Neville Tufnell (courtesy: The Saleroom)
Neville Tufnell (courtesy: The Saleroom)

In Aristocrats Go to War: Uncovering the Zillebeke Cemetery, Jerry Murland makes mention of the All Saints Church at Kenley, a district at the south of the London Borough of Croydon, which has a memorial tablet dedicated to one Laura Gertrude Tufnell, daughter of Dr William Parker Charsley of erstwhile Ceylon, who died at her residence at Watendone Manor, aged 52, in 1911. Her husband Carleton Fowell Tufnell was an insurance broker and underwriter, and, it may be added, a First-Class cricketer, having played 8 First-Class matches and turned out for Kent and the Gentlemen of Kent.

According to Murland, the Tufnell family trace their ancestry back to one Richard Tufnell of Surrey, who used to be the MP for Southwark in 1640. A series of favourable marital alliances and public appointments had then swelled the family coffers through the past generations. The males of the family had traditionally been to Eton, and had generally excelled in sporting activities in addition to their academic pursuits.

Carleton and Laura Tufnell had raised a family of four sons and one daughter. The family had moved to India at the end of the 1879 English domestic cricket season, and had welcomed the birth of their second son Neville Charsley at Shimla on June 13, 1887. Following the family custom, Neville was educated at Eton along with his brothers. A grainy old black-and-white photograph of the Eton public school cricket team of 1904 shows a fresh-faced young Neville squatting on the grass in the front row. He gradually developed into a right-hand batsman and wicketkeeper. The archives show him to have played 7 inter-school matches for Eton between 1904 and 1906, in addition to playing for the Public Schools against the MCC in 1905 and 1906.

In December 1906, a team of amateur cricketers made a tour to New Zealand under the leadership of the army man Teddy Wynyard. There were two wicketkeepers in the 15-man squad in Roland Fox, a New Zealander by birth, and Tufnell. They were introduced to the correspondent of the New Zealand Herald by skipper Wynyard as follows: “As regards wicketkeeping, we have two excellent men in Fox and Tufnell, the former being a native of New Zealand … I may say that Tufnell kept wickets for the Eton Eleven this year, and he did his work well.”

The team left from Plymouth on the White Star line steamer SS Corinthic on December 20. The tour was to include 11 First-Class matches, 2 against representative New Zealand teams, 2 against each of the major provincial teams, Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Wellington, and 1 against Hawke’s Bay. Tufnell played in 7 of these, making his First-Class debut against Auckland, registering a pair and not making any dismissals in the game. In his inaugural First-Class season in New Zealand, Tufnell enjoyed moderate success, scoring 203 runs with a highest of 85 and an average of 25.37. He held 5 catches. Considering that he was still to shed the ‘schoolboy’ tag, Tufnell had a reasonably good tour.

For Tufnell, the logical extension of his education after Eton was Cambridge, and he was enrolled in Trinity. A member of the Cambridge University Cricket Club, Tufnell played 17 First-Class matches for his University, scoring 392 runs with a highest of 102, his only century, and an average of 15.68. He held 16 catches and made 28 stumpings. Tufnell won his Blue in 1909 after the match against Oxford at Lord’s from in 1909, a drawn game in which he scored 7 and held 5 catches.

It was in his penultimate match for Cambridge that he reached the zenith of his batting achievements in First-Class cricket. Played against Gentlemen of England at Eastbourne in 1910, the match ended in victory by the undergrads by 6 wickets. Cambridge scored 380, the foundation of the total being laid by opener Tufnell (102 in 105 minutes with 14 fours) and his second-wicket stand of 103 with Leslie Kidd. The Gentlemen were bowled out for 163, Tufnell taking 3 catches. Following on, they posted a 402, but Cambridge won by 6 wickets.

Whenever the story of the sixth Test-playing England tour of South Africa is told, one enigmatic name always figures in the tale, that of the Nottinghamshire batting stalwart George Gunn Sr, not for his exploits on the tour, but for the reason why he was not on the boat going over for the tour.

Keeping a wary eye on the finances of the enterprise, the South African cricket authorities had requested the MCC to send over a team of amateur cricketers to the African continent for a Test tour. MCC then appointed ‘Shrimp’ Leveson Gower to the selection committee for the tour on March 17, 1909, together with the other two selectors, Lord Hawke (Chairman), and CB Fry, and gave him the added responsibility of being the captain of the touring team. Despite best efforts, the committee could not assemble of a complete touring party composed solely of amateurs, and MCC informed the hosts that, even if they could, such a touring party would not be of sufficient strength to put up a suitable show, and that MCC would not wish to insult the hosts by arriving with an under-par team. Accordingly, some professionals were included by bipartite consent among the authorities.

Letters were despatched in due course to the selected professionals in this regard. One of the letters was sent to Trent Bridge with the name of the Nottinghamshire professional Gunn on it. Legend has it that the somewhat absent-minded Gunn had put the letter in his pocket without opening, and had then forgotten all about it. Consequently, when Leveson Gower and his party of fourteen members boarded the Union Castle line steamship Saxon from Southampton on November 6, Gunn was not on it, being completely unaware that he had, in fact, been selected for the tour.

