by Peter Wynne-Thomas
One of the few subjects still to be investigated by cricket historians must be ‘Memorial Gates.’ The most famous must be the Grace Gates erected at Lord’s in 1923. In 1934 the Surrey authorities opened Gates at The Oval to commemorate the retirement of Jack Hobbs. The memorial gates at Edgbaston are dedicated to Harold Thwaite, a great benefactor to Warwickshire. These were opened in 1952, but in 1973 a pedestrian gate there was dedicated to Sydney Barnes. A more recent example is the Hutton Gates at Headingley which caused some controversy regarding their design, when opened in 2001.
The Dixon Memorial Gates off Bridgford Road, Trent Bridge, were officially unveiled on May 2, 1933 by the famous England Test captain, Sir Stanley Jackson. The Rev F.W.Paul, a friend of Dixon for more than 50 years, performed the dedicated service in front of a large crowd. Bridgford Road was closed and our files contain letters from the Bus Company agreeing to divert the buses which normally used Bridgford Road. The widow and two daughters of Dixon were the first to walk through the newly dedicated gates.
John Augur Dixon was born in Grantham in May 1861, but moved to Nottingham at the age of 13, attending Nottingham High School. However after two years there, he moved to Chigwell, ending his education at the local Grammar School. The family then moved back to Nottingham. An outstanding sportsman at school, Dixon joined Forest Amateurs Cricket Club and Nottm Forest Football Club.
He made his first-class cricket debut for Notts in the match against Middlesex in 1882, but only appeared in a handful of county games over the next few summers. As a left-winger he had more immediate success on the soccer field; his debut for Forest was in 1883-84 and he made his international debut for England v Wales the following season.
However, he retired from competitive soccer after just four seasons. Back on the cricket field, he was drafted into the Notts team early in 1887 when one of the original XI had to cry off and immediately hit 89 v M.C.C. at Lord’s. His place in the Notts side was quickly secured as a polished right-hand batsman and useful medium pace change bowler.
In 1889 Dixon was appointed Notts’ first amateur captain, following two rather unsatisfactory seasons under Mordecai Sherwin. Dixon took Notts to the Championship title in his first year as leader, but it was a season of confusion since the Championship ended with a triple tie for first place, though Notts maintained they were the rightful out-and-out winners.
Dixon continued to captain the side for another 10 years, but the team he led was growing old with little fresh blood and he saw Notts gently slide down the league table. On a personal level, Dixon had one day of glory, when he scored 268 not out v Sussex in 1897 – the highest individual innings made for the county to that date. After he resigned as skipper, Dixon played intermittently until early in 1905.
He represented the Gentlemen v Players 11 times, but never gained an England cricket cap to match his soccer one. In all Dixon scored 9,527 runs, average 24.18 and took 184 wickets, average 27.60. Against Lancashire in 1887 he achieved the hat-trick.
Elected to the Notts Committee in 1895, he was appointed a life member of the Committee in 19l0, an honour which has only been awarded once since then. In 1905 he became the first Notts player to be appointed as a Test Selector and for many years was the Notts representative on County Committees at Lord’s.
In 1887 he took a leading role in establishing the Boys Brigade in Nottingham, being captain of the 1st Nottingham Company. His business life revolved round the wholesale clothing of Messrs Dixon and Parker Ltd, of which he was long time Chairman.
He died in his residence in The Park in June 1931. His estate was valued at £62,175 and he is buried in the Rock Cemetery, where a stone to his memory and to that of his wife still stands. She was Maud Beatrice (nee Hennington), who died in July 1975 aged 92.
After Dixon’s death, the Notts Committee decided to launch an appeal to collect money for memorial gates, the cost of which turned out to be in excess of £500. The Gates were designed by a local architect, H.H.Goodall. Goodall, who lived in Beeston, played five first-class matches for Notts between 1902 and 1905. In 1911 he emigrated to Canada and fought in the Canadian Forces during the First World War, being injured at Ypres. He returned to Nottingham in 1918.
Appeal letter sent out to Notts Members for money for the Memorial Gates
Architect's drawing of Memorial Gates
The inscriptions on the two bronze panels, which are set in the stone work either side of the gates, were written by E.V.Lucas, who claimed that it was the first time he had been asked to 'write a gate'. A famous columnist and writer of essays, many for the humorous magazine ‘Punch’, Lucas was later asked by Sir Julien Cahn to edit ‘One Hundred Years of Trent Bridge’ a book Cahn published in 1938 and gave to every member of the County Club.
Plaques which are fixed to the masonry either side of the gate.