William Henry Scotton was born on 15 January 1856, in Mount Street, Nottingham. His birth certificate spells his father’s name Scottorn, but it is believed this is an error, for he is always given as Scotton. Educated at the People’s College, Nottingham, he played cricket for Meadow Willow CC, before taking his first professional engagement with South Derbyshire in 1874.
In this year he also had two trials at Trent Bridge; one in the annual Colts XXII and a second for the Next XV v 1st XI and, though he did little on either outing, he was sufficiently thought of to be selected for XVI Colts of England v MCC at Lord’s in May 1874, when he scored 19 in his side’s first innings – the sole double figure score. A fortnight later he made his initial appearance for Nottinghamshire (the side had several of its best players absent) against XVI for Derbyshire. In the equivalent fixture in 1875 when Nottinghamshire met Derbyshire even-handed, Scotton made his First-Class debut, though again Nottinghamshire fielded a weak team.
In 1874 and 1875 he was on the ground staff at Lord’s but made no first-class appearances for MCC, indeed in the two seasons he only played six minor matches for the club. In 1876 he crossed the river to the Oval, remaining on the staff there just one summer. His progress in county cricket was decidedly slow; following his one match in 1875, he played twice for Nottinghamshire in 1876, then once in 1877.
After five years on the brink, as it were, Scotton had gained a regular place in the County team and, appearing in every match, he came second to Oscroft in the Nottinghamshire averages. Wisden also remarks on his success, adding that he ‘surprised his friends by the freedom of his hitting.’ Against Kent at Trent Bridge he made 77 ‘scored at tremendous rate’ and in 1880 his 53 v Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge included one hit on to the pavilion balcony - a distance of 97 yards. All this from a man who had come to symbolise dour batsmanship. There is no contemporary explanation for his change of tactics, but the alteration can be traced to the season 1883 when ill-health reduced his outings with Nottinghamshire to seven. His occasional bowling brought him 5 wickets for 200 runs.
Between 1880 and 1886, Scotton made six appearances in the Gentlemen v Player series with very undistinguished results, once only did he reach double figures.
Playing for an England XI at Huddersfield in 1884, Scotton scored 134 in 6 hours, including participating in three century stands; for Lord Londesborough’s XI at Scarborough in 1886 he made 71, adding 156 with W.G. Grace for the 1st wicket; at Stoke in 1888 for an England XI, Scotton carried his bat through the complete innings, though he only made 9 runs.
Because England touring sides took the minimum players to Australia in the 1880s, Scotton, despite a lack of success, played in each of the three Test series played, in 1881-82, 1884-85 and 1886-87. Together with his appearances in England, Scotton played in 15 Test matches.
A noted association football player, Scotton appeared for Notts County though not in F.A. Cup matches, and he was a good pigeon shot. In 1879 he was landlord of the Boat Inn, Beeston, and in 1886 the Crown Inn, Long Row, Nottingham, whilst in the following year he moved to West Bridgford.
On 9 July 1893, he committed suicide at his lodgings in London. At the ensuing inquest it was stated that the fact that he had lost his place in the Nottinghamshire XI preyed very seriously on his mind.
He is buried in the General Cemetery, Nottingham. His cousin, George Howitt, also played for Nottinghamshire.