The son of William Henry Hornby (1805-1898), the founder of W.H.Hornby & Co., cotton spinners and manufacturers, of Blackburn, and a director of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. In 1851 he was the first Mayor of Blackburn and represented the town as M.P. from 1857 to 1869. He was the father of seven sons and four daughters.
A.N.Hornby, the sixth son, and four of his brothers, were educated at Harrow. He was a member of the cricket eleven in 1864 and 1865, playing against Eton at Lord's, opening the innings on each occasion and scoring 19 and 27 in his two innings. At that time five feet three inches in height, he is said to have weighed six stone "bat and all." He went up to Oxford University briefly, but on learning of the academic requirements returned to the family business in Blackburn. At school he had acquired the nick-name "Monkey" because of his small stature and boundless energy.
In 1861 his parents had moved to Shrewbridge Hall, Nantwich, Cheshire, and he played his first match for Cheshire in 1862, and played for that county twenty three times between then and 1876, scoring 1672 runs at an average of 52.25, and taking 39 wickets. His highest score was in 1868 when he made 201 against Shropshire.
He played his club cricket with the East Lancashire Club, Blackburn, and on 10th June 1867, at Burnley, he opened the first innings and carried his bat for 9 not out in a total of 17; in the second innings he made 20 not out in a total of 56.
On the 29th and 30th June 1868 he was one of the Eleven Gentlemen of the East Lancashire Club who played the Australian Aboriginal Eleven at Blackburn. He took four wickets in the Australian's first innings and five in their second, and scored 117 runs opening the batting for East Lancashire. The match was eventually drawn with East Lancashire needing but two runs to win with nine wickets in hand.
In 1870 he scored 213 not out against Accrington.
His efforts on the field were no doubt much appreciated, but his attitude left much to be desired. During the match against Burnley in 1872 he was practising near to the scorers tent, when he was asked by the umpire to desist. He refused in such a manner that the umpire retired from the game. A Burnley newspaper reported the incident in the following terms : -
"There is no doubt the thanks of the cricket-loving community of the County Palatine are due to Mr. Hornby for his many magnificent displays of cricket on behalf of his county; but when he attempts to assume the position of an autocrat, which was his predominant feature on Wednesday last, in more ways than the one under notice, he must respectfully understand that such conduct will not be tolerated by the cricketers upon the banks of the Brun, in this latter portion of the nineteenth century; and the many Blackburn gentlemen who left the ground in disgust will long remember the 24th of July 1872."
It was about this time that he concentrated his club cricket at the Nantwich Club, where no doubt his attitude was more readily accepted - as it already apparently was at Old Trafford.
His connection with the Lancashire County Club had started in August 1866, when he played for the Gentlemen of Cheshire against the Gentlemen of Lancashire at Chelford, scoring 38 and 6, and taking a wicket and two catches. Three weeks later he was playing for the Gentlemen of Lancashire against the Gentlemen of Yorkshire at York, scoring 13 and 8.
In 1867, on 20th to 22nd June, he played his first match for Lancashire. It was the first Roses Match against Yorkshire at Whalley, when he opened the batting and scored 2 and 3, in his team's defeat by an innings and 56 runs.
By this time he was just over 5 foot nine inches tall and weighing almost 12 stone. He was a right-handed opening batsman, "his style being beautiful and his forward play grand." He bowled with either hand and fielded magnificently at cover point.
In 1868 he played in just one match for Lancashire, but the following year he devoted far more time to cricket and played in three of Lancashire's four matches, scoring 6 and 61 in the county's defeat of Sussex at Old Trafford. He also appeared in his first game for the Gentlemen scoring 8 and 2.
In 1870 he played in all four Lancashire matches and scored his first first-class century, 132 against Hampshire at Old Trafford on the 21st July. On the 19th August, playing for Gentlemen of the North against Gentlemen of the South at Beeston, in Nottinghamshire, he made 103, and also took four wickets for 40 runs, which was to remain his best first-class bowling analysis.
In both 1871 and 1872 he played in both the Gentlemen versus Players matches, scoring 80 at The Oval in 1872.
In the autumn of 1872 the secretary of the M.C.C., R.A.Fitzgerald, was asked to select an amateur side to visit North America. A.N.Hornby was invited to accompany the team wich included W.G.Grace, the Hon.G.R.C. (later Lord) Harris, two of the Walker brothers and, probably the deciding factor to Hornby, Arthur Appleby of Lancashire. On the 8th August they embarked upon the ss Sarmatian of the Allen Line at Liverpool arriving at Point Levi, Canada on the 17th. Their first match was at Montreal starting on the 22nd and they played nine matches in all, winning eight and drawing the last, at Boston. They had played at Ottawa, Toronto, London, Hamilton, New York and Philadephia, they had feasted on roast leg of bear, visited the Niagra Falls, and much admired the American ladies who appeared much more interested in cricket than those in England - at least that is what Fitzgerald says in his book on the tour "Wickets in the West." They sailed from Boston on ss Prussian on 30th September and they arrived back at Liverpool on the 8th October.
