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 club cricket in Nottingham from 1833, mainly for the Rancliffe Arms Club.
He was chosen for England v Kent but never for Players v Gentlemen. One of his peculiarities was the ability to bowl the ball accurately from behind his back. This was described in the Nottingham Review: ‘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.’ Dean Hole, the vicar of Caunton, a small parish near Newark in Nottinghamshire in the 1850s, wrote of him:
"That England hath no rival,
Well knows the trembling pack
Whom Charley Brown, by Calais Town,
Bowled out behind his back"
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’.
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 one 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 cricket’s greatest characters, he finished with 435 First-Class runs at 8.87 with a top score of 43no; he took 32 catches and 26 stumpings. Although primarily a keeper, he could bowl (behind his back!) and took nine wickets at 13.83.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 56