great 'Monkey' Hornby
A cricketing legend remembered at Acton
One of the most curious graves in Cheshire can be found in Acton
churchyard, near Nantwich. It is that of Albert Nielson Hornby who,
at the end of the 19th century was the first man to captain England
teams at both cricket and rugby football. He was also the England
captain in the “Greatest Test match ever” from which
the legendary Ashes series began.
“Monkey” Hornby, as he was known because of his small
stature, was a true Corinthian. He was born in Blackburn on February
10th, 1847, the sixth son of William Henry Hornby who was MP for
Blackburn from 1857 to 1869.
In 1861 records show that the Hornby family were living at Shewbridge
Hall, Nantwich. Young Albert was educated at Harrow and when he
was seventeen he represented the school at cricket and in 1867 he
was chosen to play for Lancashire County.
A fine athlete, excellent at boxing and an outstanding horseman,
he won nine caps for England at rugby. But it was to cricket that
he was always dedicated and as captain of Lancashire he is recognised
as one of the all-time greats.
In “Red Roses Crest the Caps”, author Eric Midwinter
best sums him up with the following:
“A.N.Hornby brought a rattling blade, adept keenness in the
field, and a martinet oversight to the captaincy; he added a fourth
and final quarter to his escutcheon. He proved to be a well-informed
and cunning leader, not only capable of building and moulding his
colleagues into a superior outfit, but of assiduously sapping at
the weak linkages of his opponents.”
Hornby played for England with all the legendary cricketers of the
day, including W.G.Grace who considered himself fortunate to be
amongst his friends and said of him “that he was equally in
his element at cricket and football, with the gun and in the saddle.”
In 1881 he led Lancashire to the County Championship and the following
year as captain of England he opened the batting with Grace against
Australia in an encounter dubbed “The greatest Test match
The result was a sound thrashing for England and the following week
an obituary notice appeared in the Sporting Times, “In affectionate
Remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval on 29th August
1882.” to which a note had been added, “the body will
be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia”.
The following year an England team sailed to Australia to recover
the “Ashes” and England won the series. It was in Melbourne
that some ladies burnt a bail used in the final game and gave the
ashes to the England captain, Ivo Bligh, and the rest, as they say,
Hornby played his last match at Leicester in 1899, but his interest
in the game lasted throughout his life. He was became president
of Lancashire and captain and president of Nantwich Cricket Club.
On many occasions he brought the Lancashire team to play in Cheshire.
Hornby also played soccer for Nantwich. He was by profession a schoolteache
and was married to Ada Sarah Ingram, the daughter of Herbert Ingram
who founded “The Illustrated London News”. The couple
lived at Bridge House, Church Minshull and, later, at Parkfield,
in Wellington Road, Nantwich.
Hornby died, aged seventy-eight, on December 17th, 1925. His grave
at Acton is carved in marble, with wicket, bat and ball.
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