In 1872 Richard Barlow joined the Lancashire staff. He opened the innings with Hornby once in 1873, and from 1875 the famous opening partnership was a regular feature of Lancashire innings. Throughout the 1870s Hornby had been called upon to captain the Lancashire side from time to time, in the absence of E.B.Rowley the official captain of the side. It was therefore no surprise that when Rowley retired at the end of 1879 Hornby was appointed the official captain of the club, a position he was to hold for twelve years, from 1894 being also president of the club. An extremely fit man, he would frequently steal short runs and there are many tales of his running out his partner, or nearly so. W.E.Howard in his book of reminiscences tells the story of George Yates, the professional, seeking to please his captain, running down the wicket as the bowler delivered, only to arrive at the other end to find Hornby still in his crease and saying "What the hell are you doing here, Yates?"
In 1876 he married Ada Sarah Ingram, the daughter of Herbert Ingram, M.P, of Rickmansworth, founder and proprietor of "The Illustrated London News." The set up home at Bridge House, Church Minshull, Nantwich. The following year his younger brother, Charles Herbert, married Ada's sister Marguerite. There were no Ingram sons so the marriages ensured the financial security of the Hornby brothers for the future.
Of the Hornby brothers, the eldest John (1838-01), was also educated at Harrow, went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, and became a barrister. Edward Kenworthy (1839-87), was educated at Harrow and played his cricket with Cheshire 1861-78, he entered the family business and followed his father as M.P. for Blackburn 1869-74. William Henry (1841-1928) also went to Harrow, entered the family business and played his cricket for Cheshire (1861-3) and also became M.P. for Blackburn 1886-10; he was created Baron Hornby of Brookhouse, St.Michael, Blackburn in 1899. Cecil Lumsden (1843-96) was educated at Harrow where he was in the eleven and played in one match for Lancashire (1877) and for Cheshire (1861-74), he joined the Army and retired as a captain in 1881, having served in the Zulu and Boer Wars. Charles Herbert (1849-93) went to Harrow, played cricket for Cheshire (1863-76) and married well.
In 1878 the Melbourne Cricket Club asked I.D.Walker the Middlesex amateur to collect a team for a tour of Australia the following winter. In the event he could not go himself so that the team toured under the captaincy of Lord Harris. There were two Yorkshire professionals Emmett and Ulyett accompanying the otherwise all amateur tour party, which included S.S. Schultz and Vernon Royle of Lancashire, as well as A.N.Hornby.
They went the overland route to Italy and then through the Suez Canal, reaching Adelaide on the 22nd December. After defeating Eighteen of South Australia the team moved on to Melbourne where they drew with Fifteen of Victoria. A few days later on the same ground they played a representative Australian side in what has now been designated an official Test Match. Overpowered by Spofforth's bowling (6/48 and 7/62) they were defeated by ten wickets, Hornby scoring 2 and 4 and taking one wicket for no runs. The English touring side of course was not and never had been intended to be in any way representative.
The team moved on to Tasmania and then via Melbourne to Sydney, where in the second match against New South Wales there was crowd trouble, largely caused by betting. In a pitch invasion Lord Harris was struck across the body with a whip and Hornby, defending himself with a stump fished out of the crowd one of the two ringleaders who were arrested.
The tour party came home via New Zealand, where they played a match at Canterbury, and the U.S.A., where they played at Hoboken, New York.
