Francis Noyes in 1837 was described in the press as “a monster who divided his time between his school and a gin-shop”. In reply he threatened to sue for libel but the report was not entirely inaccurate – he appears to have combined the trade of a wine & spirit merchant with running a private school in Nottingham. It is also borne out by an appearance on assault charges in Nottingham in 1834.
Precise biographical details of Noyes are elusive but he was 30 at the time of the assault charge so presumably born in 1814; similarly, his death is recorded as circa 1855.
What is not elusive is his place in cricket’s oddest records – he remains the only Notts player to have batted twice in each innings in the same match!
On 20 July 1843, just prior to the match against Hampshire at Day’s (Antelope) Ground, Southampton, Thomas Barker broke his leg while getting out of the cab at the railway station and was unable to play.
As visiting teams rarely travelled with extra players, this posed Notts a serious problem. They consulted among themselves, with their hosts and with the match umpires and, by mutual consent, it was decided that Francis Noyes would be permitted to bat twice in each innings. Why Noyes was chosen from the 10 remaining fit men is not clear but his modest batting record, just one score above 30 at that stage of his career, may have contributed.
Scheduled for three days, the match was completed two. Nottinghamshire took first strike and their 1st innings effort was worth 209; Noyes put in his first appearance at No 3 scoring 31, he came back at No 8 and added another 8 runs. The home team replied with 131.
Nottinghamshire batted poorly in their second innings for just 78 – Noyes contributed 5 from No 3 and 9 from No 8 – but still contrived to win by 39 runs.
His cricket in Nottingham spans the period 1842 to 1845, but in 1848 he played for Notts at Brighton, at which time he seems to be living in London and was a member of Surrey. Noyes had a record of being dismissed ‘stumped’; to counter this frailty he apparently practised with a peg dug into the ground, tied a cord to it and tied the other end to his foot to stop him from going out of his ground.
Noyes played in 21 First-Class matches, including nine for Nottinghamshire and two for Surrey. Despite that doubtful reputation, he twice represented 'Gentlemen' sides, playing for Gentlemen England v Gentlemen of Kent and in a Nottinghamshire Players v Gentlemen fixture; 'Gentlemen' in these cases simply meaning 'amateur' and no indicator of status or behaviour. In 40 innings he made one half-century, exactly 50 v Hampshire, out of 402 runs at an average of 10.86 and he took 11 catches.
In 1835 he married Ann Oliver in St Peter’s, Nottingham – the lady had been married twice previously – and through marriage acquired the business of Small's Wine Vaults on Poultry, Nottingham. He sold the business to another branch of the family in the 1840s, to invest in the rapidly-expanding railway industry, and was living in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, about that time. Noyes was party to bankruptcy proceedings over the Wine Vaults and later tried to regain control of the business but was refused a licence; that was in 1849 and thereafter he disappears from local records and accounts.
One source says that in 1849 (or 1850) he emigrated to San Francisco, apparently without his wife as the 1861 census finds his wife living in Station Street, Nottingham and describing herself as a widow.
The conjecture must be that Francis Noyes died in California but this last detail, as with so much of his life, is incomplete.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 50