Right-hand batsman Charles William Wright’s cricketing career was remarkable, not so much for the successes and failures he attained, but for the curious or unusual incidents in which he was connected. He is in a select few First-Class cricketers to be out ‘handled ball’. This dismissal took place during the Notts v Gloucestershire match at Bristol in 1893, when the ball lodged in Wright’s pad and he picked it out with his hand. Whilst batting for Cambridge University v Surrey in 1882, Wright trod on his wicket dislodging a bail, but was given not out, as neither umpire had noticed the incident. As captain of Notts in the game at Gravesend in 1890, Wright made history as the first cricketer to declare an innings closed (157 for 7) for Notts. Opening the batting for Notts v Middlesex at Lord’s in 1894 he batted an hour for a single run.
Wright was born on 27 May 1863 in Harewood in Yorkshire, but whilst very young moved with his parents to Wollaton. He was educated at Charterhouse, where he had a brilliant cricketing career as a batsman and wicket-keeper, being in the eleven from 1879 to 1881 and being considered the best public schoolboy keeper of 1881. Going to Trinity College, Cambridge, he made his First-lass debut for the University versus MCC at Fenner’s in May 1882 and was awarded his Blue for four consecutive seasons 1882 to 1885; in the final season he was honorary secretary of the side. His best score in 33 First-Class matches for the Light Blues was 102 in the University match at Lord’s in 1883 from a total of 1,247 runs @22.67 for them, with 44 catches and 22 stumpings.
He had been a habitué of Trent Bridge from his youngest days and in 1880 represented Notts Colts v Yorkshire Colts. Two years later he played for Notts against the XXII Colts and his initial First-Class game for Notts was against Lancashire at Trent Bridge on 6, 7 and 8 July 1882.
Wright did not feature as strongly in county matches as he did in those during his School and University years. At the start of his first summer after leaving Cambridge, he sustained a serious accident during the South Notts Hunt meeting, being kicked on the head by his horse. As a result he was not seen in First-Class cricket in 1886. His first full season for the County was in 1891 when he did not keep wicket; in 15 First-Class matches he scored 267 runs @11.12. He also appeared regularly in 1894 and his figures were better, in 16 matches he scored 606 runs @20.20 to finish third in the Notts averages. The following year, he took over the wicket-keeping duties from Arthur Pike but the move proved disastrous to Wright’s batting. 1896 was Wright’s last full season and his last First-Class game for Notts was against MCC at Lord’s on 6 and 7 July 1899. Wright never hit a ton for Notts but achieved 14 half-centuries; his highest score was 99 v Sussex at Hove in 1882, where he batted 270 minutes and was last out having opened the batting. In 117 First-Class matches for Notts, he scored 2,565 runs @13.35 with 60 catches and 6 stumpings. He never bowled for Notts. He captained the County on 26 occasions, Notts winning only four and losing 14 matches under his leadership. In 1893 he was responsible for the county dispensing with the services of one of its best bowlers, Frank Shacklock, after reporting him to the committee for drinking as he had appeared on the pitch inebriated in a championship match at Canterbury.
Wright was selected for the Gentlemen versus Players at Lord’s immediately following his century in the 1883 University match; he appeared in eight matches for the Gentlemen but his highest score was only 27. He made the following four tours abroad with Lord Hawke’s teams (Hawke had been Wright’s captain at Cambridge): to USA, 1891; to India, 1892-93; to USA, 1894, and to South Africa, 1895-96. The later tour included three Test matches versus South Africa, where he scored 19 and 33 (Port Elizabeth), 71 (Johannesburg) and 2 (Cape Town) to finish with a England career record of 125 runs @31.25. He thus became the first Notts cricketer to play against South Africa, although the England XI was in no way representative of England’s cricketing strength of the time. A most popular companion, he had a gift for mimicry, which helped to enliven many an evening on tour.
His highest score in First-Class matches was 114 for AJ Webbe’s XI v Cambridge University at Fenner’s in 1896. For a “Staffordshire XI”, including six players who had represented Notts, versus the Australians in July 1890 he carried his bat for seven in a total of 51 all out. Although a very strong defensive batsman, Wright had a weakness in his technique against slow bowling, which usually proved his downfall. His final First-Class match was for the MCC against Oxford University at Christ Church Ground at Oxford in May 1901. In 265 First-Class matches he scored 6,989 runs @15.88 with 195 catches and 40 stumpings. He never took a First-Class wicket, conceding 55 runs.
Wright was on the Notts CCC Committee for some years commencing 1891; in 1900 he became a trustee of the Club and in 1911 Hon Treasurer. In 1920 he was Hon Sec pro tem. In October 1903 he lost the sight of his right eye whilst partridge shooting near Newark. His glass eye made him appear rather formidable to young aspiring cricketers on their first visit to Trent Bridge. CH Richards described him as: “A highly esteemed and extremely popular amongst all classes of cricketers.”
Wright became a fellow of the Royal Institution of Surveyors in 1891 and was JP for Notts and Leicestershire. In 1901 he became a Major of the South Notts Yeomanry. He died on 10 January 1936 aged 72 years at Saxelbye Park in Melton Mowbray. His father was William Wright, a noted patron of Notts cricket.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 178
One of Charles Wright's bats is on display in the Long Room; Bat No 1