An all-round sportsman he rode to the hounds from an early age and kept a stable of up to a dozen horses in Cheshire, three for his wife and the rest for himself. A fearless, and some would say, reckless rider, he drove his horses hard and in one season three were killed under him. He was a useful boxer and milled with professionals on occasion. On the football field he played Rugby football well enough to be capped by England nine times between 1877 and 1882, being captain in his last year. He later refereed at Rugby and was a member of the Rugby Union Committee. At soccer he was good enough to play for Blackburn Rovers in their first match, against Partick on 2nd January 1878, and in a few subsequent matches. He later became President of the Lancashire Football Association, and he is remembered in the history of that organisation as follows : -
"He carried his strict methods of refereeing into all phases of his work. Only his closest friends understood him, for he was so obsessed with his own ideas, so convinced that his judgement was always right, and he had so little sympathy with anyone who did not act as he thought they ought; that he was at times a stormy petrel and never hesitated to attack, in what seemed to many of us the most savage and violent fashion, some of his best friends." and "At times too hasty in jumping to conclusions and too prone to regard a rumour as true, and guilt before proof had been tendered, there was a danger of him doing the very thing he prided himself that he would never do, that was to act unfairly. There were times when I almost felt that he went out of his way to interfere with matters that did not concern him, and it became necessary for someone to act as peace-maker. Occasionally he conceived some new idea and with so much faith in himself he believed in its serviceability. At times it might have been better had he exercised a greater patience before committing himself and taken counsel of others, …"
Late in August 1882 he captained England in the famous Test Match against Australia at The Oval won by Australia by seven runs. He scored only 2 and 9, but was much praised for his intelligent use of his bowlers. W.G.Grace indulged in a little gamesmanship in running out S.P.Jones, but in the end Spofforth yet again proved England's undoing with 7/46 and 7/44.
On 10th to 12th July 1884 he played in his third and last Test Match, scoring 0 and 4, against Australia. Lord Harris had refused to play because the Lancashire executive were rumoured to be selecting bowlers with dubious actions - Crossland was among the final twelve but did not in the event play. There was no play on the first day due to rain and the game was drawn.
By 1881 the number of first-class matches played by the county had risen to fourteen and in this year Hornby became the first Lancashire batsman to score 1000 runs in the season.
Durning this season a letter to the manchester Guardian stated : - "For a number of years he (Hornby) has played in nearly all matches. He has always played well. His presence is a guarantee for a fair attendance for there are hundreds in Lancashire who will go a day's journey to see him get 50; and more than this, he has made Lancashire cricket popular with cricketers so that now our best players are proud to be asked to play for the county."
There is no doubt that he welded the Lancashire side into an effective team and that they were now a match for anyone. They were considered "champions" jointly with Notts in 1879 and 1882 and in 1881 were undisputedly the best. He therefore inherited a successful side and built on that success. W.E.Howard in his "Reminiscences" states : - "Having full confidence of his own opinions, which, to my mind, is one of the best qualifications of a good captain, Mr. Hornby was the finest skipper I have seen. On the field he was a model to young players; possessed of an iron constitution and of fine physical powers, he was able to accomplish a large amount of strenuous work. I never heard him say that he was tired after a long day in the field, but, unfortunately, he did not seem to think others might be. He told S.M.Crosfield, after the latter had said that he was tired at the close of play, that he would put him long-field at both ends next day, and he meant it. His way of captaining a side did not always meet with the approval of some of the players at times."
Throughout the 1880s and the 1890s Lancashire were involved in a series of disputes concerning the bowling actions of their professional bowlers and at one time Kent, under the captaincy of Lord Harris, refused to play Lancashire. It has been said that Hornby's loyalty to his professionals at this time was admirable, however it is likely that his "loyalty" was in reality a fit of pique and a determination to get his own way, right or wrong.
In 1892 and 1893 he was appointed joint captain with S.M.Crosfield and the following year Archie MacLaren took over as captain and Hornby was appointed President of the club. It had been a successful and far from uneventual fourteen years. In 1897 and 1898, at the age of fifty, he returned as captain and in 1897 Lancashire won the chapionship indisputably for the first time since 1881. He continued as President until 1916 and regularly attended Old Trafford right up to his death. His portrait continues to dominate the long-room at Old Trafford.
He had four sons. George Vernon (1879-1905) died in South Africa, having served in the Boer War. His wife and daughter settled in Natwich. Walter Ingram (1878-1918) died of wounds received in France. He was unmarried. John (1880-1927) was wounded during the First World War and was awarded the M.C.. He died when exploring in the north of Canada. Albert Henry (1877-1952) was educated at Harrow, as were all the brothers, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He played Cricket for Lancashire 1899-1914 in 283 matches – only nine matches less than his father. He was captain of Lancashire 1908-14, and in a series of disputes with the committee during 1912-13 the hand of this father can be clearly seen.
A.N.Hornby was buried at Nantwich, where his tombstone bears the image of a bat, ball and wicket, but unlike Barlow his wicket is shown unbroken. It has been said that the family business in Blackburn was relieved that he did not remain there as he had no head for business and it is certainly true that his natural management style was outdated in industry, even in the 1870s. Like a number of young men from well-to-do families he found a place on the sporting field in which he could use his ability and expend his energy without causing any damage to the family business. On balance it was to Lancashire's advantage and was also of benefit to both codes of football and on the hunting field.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 Don Ambrose)
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