In the end, the squad that disembarked at Cape Town on November 23 contained only five amateurs. The only one in the group without any county experience whatever was Tufnell, the second wicketkeeper of the team, still to complete his studies at Cambridge, and a late addition to the squad, his name being appended to the team sheet in September after the original team had been announced on August 30. This was to be Tufnell’s second boat ride for an overseas cricket tour. 

It was not a happy tour for MCC, who lost the opening two Tests at Johannesburg and Durban, won the third, again at Johannesburg, lost the fourth at Cape Town, and began the final Test at Cape 1-3 down. There were three debutants in the Test, one for England, and two for South Africa, and all three were playing in what was to be the only Test of their careers. Leveson Gower, the original captain, had dropped out of the contest after playing in the first 3 Tests (the only Tests of his career), handing the reins of the touring party over to Fred Fane, the renowned Essex opening batsman.

Though first-choice wicketkeeper Herbert Strudwick was very much a part of the fifth Test line-up, MCC chose to also include Tufnell the designated stumper. England began with Jack Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes. The first wicket fell at 221 when Rhodes (77) was out. The stand, scored in 144 minutes, constituted a new record in Test cricket at the time.

England were bowled out for 417 on the second morning. Tufnell contributed 14 to the total. South African debutant Norman Norton was the most successful bowler with 4 for 47. The other debutant, Sivert Samuelson, however, went wicketless. The South African innings of 103 lasted only 135 minutes. Surprisingly, Hobbs opened the bowling for England along with Colin Blythe, who claimed 7 for 46.

Invited to follow on, the home team put up a much healthier 327. The fourth-wicket stand between Tip Snooke (47) and Aubrey Faulkner (99) realised 120 in 104 minutes. Faulkner became the first South African and the second overall (after Clem Hill in 1901-02) to be dismissed for 99 in Test history.

In the second innings, Jimmy Sinclair was stumped by Tufnell off Blythe for 37, Tufnell’s only dismissal of his Test career. England won by 9 wickets, thus conceding the series 2-3 to the hosts. Interestingly, Tufnell, had, in fact, made another Test stumping, but that was not credited to him in his cricket profile.

In the second Test, at Lord’s, Durban, a match South Africa had won by 95 runs, Tufnell was not selected in the playing XI, Strudwick being the popular choice. In the second innings, however, Strudwick had had to leave the field for a while, being injured when he was hit on the face by a ball, and Tufnell had been allowed to substitute for him behind the stumps. Tufnell had ended the innings by stumping Snooke (53). Tufnell thus ended up in the record books as being the first to perform a stumping in Test cricket as a substitute wicketkeeper.

In common with the history of the spread of cricket all over the world, the British were responsible for the early inroads that the game made in South America in the early 19th century. The early British immigrants were principally industrialists and landowners with interests in banks and the railways. They brought with them their customary social pursuits, their sporting activities, and even a Harrods in Buenos Aires in 1912. It is estimated that by the 1930s, the British diaspora in Argentina was the most populous outside the Commonwealth.

It was not long before cricket began to blossom in the valleys of The Andes, and the first Argentinian cricket club was established in 1831 at Buenos Aires. By 1868 the Argentines felt confident enough of their cricketing skills to travel to Uruguay to play their first international match. In 1893 an Argentine team made an arduous three-day mule crossing of the Andes to play Chile. In 1912 they became the fifth Association Country to be granted First-Class status. The Argentine Cricket Association was formed in 1913.

In Real International Cricket: A History in One Hundred Scorecards, Roy Morgan says that the Argentine Cricket Championships Committee was formed to promote the game in the country. By the early 1910s the Committee were pleasantly surprised by the standard of cricket played by many of the immigrant British population. By their own assessment of their strengths, ACA felt that they were now ready to meet an English team on even terms. Accordingly, they issued an invitation to MCC to pay a visit for a cricket tour.

Far from being affronted by such an audacious invitation, MCC not only accepted the offer, but also selected a fairly strong team of amateur cricketers for the tour, the party of 12 including five members with previous Test experience in skipper Hawke, Archie MacLaren, Morice Bird, Arthur Hill, and Tufnell, though, as we have seen, the young ’keeper’s Test experience was restricted to only one match.

Tufnell thus found himself on a boat embarking on an overseas tour for the third time in his cricket career, the vessel in question being the SS Asturias, departing from Southampton on January 26, 1912. The MCC played 9 matches in Argentina on the short tour, though only the 3 three-day games against a representative Argentina team were accorded First-Class status. In this connection, it may be pertinent to point out that most of the cricket played in Argentina during this time revolved around expatriate Brits, some of whom had had previous experience of competitive cricket in the Home Country, in South Africa, or Rhodesia, and many of whom were at least of the Minor Counties level.

