Arthur Shrewsbury

Arthur Shrewsbury

Arthur Shrewsbury (11 April, 185619 May, 1903) was an English cricketer who was widely rated as competing with W. G. Grace for the accolade of being the best batsman of the 1880s; Grace himself, when asked who he would most like in his side, replied simply, "Give me Arthur".

An opening batsman, he played his cricket for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and played 23 Test matches for England, captaining them in 7 games, with a record of won 5, lost 2. He was the last professional to be captain until Len Hutton was chosen in 1952. He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1890.

An expert on sticky wickets , Shrewsbury topped the first-class batting averages seven times including in 1902, his final season. However the following spring, incorrectly believing he had an incurable disease, he shot himself at his sister's home in Gedling, Nottinghamshire.

Early life

Shrewsbury, the seventh child of William Shrewsbury and Mary Ann Wragg , was born in New Lenton, Nottinghamshire. He was educated at the People's College, Nottingham and trained as a draughtsman. His early club cricket was, like William Scotton, with Meadow Imperial and he subsequently played for Nottingham Commercial Club where he came to the notice of the county officials .

On 12 May 1873 Shrewsbury made his first appearance at Lord's for the Colts of England against the MCC despite having just turned seventeen years old. His batting modelled on that of Richard Daft . The season also saw Meadow Imperial, Shrewsbury's club side, replaced by Meadow Willow CC .

First-class beginnings

Shrewsbury missed the majority of the 1874 season with rheumatic fever but made his first-class debut in May 1875 for Nottinghamshire, he ended the season with 313 runs at 17.38 and failed to score a fifty but in a season of wet weather he came out fourth in the county's batting averages .

The following year Shrewsbury made his maiden first-class century, scoring 118 against Yorkshire, at Trent Bridge sharing in a 183 opening partnership with Richard Daft. Shrewsbury finished the season with an innings of 65 not out against Surrey in a low scoring match In May 1877, he made 119 at The Oval for the Players of the North against Gentlemen of the South. He also scored four fifties and finished the season with 778 runs at 19.94 .

In 1878 Australia made their first tour to England and their first match was against Nottinghamshire, Shrewsbury scored 8 in an innings victory for the home team. He scored 724 runs at 21.29 during the season but failed to score a century . The following season was more disappointing with his average dropping to 15.78 and his failure to be selected for either of the Gentlemen v Players fixtures. He toured North America in September 1879 with Richard Daft's XI, the side won all six matches, each of them against odds. In May 1880 Daft's team played an England XI twice, in the first of these matches Shrewsbury was umpire. During the 1880 season he scored 403 runs but once again failed to reach three figures , his highest score was 66 not out which came against the touring Australians.

In 1881 Shrewsbury led the strike of Nottinghamshire professional players alongside Alfred Shaw following disagreements with the county secretary, Captain Henry Holden, over an early season fixture with Yorshire arranged by Shaw and Shrewsbury . The strike meant Shrewsbury played just three first-class matches during the season . However the break allowed him, Shaw and James Lillywhite to organise a lucrative eight-month tour of Australia, New Zealand and America the following winter .

World tour

The tour began with games in North America although Shrewsbury suffering bronchitis missed the first leg of the tour and sailed directly to Australia via Suez , The five matches in America were financial failures with receipts just covering expenses .

The team played two first-class matches before the First Test, in the second of these the tourists beat Victoria despite having followed-on with Shrewsbury scoring 80 not out in the second innings . The First Test was staged at Melbourne over the New Year, Shrewsbury, one of ten Test debutants, scored 11 and 16 in a drawn match. Seven matches in New Zealand followed before the team returned to Australia for the remaining three Test matches, Shrewsbury scored 7 and 22 in the Second Test at Sydney. His best performance of the tour came in the Third Test, again at Sydney, top scoring in both innings – 82 and 47 – the next highest score by an Englishman was 23 . In the final Test he scored 1, final day rain ruining the best chance of English victory during the series which ended 2-0. The matches in Sydney and Melbourne proved popular meaning the three promoters made £700 each .

After the tour Shrewsbury returned to England in better physical shape thanks to the warmer climate of Australia . He and Shaw wrote to the Nottinghamshire committee to apologise for their previous seasons actions, both were welcomed back into the side .

