Born in Hucknall Torkard on 29 February 1856, Walter Wright (he was registered at birth as Walter Shooter) was a right-hand batsman and left-arm fast medium bowler. His uncle Thomas Shooter (1845-1919) played two games for Notts in 1881. Before being a professional cricketer, Wright worked as a lace maker.
On his trial for Notts Colts in April 1879, Walter Wright gave an all-round performance seldom, if ever, bettered in the long history of Notts Colts matches. As a batsman he was the only Colt to reach double figures in each innings and with the ball he displayed excellent form to dismiss the top five of the Notts batting order for 11 runs. Such outstanding cricket immediately gained recognition and Wright was chosen for the XXII Colts of England v MCC at Lord’s a month later. He was selected for first Notts match of 1879 versus Lancashire at Trent Bridge on 26, 27 and 28 May but in a rain interrupted game failed to score or take a wicket. Playing in four other First-Class games in 1879 he was not given much opportunity to bowl but took 6-10 for Notts versus the XXII Colts in 1880. He then played in the first county match of the season but was not put onto bowl and had to wait until mid-way through the 1881 before he made another appearance for Notts. This match was versus Yorkshire at Trent Bridge where he produced the figures of 15-9-10-6.
In 1883 he finally won a permanent place in the Notts XI and during that season played his most celebrated innings. The match at Trent Bridge saw Gloucestershire dismissed on the first day for 229, leaving themselves a few minutes’ batting before close of play. Walter Wright accompanied William Attewell to the wicket to open the Notts innings and Wright batted out the few minutes of play then proceeded to bat the whole of the next day and on into the third day, carrying his bat through the completed Notts innings of 371 all out for 127no scored in about seven hours. With William Barnes he added 188 for the fourth wicket. A collection of £16 was shared between the two batsmen. The only other half-century that he made for Notts was 50no when batting at nine versus Surrey at The Oval in 1884. Among his best bowling performances for Notts were 8-74 v Middlesex (Lord’s) in 1885, 8-53 v Sussex (Hove) in 1885; 6-19 v Lancashire (Trent Bridge) in 1886.
In 1886 he refused to play for Notts v Australia unless he received a payment of £10 and, as the Notts Committee would not comply with his demands, this incident ended his career with the County; his last match was against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge on 1, 2 and 3 July 1886. In 72 First-Class matches for Notts he scored 979 runs @12.88 and took 193 wickets @18.24. As well as Notts matches, he played for an England Eleven v the Australians at Huddersfield in 1884 and was twice chosen for North v South, at Tunbridge Wells in 1883 and The Oval in 1885, where he gained match figures of 10-115. He also played for Non-Smokers v Smokers at Lord’s in 1884, a match between two mixed Anglo-Australian teams which raised more than £500 for The Cricketers Fund Friendly Society.
Despite falling out with Nottinghamshire, he seems to have remained on friendly terms. In 1888-1889, he played several times for C W Wright’s Eleven and for Richard Daft’s Eleven, more than once at Trent Bridge. Every year between 1891 and 1894 he raised his own Eleven to play the Eton Ramblers. Twice the match was staged at Trent Bridge and once at the Castle Ground in Nottingham.
When his career with Notts ended, Walter Wright went to live in Maidstone and under residential qualification made his Kent debut in 1888 v MCC at Lord’s. He immediately found success with his adopted county, taking more wickets than any other Kent bowler in county matches in his first season. His best bowling figures in an innings for Kent were 9-72 v MCC (Lord’s) in 1889 and 8-53 v Middlesex (Lord’s) in 1890; his best match figures were 13-106 against Middlesex at Canterbury in 1889. At Maidstone in July 1895 he had an outstanding match as Kent beat Notts by an innings and 65 runs, taking 6-64 and 7-86 respectively in the two innings. His best season with the ball was 1889 when he took 114 first-class wickets @12.86 and represented Players versus Gentlemen at The Oval, appearing in the same fixture in the following season. In 1890 against Notts at Gravesend, Wright bowled 630 balls in the match (126 5-ball overs) for a return of 5-127. The latter remains a Kent record. Playing for Kent against Surrey at the Oval in 1890, Wright attempting to take a return catch from George Lohmann suffered a compound dislocation of his left thumb and spent five weeks in St. Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster. He was left with the upper part of his thumb permanently bent into a crook. His last First-Class match was for Kent v Gloucestershire at Bristol in July 1899. In 289 First-Class matches he scored 4,075 runs @12.31 and took 976 wickets @19.52, taking five wickets in an innings 60 times and ten wickets in a match 13 times. His top score for Kent was 70 not out v Sussex at Hove in 1892.
He made one appearance for Berkshire in the Minor Counties Championship in 1904. His professional engagements were as follows: Notts Bank (1873), Beeston (1875), Mote Park (1878-93), Gentleman of Canada (1880), Crystal Palace (1880), Kidderminster Rovers (1880), Middlesbrough (1881), Accrington (1881-84) and Linton Park (1886). He made 23 appearances for Haslingden in the Lancashire League between 1894 and 1901, taking 57 wickets @12.08.
In his younger days he was a well known athlete and twice won the Sheffield Handicap in 1880 and 1881. He was on the First-Class umpires list between 1900 and 1904 and umpired in 99 first-class matches. Whilst officiating in the Somerset v Surrey game at Taunton in 1900 his fellow umpire, James Phillips, standing at square leg, no-balled Somerset slow left-armer Ted Tyler for throwing but Wright did not share the opinion of Phillips and did not allow the additional balls to be bowled.
Shortly after settling in Kent, Wright started a sports outfitters business in Maidstone. It was heavy going and money, or lack of it, runs as a constant theme through his life. The state of his finances crops up regularly in the minutes of the Kent CCC. By the time Wright was granted the Kent v Middlesex match at Tonbridge in 1901 as a benefit he had moved to Reading and was trainer to Reading FC. He was again in business as a sports outfitter as well as doing some coaching at local schools, including Radley College. In 1907 Wright filed for bankruptcy. Kent CCC donated £10 and a collection among committee members raised another four guineas. His troubles continued. In 1911 Kent paid his rates and there were other subsequent small donations. According to the Kent Managing Committee, ‘Through an advertisement in Athletic News work has been found for Wright as groundsman to a club in Leigh, Lancashire but he had no money to pay for the removal of his family and furniture’. Lord Harris had advanced £10 and it was decided to repay this out of the Kent Cricketers’ Aid Fund and to make Wright a further grant of £10 to provide clothes for himself and his children. Wright remained in Leigh for the remainder of his life, working well beyond pensionable age before dying there aged 84 years on 22 March 1940.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 164