The story of how Argentina, playing their first First-Class encounter in history, defeated MCC at Hurlingham Club Ground, Buenos Aires, by 4 wickets has already been told in these columns at an earlier date. Tufnell scored 5 and 2, held a catch, and made a stumping in the game. It may be mentioned that Harold Garnett, skipper-wicketkeeper of Argentina, was already a veteran County Championship player, having been with Lancashire from 1899, and opening batsman Evelyn Toulmin had been playing for Essex since 1899.

The victory over MCC in the very first representative match provided an enormous boost to the confidence of the home team. The second match was played at the Buenos Aires Cricket Club Ground, and MCC restored some of their wounded pride by winning the match by 210 runs. Tufnell was not in the playing XI, William Findlay being the designated wicketkeeper. This Findlay was to later have a distinguished career in cricket administration, becoming MCC secretary from 1926 to 1936, Chairman of MCC Commission on county cricket in 1937, and President of MCC from 1951 to 1952. In this game, however, Findlay became a footnote in history for another interesting reason.

Hawke won the toss and the MCC scored 266. Batting at No. 10, Findlay scored 21. When the home team batted, they went in at the end of the day on 145 for 4. Findlay had already done his bit in the field by stumping the CP Russ.

On the second day, however, Findlay was indisposed and did not take the field. Indeed, he did not take any further part in the game at all. Since the MCC touring party comprised only 12 men, permission was sought for Tufnell, the man sitting the match out, to deputise for Findlay behind the stumps. Having obtained the gracious consent of the Argentinian skipper and the umpires, Tufnell took the field for the remaining two days.

Tufnell was soon in the thick of the action, effecting the second stumping of the innings, sending back Drysdale. Findlay did not bat in the second innings. When the fourth innings got underway, Tufnell stumped Drysdale again, this time for 6, thus providing an interesting instance of a substitute wicketkeeper stumping the same batsman in each innings of a First-Class game.

The archives show that the first instance in history of a batsman being dismissed stumped by a substitute ’keeper involved one Goddard of Hampshire, who was stumped by a man of unknown identity at Lord’s in 1806. The third, fourth and fifth instances in the history of First-Class cricket (including the first in Test cricket) were the handiwork of Neville Tufnell, the first documented man to perform the feat. History does not record the names of the ’keepers in the first two instances.

The final First-Class match of the tour was played at the ground of Lomas Athletic Club, Buenos Aires. MCC won by 2 wickets. In an interesting twist, Hawke opted out of this match and performed the duties of one of the umpires for the game, with MacLaren leading the side. Findlay and Tufnell both played in this match, Tufnell donning the big gloves. It was a good game for Tufnell, who top-scored with 45* in the first innings, and got 13 in the second, and held 4 catches. Overall, it was a fairly satisfactory tour for MCC despite the defeat in the first game, and when Hawke arrived back in England with his team, he would have felt that he had done his bit to spread the gospel of cricket in Southern America.

During a First-Class career spanning 1906-07 to 1924, Neville Tufnell played for as many as 13 teams, the list including Surrey, the Army, Free Foresters, and the Gentlemen. In all, he played 70 First-Class matches, scoring 1,514 runs at an average of 14.28. He scored a hundred, held 62 catches, and made 40 stumpings. His last First-Class match was for Free Foresters against Oxford in 1924, at 36, a rather late age for an amateur. He scored 0 and 2 and held a catch 

There was, of course, another aspect to the life of Tufnell. He was a career soldier, being commissioned in the 1st Volunteer Battalion (later the 4th Battalion) Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1908, while an undergraduate student at Cambridge. He left the regiment before World War I with the rank of Captain, later rejoining the same regiment in 1914 with the same rank. He transferred later to the Grenadier Guards as a Special Reserve. When Albert Frederick Arthur George of the royal House of Windsor ascended the British throne in 1936 as George VI, Tufnell was appointed a Gentleman Usher to His Royal Highness.

In 1939, Tufnell was appointed as a Group Commander in the National Defence Companies with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, later transferring to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps later in the same year. With the end of hostilities in 1945 and the end of World War II, as Europe gradually limped back to normalcy, Tufnell, now about 58, turned to politics, contesting the Windsor division of Berkshire as a candidate in the General Elections of 1945. It was not a pleasant experience for him as he polled in third place and forsook his quest for any public office thereafter.

On a more personal front, The London Standard went into minute details of his high-profile wedding to Miss Sybil Carlos Clarke, second daughter of Charles Carlos Clarke of The Woodlands, Sunninghill, Ascot on April 8, 1913. The society wedding was attended by members of both families, and was presided over by the Rev. AR Ingram, Vicar of Sunninghill. The father gave away the bride. The newlyweds took up residence at Fairfield, Sunninghill, Berkshire, and raised a family of two sons, born in 1914 and 1920, both of whom went into the Army in later life.

Neville Tufnell passed away on August 3, 1951 at Whitechapel, aged 64.