Domestic success

In 1882 Shrewsbury scored his maiden first-class double century, it was also the first double century by a Nottinghamshire cricketer, an innings of 207 at The Oval sharing in a 289 run stand with Billy Barnes, a then first-class second wicket record, however this was Shrewsbury's only score above fifty all season . The following season was in complete contrast with seven fifties and no century but Shrewsbury managed to reach 1,000 runs in a season for the first time .

In 1884 Australia toured England, Shrewsbury warmed up for the first Test with 209 against Sussex at Hove sharing in a 266 run stand for the fifth wicket with Billy Gunn, a then first-class record for the wicket. In the drawn First Test at Old Trafford Shrewsbury top scored with 43 . He managed 27 in the Second Test which was won by an innings. The Third Test was drawn, Australia scoring 551 but without the aid of declarations (only permitted after 1889) they batted for 311 overs with every English cricketer bowling, Shrewsbury was last to come on even after wicket-keeper Alfred Lyttelton . Shrewsbury finished the season just short of 1,000 runs as Nottinghamshire won the championship title, winning nine out of their ten matches.

Test success

The tour of Australia in 1884/5 was once again organised by Shrewsbury, Shaw and Lillywhite although this time confined to Australia and with Shrewsbury instead of Shaw as captain of the team. In the First Test at Adelaide Shrewbury opened for the first time in Tests, scoring a duck and 26 not out as England won by 8 wickets. England won by 10 wickets in the Second Test, with Shrewsbury scoring 72 and 0 not out. The next two Tests were lost with Shrewsbury making scores of 18, 24, 40 and 16. In the deciding Fifth Test at Melbourne he played a captain's innings scoring 105 not out after dropping down the order , this was his maiden Test century. Australian critic Felix gave this description of the innings:
His play throughout was a treat to look at, and that neat and effective stroke of his between square-leg and mid-on is worth copying. He made a large number of his 105 in this spot. His defence was splendid, his cutting clean and telling, his timing could not well be excelled.
Shrewsbury finished the Test series with 301 runs at 50.16 and made £150 from the whole tour, the figure reduced by the boycotting of several matches by the 1884 Australians.

In 1885 Shrewsbury topped the batting averages for the first time scoring 1130 runs at 56.50 with four centuries , including carrying his bat for 224 not out at Lord's . For the third season in a row Nottinghamshire were Champion County. The following season he once again carried his bat, this time against Gloucestershire defying W.G. Grace for 72 overs in scoring 227 not out . Although Shrewsbury's best innings of the season was to come against the touring Australians and the demon, Fred Spofforth.

Shrewsbury warmed up for the Second Test (England won the First Test by 4 wickets) with another hundred against Grace in a Gentlemen v Players fixture. In the Second Test at Lord's Shrewsbury demonstrated his ability on sticky wickets, with the first day interrupted by rain he finished unbeaten on 91. In easier conditions on the second day he completed his hundred and finished with 164 all this coming against the finest bowler of the era, Spofforth. The second highest score in the match was 58 by Billy Barnes, as Australia lost by an innings. England completed the whitewash with another innings victory at The Oval. Shrewsbury finished the season with 1404 runs as once again Nottinghamshire retained the title.

Two Australian tours

England toured Australia in 1886/7 with Shrewsbury once again captaining the team, in two low scoring Tests (there were no team innings of more than 200) Shrewsbury contributed 46 runs as the series was won 2-0. His best innings of the tour came for the Non-Smokers against the Smokers in Melbourne where he scored 236 in a 803 total which at the time was a first-class record , a third wicket partnership of 311 between Shrewsbury and Billy Gunn was a then first-class record. One-sided matches and bad weather led to poor crowds and the tour failed to bring a profit for it's organisers . Despite this Shrewsbury was already planning another tour the following year.

1887 proved to be Shrewsbury's best season, 1653 runs at 78.71 , and his batting average was the highest ever achieved narrowly beating W.G. Grace's record of 78.25 set in 1871. At one point Shrewsbury made consecutive scores of 119, 152, 81, 130 and 111 and finished the season by scoring his highest first-class score of 267 against Middlesex . During the season Shrewsbury passed 10,000 career first-class runs .

