Thomas Padwick — he had to have everything.
Thomas Padwick — he had to have everything.

Thomas Padwick, born 1844, died April 29, 1898, did not live that long but left behind an enormous collection of cricket books and pictures. In this episode of the series on cricket collectors, Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the life and collection of this Surrey collector who simply had to have everything.

A line item in the obituaries section of the 1899 Wisden announced, “MR. THOMAS PADWICK, a well-known collector of cricket books and pictures, died at Redhill on April 29. His extensive collection was afterwards disposed of by Mr. Alfred J. Gaston of Brighton.”

The story went way deeper.

Padwick, of Redhill, Surrey, had indeed passed away at a relatively youthful age of 53. The caveat was that through his many decades of collecting cricket books, he had never placed any restrictions on items.

In this regard he was diametrically opposite to his contemporary AL Ford, who meticulously ignored the annuals and periodicals on the game. Padwick collected everything.

In fact, so eager was he to maintain excellent relationship with dealers and booksellers that he bought everything that was offered to him.

Naturally, it led to huge amounts of duplication. When he died, Gaston the dealer did go forth to dispose of his collection. Therein he found over 700 volumes of Lillywhite’s Companions alone. According to the dealer it was not really something an ordinary man would understand by a collection, but whatever it was, it was extensive.

Cataloguing this was a herculean task, but Gaston did. And the material was sold off pretty quickly. The proceeds came to about £350, an amount of astronomical proportions in those last days of the 19th century.

In November 1900, the other great collector of the period, Rev RS Holmes, wrote to Gaston saying: “I never dreamt that you would find a ready market for all his duplicates.”

Not that duplicates were the only oddity in Padwick’s collection. As mentioned, he had to have everything, else he could not quite rest his head. He possessed the entire set of Lillywhite’s Guides but for one solitary elusive volume, the 6th edition. It continued to evade him and drove him to depths of despair. Finally, at the limits of his tether, he resorted to borrowing a copy from one of his collector friends, and copying out the entire volume by his own hand, including all the minutely printed contents.

In fact, this piece of curiosity of cricketana became largely sought after among subsequent collectors. Rockley Wilson purchased the entire set of Padwick’s Guides from JF Macpherson, the son-in-law of Padwick, for the sum of 15 guineas.

Padwick’s contribution to cricket however went beyond collecting.

An important member of Surrey County Cricket Club, it was his relentless coaxing that finally persuaded the Surrey Committee to grant the great William Caffyn a pension of £39 a year. This was after Caffyn had forfeited his right to a benefit. A neighbour of the Reigate-born Caffyn, Padwick pressed his case diligently even after being refused at first. Finally the pension was approved, and kept Caffyn reasonably comfortable till his death in 1919 at the age of 91.

Not surprisingly, in the collection of Padwick, one can find plenty of letters from Caffyn, all of them written in pencil.

In October 1891, Padwick arranged from a dinner at Redhill in the honour of Walter Read. This was just before Read set sail with the second England team to visit South Africa.

All this led Arthur Haygarth, the noted cricket historian, to remark that Padwick was a name ‘well known on every cricket field.’

There was another curious cricket collecting connection. In the 1880s Padwick, through his relentless efforts at collecting, came into contact with another giant of the field, Charles Pratt Green of Malvern. The two hit it off, and in course of time Pratt Green married the daughter of Padwick.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history of cricket, with occasional statistical pieces and reflections on the modern game. He is also the author of four novels, the most recent being Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets here.)