Charles ‘Charley’ Brown was not only the most important of the 1843 debutants, but the most fanatical of Nottinghamshire cricketers. His dyer and cleaner’s business off the Market Place was the haunt of the cricket fraternity for some twenty years.
Sutton’s book on Notts cricket commented ‘All that Brown requires is a less restless temperament, and there would be no eleven from which he should be omitted.’ As it was he was Notts regular wicketkeeper from 1843 to 1861, though he came rather late into the County side, being born in 1815. He played in notable cricket cricket in Nottingham from 1833, mainly for the Rancliffe Arms Club.
He was chosen for England v Kent in all matches, but never for Players v Gentlemen. One of his peculiarities was the ability to bowl the ball accurately from behind his back. This is described in the press: ‘He is a right hand bowler bowling from his left side, i.e. placing his right arm across his back and then delivering the ball.’
With regard to his wicketkeeping, another commentator noted, ‘Brown was considered a trifle too sharp behind the sticks.’ If the ball shaved the stumps, Brown would dislodge a bail and claim the batsman ‘bowled’.
The stories of his pitched battles against the opposition during the general elections are perhaps overstated, but opposing mobs would hurl stones at each other. Brown’s accuracy apparently proved deadly as one rhymester noted:
‘When A chunk of old red sand-stone took him in the abdomen,
And he smiled a kind of sickly smile and curled up on the floor,
And subsequent proceedings interested him no more.’
Brown was the keen supporter of Sir Robert Clifton, another cricket nut. It was Brown who for several years in the early 1850s acted as Secretary to the County Club, obtaining subscriptions – one typical long list still hangs in the Trent Bridge Pavilion. When a benefit match was organised for him in 1855 10,000 spectators were reported to have attended.
He commissioned Anderson to produce on of his portraits showing Brown as a wicketkeeper – prints of this are exceedingly rare. Brown died in 1875 at his residence in Farmer’s Yard, off the Market Place. One of Nottinghamshire’s greatest cricket characters.