In 1887/8 Shrewsbury made his final tour to Australia which turned into a financial disaster as the Melbourne Club were financing their own touring team. In Shrewsbury's team first match at Melbourne only four first-team Victoria players were picked leading to a farce as the tourists won by an innings and 456 runs, Shrewsbury scored 232, becoming the first Englishman to score a double century in Australia. The two touring teams combined for a Test against Australia at Sydney, Shrewsbury top scored with 44 in a low-scoring match which England won. In the final fixture of the tour Shrewsbury scored another double century and finished with 721 runs at 65.54 500 more than anyone else. To try and recoup some of his losses Shrewsbury stayed in Australia after the cricket tour and managed an English rugby football team this meant he missed the 1888 English cricket season . The football tour in fact added to the losses, ending in a £800 deficit to add to the £2400 lost on the cricket leg of the tour .

Best batsman in England

Shrewsbury scored a century against Sussex in his first match back but this was his highest score of the 1889 season, he finished with 522 runs at 37.28 . Shrewsbury was chosen as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1890, an award only introduced the previous year.

In 1890 he matched his highest score with an innings of 267 against Sussex , he shared in a 398 run partnership with Billy Gunn which remains the second wicket record for Nottinghamshire and was a first-class record for any wicket for nine years. Australia toured during the season but Shrewsbury struggled during the Tests making scores of 4, 13, 4 and 9 as England defended The Ashes in a low scoring series – there were no team innings of more than 176. Shrewsbury topped the batting averages .

Shrewsbury started the 1891 season with a run of low scores as he failed to reach double figures in eight consecutive innings in the County Championship (he did carry his bat for 81 in a Players v Gentleman fixture during this run) however the second half of the season saw a dramatic improvement which resulted in him topping the batting averages and being offered a place on the tour party to Australia but Shrewsbury decided to stay at home to look after the business as Shaw was travelling as manager of the team .

In 1892 Shrewsbury scored his tenth and final double century during a match against Middlesex he scored four more centuries in the rest of the season including carrying his bat for 151 for the Players against the Gentlemen. This resulted in Shrewsbury topping the averages for a third successive season . Australia tour of England 1893 included three Test matches. In the First Test at Lord's Shrewsbury played a similar innings to seven years previous, this time the bowler was Charles Turner. On a difficult first day wicket he scored 106. Wisden wrote:

Shrewsbury's batting was marked by extreme patience, unfailing judgment, and a mastery over the difficulties of the ground, of which probably no other batsman would have been capable.

During the innings Shrewsbury became the first cricketer to score 1,000 Test runs . He added a second innings 81 but rain prevented a result. He had scores of 66, 12 and 19 not out in the rest of the series as England retained the Ashes. Shrewsbury was the leading run scorer in the series with 284 at 71.00 .

After Test career

Shrewsbury missed the 1894 season because of indifferent health but he reappeared in 1895 leading the county averages in a disappointing season for Nottinghamshire. He passed 1,000 runs in 1896 with 2 centuries including carrying his bat for 125 against Gloucestershire.

Shrewsbury passed 20,000 career first-class runs in 1897, his only century of the season came for the Players against the Gentlemen, scoring 125 as captain. Shrewsbury's scores improved in 1898 and 1899 with season tallies of 1219 and 1257 runs and leading the county averages in both seasons. In 1899 Shrewsbury and Arthur Jones shared in an opening partnership of 391 , the stand remained a county record until 2000.

In 1900 Shrewsbury's season average dropped to 32.03 , his lowest since 1884, but he still topped the county averages. In 1901 Nottinghamshire were dismissed for 13 against Yorkshire, the second lowest total ever made in county cricket, Shrewsbury split his hand while fielding and missed the rout .

In 1902 despite being 46 years of age Shrewsbury topped the first-class batting averages . He notched up four centuries including for the first time two centuries in a match . His performances during the season earned him praise in the 1903 Wisden Cricketers' Almanack:

His batting was marked by all its old qualities, and except that he is, perhaps, less at home on a really sticky wicket than he used to be, there is little or no change to be noticed in his play. He was as patient and watchful as ever, and once or twice when runs had to be made in a hurry he surprised everybody by the freedom and vigour of his hitting.
The Nottinghamshire Committee raised donations of £177 14s for Shrewsbury in recognition of his batting performance.


Shrewsbury complained of kidney pains during a match for Lenton United on 27 September, and during the winter he consulted various doctors and specialists who could discover nothing seriously wrong with him. During the spring his health started to improve, but it was unlikely that he would play county cricket in 1903 .

