no less than 62 years as a playing member – 50 of which were in office and 37 as Skipper – and was elected Joint President with his younger brother, Norman, Edgar finally retired in 1957 following a hunting accident, which injured his left thigh, but still continued to take a very keen interest in the Club, of which he remains Joint President with his brother, Captain N. V. Grave.
Being a son of the ‘Little Doctor’ it often seemed that too much was expected of Edgar, and this was summed up in a remark overheard on the Bristol University ground at Coombe Dingle; ‘ He thinks he’s a very much better player than he really is’.
In 1908 he took part in a County Trial match on the County Ground for E.J. Spry’s Benefit, distinguishing himself by catching a real ‘hummer’ at deep mid-wicket. This, incidentally, was W.G.’s last appearance in cricket in Bristol, but unfortunately he failed to come off, being caught and bowled before he had a chance to show his true form which, even at 60, was far better than many men half his age. Fifty five years later Edgar opened the new pavilion on the Ship ground during a match with the Gloucestershire Gypsies and presented the Club with a photograph of his father, taken at Lord’s in 1891, when E.M. was 50.
Mervyn Bruce Grace – the fourth son of E. M. Grace and born on August 15th 1889, Mervyn was a useful all-round cricketer, who first played for Thornbury in 1902 at the early age of 13; he scored his maiden century in 1909. The following year he sought employment as an engineer in South Africa, and when the First World War broke out in 1914 he joined the North Staffordshire Regiment, in which his brother-in-law, Dr. W. Dale, was Medical Officer. Three years later he lost his life after being shot through the head while leading his platoon into action in France. A very likeable fellow, he would undoubtedly have made his mark had he lived.
Norman Vere Grace – born on July 31st 1894 Norman Grace was E.M.’s fifth son, and at an age which was early, even for a member of the Grace family, first played for Thornbury when he was only 9! He continued to play until 1966 when at 72 he decided it was high time he retired. When he was 12 he joined the Royal Navy and was at Osborne and Dartmouth with the then Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VIII and now Teddy Windsor, retiring as a Captain in 1948. He was a very good all-round cricketer, playing for the Navy against the Army at Lord’s three times, and in many parts of the world. Whenever he was at home he performed very successfully for Thornbury, making several scores between 80 and 100 as well as taking heaps of wickets. As a successful slow bowler, very similar to his uncle ‘W.G.’ he once captured all ten wickets in a match, two of them in the last over, the tenth with the final ball – a considerable feat. He also played for Gloucestershire Gypsies from 1924 until a few years ago, being elected Chairman in 1954, a position he still holds with great success. As a fielder he made his mark at long-on and also at first slip, where he made many fine catches, often falling backwards, to everyone’s amusement. His finest performance was against Bath Association at the ‘Ship’ at Alveston. They were set to make 27 to win, but so well did he bowl that they lost seven wickets before the winning hit was made! Once he took 8 wickets but was robbed of all ten by two run outs, while on another occasion, after taking the first 9 wickets, he was deprived of the tenth by his nephew, who brought off a great catch at extra cover off the bowler at the other end!
Dr Edward Mills Grace junior – Teddy, grandson of the famous E.M. was a good club all-rounder, being a marvellous fielder, who batted and bowled left-handed. He was very long in the legs and six foot five inches tall, and being athletic excelled in the hurdles. His fielding close-in at short-leg was so consistently brilliant as to recall similar feats by his grandfather at point, where he had no equal. Like E. M. who made 192 not out when playing as a substitute for M.C.C. v Kent in 1862, Teddy, having been lent to Worcestershire Gentlemen in their game with the Gloucestershire Gypsies 73 years later, distinguished himself by hitting up a grand 82 not out and was immediately elected a member of the Gypsies! He also scored 96 for Bristol University in their annual match with Birmingham University.
Like his father, Dr Edgar Grace in the first War, Teddy served as a Captain in the R.A.M.C. at the start of the second War. He was commissioned in 1940 and during his first week helped to bring back the wounded from Dunkirk, making four crossings. Later he served with the First Army in North Africa and died of typhoid in Italy in 1944.
Whatever his limitations as a player, in sheer cricket spirit Ted Grace was a truly worthy member of the great family from which he sprang, and in Thornbury, where it was hoped that he would inherit his father’s practice and also the captaincy of the Cricket Club, his death at the early age of 28 is still deeply mourned.
Lieut-Colonel Gerald Frederick Grace OBE – was born in 1921 and was named after his great-uncle, George Frederick, so as to retain the initials G.F. By a curious freak, however, he was always called Bill in the Army which he joined from School during the War and is now a Lieut-Colonel stationed at S. H. A. P. E.
Bill learnt his cricket at his father’s old school – Wrekin College where he was in the XI for 4 years, being captain for the last two. As an all-rounder he was often picked for his bowling, just short of medium pace with a very dangerous good length ball which drifted away from leg to off, taking many wickets against even very strong sides. He started playing for Thornbury at 13 and has always strengthened the side when on leave, scoring 3 centuries and capturing a large number of wickets. Saw service in the Korean War, being stationed at Hong Kong where he was very successful during their Cricket Centenary, while later in German he returned very good batting and bowling averages. In July 1948 he played for the Duke of Beaufort’s XI against Gloucestershire C.C.C. at the opening of the new ground at Badminton, together with such famous players at Arthur Mailey, Jack Fingleton, Bill O’Reilly, Alan McGilvray, Walter Hammond, Beverly Lyon, Brigadier M. A. Green, Bob Wyatt and Reg Sinfield. For the Army in an evening game in 1949 he took 8 wickets at a cost of only 2 runs, and claims that he once took all ten wickets – but not for T.C.C.
Edward Michael Grace – ‘Mike’ was born on August 9th 1947 and won his cricket colours at Wrekin College in 1965 and afterwards at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. He turned out for Thornbury during the summer vacation. The only son of Gerald Grace, and a great-grandson of E.M. he is a steady bat, who often opens the innings, his highest score so far being 71; his fielding is excellent and sometimes he keeps wicket.[/fusion_text]