County Championship – 5th (6W, 10D, 4L)

Captain – Arthur Owen Jones

A season of modest but appreciable achievements was dramatically over-shadowed by the death, at his own hand, of Arthur Shrewsbury, the one batter of the era who could stand comparison with WG Grace.

Shrewsbury had been unwell at the start of the season and missed the first two matches (one of which was abandoned without a ball being bowled). It was hoped he would appear for Nottinghamshire in 1903 but on 19 May of that year he ended his own life at his sister’s house in Gedling, believing that he had a terminal illness. When this sad news arrived, the game at Hove against Sussex was promptly abandoned by common consent.

The normally dry-as-dust committee report for that year included a tribute to him: “…wish to place on record their deep regret at the Death of Arthur Shrewsbury, and their sense of loss which the team and Club has thereby sustained. For a period of twenty-eight years Shrewsbury occupied a commanding position, not only in County Cricket, but also wherever the game is played. His great performances secured the admiration of all who saw him at the wickets, while his unfailing modesty and irreproachable bearing on the field made him hosts of friends who deeply lament his untimely death.”

In the county games, Notts started with a comfortable win over Derbyshire, a low-scoring match in which Rev Harvey Staunton made his First-Class debut.

A talented sportsman who had gained a ‘blue’ in rugby union at Cambridge and played four times for Notts RFC, the Rev Staunton was a right-handed batsman who played 16 First-Class matches for Notts between May 1903 and July 1905.

He also captained the Notts Second Eleven in two seasons (1909-10) and was serving as an Army Chaplain in Mesopotamia when he died, aged 42, of a fever in Arzizieh in January 1918; he is commemorated in a grave at North Gate War Cemetery, Baghdad.

In the next, drawn, match against Gloucestershire, John William Day made his debut – a right-hand bat, he went on to make 61 First-Class appearances with top score of 88 made against Lancashire in 1904.

After the Sussex match was called off, Notts travelled to Catford where they beat Kent by four wickets, largely due to the bowling of Wass and John Gunn.

There then followed three home matches, all drawn, against Leicestershire, Surrey and Essex. The Leicester game was notable for a huge first innings total - 739-7 - that has only been beaten once since.

Included in that mammoth total was John Gunn’s 294, the highest score by a Notts player and the highest by any player at Trent Bridge at the time. (Remarkably, this was his first hundred, his previous best being 95).

What was even more extraordinary was that his records were to last just a few weeks – in July that year AO Jones made two runs more. His innings of 296 remains the highest by a Notts player on their home ground – where Gunn’s record lasted from June-July 1903, Jones’s score has lasted for 120 years, and counting!

John Gunn’s form with the bat continued and he made 161 v Surrey but was eclipsed against Essex by Arthur Hallam who made his first (of two) half-century and in the process passed 1000 First-Class runs.

Play was only possible on the third and last day of the match against Middlesex at Lord’s and even then, just 31 overs were possible, during which Notts had subsided to 77-6.

The first defeat of the season came not in a county match but against the tourists of the Gentlemen of Philadelphia. Christy Morris, the most successful of a large cricketing family, made 164 as the Gentlemen racked up 400 in their second innings.  Notts could not chase down the 406 runs they needed to win and were all out for just 220, losing by 185 runs. This was not a case of the county team putting up a lesser side to face the visitors – it was a strong Notts team but American cricket of that era was equally strong.

A more comprehensive defeat followed with Yorkshire triumphing by an innings and 63 at Trent Bridge, due in great part to all rounder Wilfred Rhodes who made 63 in the Tykes’ only inning s and took 9-72 in the match.

Matches against Leicestershire and Lancashire were drawn before Notts went to Derby where they suffered a rare defeat at the hands of their neighbours. Arnold Warren, who was to play one Test for England in 1905, took ten wickets in the game as Derbyshire eased home by 114 runs.

The home fixture with Sussex was a low-scoring draw after which Notts went up to Leeds and lost to Yorkshire for the second time that season.  They were undone – as were many sides over the years – by Rhodes and Hirst who shared eighteen of the twenty wickets to fall as Notts lost by 164 runs.

They finally got back to winning ways against Gloucestershire – led by that stellar effort from ‘Jonah’ Jones – winning by an innings and 256 runs.  A similarly resounding win followed over Kent; yet another double century, 210 by Jimmy Iremonger, backed up by ten wickets for John Gunn, saw the home side win by an innings and 36.

Gunn went even better in the next match, taking his career-best 8-63 in Surrey’s first innings and routing them again second time round with 6-69; Notts cantered home by 118 runs.

Essex bore the brunt of Gunn’s bowling prowess as he took another 14-wicket haul to steer Notts home by an innings and 2 runs.  In the process, he passed 100 wickets for the season and 500 First-Class wickets overall.

Rain ended Notts’s run of hefty wins in the last home game of the season but there was sufficient play for John Gunn to star yet again with 109 and 5-69 as the game petered out.

The season ended for Notss with a loss by five wickets at Old Trafford with James Hallows taking 12 wickets for the hosts.

In the Championship, Middlesex secured their first title by dint of losing just once in their eighteen games (only Derbyshire with sixteen played fewer); both matches against Notts were rain-affected draws.


December 2023

Scorecards and stats can be seen here