On 12 May 1903 Shrewsbury bought a revolver from a local gunsmiths. He returned a week later after having difficulty in loading the gun, the clerk found that Shrewsbury had the wrong bullets and supplied the correct ones .

Shrewsbury went to his bedroom that evening and shot himself first in the chest, and after that didn't prove fatal, then in the head . His girlfriend, Gertrude Scott, found him bleeding from a head wound and by the time a doctor arrived Shrewsbury was dead.

The following day an inquest was held, the coroner deciding that Shrewsbury had committed suicide, his mind being unhinged by the belief that he had an incurable disease . He added, however, that there was no evidence to show he suffered from any major illness. His funeral took place two days after his death at All Hallows Church, Gedling.

Statistical overview

Shrewsbury was the first cricketer to pass a 1,000 Test runs when he reached 7 during his innings of 106 at Lord's in 1893 . His career total of 1,277 runs was a record until January 1902 when it was overtaken by Joe Darling, he had held the record for over 15 years, only Clem Hill and Wally Hammond have held the record for a longer term.

Two of Shrewsbury's three Test centuries came at Lord's including his highest Test innings of 164, a score which remained a Test record at the ground until 1924 when beaten by Jack Hobbs. In six innings at the ground Shrewsbury scored 395 runs at an average of 65.83.

Shrewsbury set a number of batting records for Nottinghamshire. He scored the counties first double-century in 1882 and scored seven of the couties first eight double-centuries . He was also the first Nottinghamshire cricketer to score a hundred in both innings of a match . His 1887 county record of six centuries in a season wasn't beaten until 1925 .

In the seven seasons between 1886 and 1892 Shrewsbury topped the first-class averages five times, one of the two seasons he didn't was 1888 when he was in Australia managing the football team.


Shrewsbury was considered quite a slow scoring batsman however C. B. Fry described his play: “The idea that he is slow is mistaken. True, he is often half an hour without scoring; but somehow he makes up for it and is all but even with his more mobile partner. The fact is he waits for the ball he wants, and then secures a certain fourer. He does not waste time and energy in banging ball after ball into fieldsman's hands.”

Edward Sewell, a contemporary of Shrewsbury's, described his play: “And so, little by little, this little man playing a quite different kind of cricket to any other Big Noises of his time, perfected his own chosen method; never heeding anything in the shape of advice or an adviser, until he became a king of legend.” The method of play Sewell refers to is back-play, most batsmen of 1870s and 1880s typically played off the front foot, which allowed Shrewsbury to master the bad wickets which were often found on county grounds. His Wisden obituary had similar sentiments: “As a batsman he had a style of back play peculiarly his own, and his judgment of the length of bowling was almost unequalled. It was said of him that he seemed to see the ball closed up to the bat than any other player.”

Shrewsbury wasn't a strong or muscular man and stated that he didn't hit the ball instead he steered it in the desired direction .

Shrewsbury's technique was criticised by Rait Kerr in his book 'The laws of cricket', he stated: 'As we have seen the improvement in pitches enabled Arthur Shrewsbury to develop a new gospel of defensive batsmanship which soon made many converts. From about 1885 this technique involved an increasing use of the pads.' At the time the LBW law stated to be out the bowl needed to pitch between wicket and wicket. In 1888 the MCC considered a change to the law but instead issued a statement saying that defending the wicket with the body was against the spirit of the game.

Shaw and Shrewsbury

During the 1879 tour of North America Shrewsbury along with Alfred Shaw finalised plans to start a business. 'The Midland Cricket, Lawn Tennis, Football and General Athletic Sports Depot' in Carrington Street, Nottingham . Following the profitable tour of 1881/2 they opened a factory under the name 'Gresham Works' situated in Waterway Street and in the spring of 1884 the name of the firm was changed from 'The Midland Cricket, Lawn Tennis, Football and General Athletic Sports Depot' to 'Shaw and Shrewsbury'. Their trademark of a kangaroo and emu with a cricket bat between them was introduced in 1886 .

Following the financial losses made during the tour of Australia in 1887/8 the firm downsized from the two buildings into a single building in Queen's Bridge Road .

After Shrewsbury's death his share in the firm was split between his brother, William, and four of his nephews. The firm was closed in 1939 with its assets being bought by Grays of Cambridge .


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