Grace Close, IG6

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William Gilbert Grace (July 18, 1848 – October 23, 1915) was an English amateur cricketer who was important in the development of the sport and is widely considered one of its greatest players. Indeed, in a sporting “career” spanning some 22 years at Test level and even longer taking into account his other games, he notched up 50,000 runs, 2,500 wickets, 800 catches; more than 100 centuries, including two centuries in a match three times. He played first-class cricket for a record-equalling 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, during which he captained England, Gloucestershire, the Gentlemen, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the United South of England Eleven (USEE) and several other teams. All this despite the fact that he was 18 stone, walked with a limp and had bad knees. His entry into the MCC was not as straight forward as might expect, his membership was delayed until four years after his first-class debut, when it had become apparent that he might be the best batsman in the world. Up until then the club, the only “national” side, did not consider him posh enough to join. Strictly speaking, Grace who was born in Downend, near Bristol, was a Gentleman player, his day job was as a GP. However, such was his fame that he is said to made a substantial living playing for expenses and various other fees. He is once said to have refused to leave the crease after being dismissed by a bowler, telling his opponent: “They haven’t come to see you bowl, they’ve come to see me bat.” He retired to his Mottingham home at the age of 58, having become a non-amateur himself by earning £600 a year managing the London County Club. He took up golf, playing 45 holes a morning. His evenings were spent in “a vigorous session of curling” at an ice-rink in Maidenhead. Crown green bowls and billiards also helped pass the time. It is said the only subject he ever read a book about was whist. Deeply distressed by reports from the Western Front during the First World War he wrote a letter calling for the suspension of County Cricket. He suffered a fatal stroke in 1915 when a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on his patio. He is buried at Beckenham Cemetery in Elmers End Road, Beckenham, Bromley, Kent. A pub named after him was built next to the cemetery. It is one of a cluster of roads that are named with a cricketing connection recalling the land’s former use. The land on which this street was laid out was originally part of Hope Farm, but by the 1930s much of Hainault was being developed for residential use. Although this area was originally set aside as a sports ground it went under the diggers and was used for further homes sometime in the 1980s. 

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