Edward Sewell: cricketer, columnist and part of the first all-India team
Edward Sewell (back row, fourth from left) in the Essex County cricket team, circa May 1904. (Getty)

“Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse (sic) to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where our hero we buried….”

–       From The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna, Charles Wolfe (1817)

The memorable event quoted above was commemorated in verse by Charles Wolfe, and was preserved for posterity in an oil painting commissioned by Adj-Col Paul Anderson, the aide-de-camp of the deceased Sir John Moore, and portrayed by a member of the Royal Academy named George Jones.

In her article entitled The Right Honourable Sir Thomas Sewell and his Descendants, author Diana Kennedy says: “This article is a brief collection of biographies of Sir Thomas Sewell and some of his descendants. It begins with Sir Thomas, Master of the Rolls who died in 1784 and ends with his great- great grandson William Fane Dalzell Dalrymple Sewell who died in 1915. Generations in between became, among other professions, Lawyers, Soldiers, Clergymen, writers and sportsmen. They married into notable families, received awards and decorations for their work and their heroism.”

Let us pick up the thread of the family saga with Sir William Henry Sewell (1786 – 1862), son of Robert and Sarah Sewell, and grandson of the Sir Thomas Sewell mentioned above. Having begun his military career as a 20-year old in March/1806, William was appointed aide-de-camp to William Beresford, 1st Viscount of Beresford, in the following year. His association with Viscount Beresford took William to the Peninsular War (1807-1814) between France on the one hand, and the conglomerate of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal on the other. William Henry Sewell joined the Duke of Wellington’s army in Portugal in1808.

WH Sewell was present with the force of Sir Thomas Moore during the advance and subsequent retreat from Corunna, Talavera, and Busaco, and may well have been witness to the events leading up to the mortal injury suffered by Sir Thomas Moore and may, indeed, have been associated with the legend of the burial of the gallant English soldier in a foreign land. Having survived the Peninsular War, WH Sewell was posted in India where he served in the army for 28 years. He was knighted just about a month before becoming involved in the hostilities connected to the Crimean War under the colours of the Queen’s Own Regiment in April 1854.

General Sir William Sewell passed away at Florence on 13 March 1862, and was laid to rest at the Protestant Cemetery of Florence. The headstone of his grave read: “Under this sacred symbol of salvation repose the mortal remains of General Sir William Henry Sewell, CB., Colonel of 79 Highlanders who departed this life in Florence on 13 March 1862

A true blue Britisher with noble and distinguished antecedents, WH Sewell had sought out the time from his turbulent military career to indulge in the essentially British game of cricket. Interestingly, WH Sewell appears to have been the first archived member in the lineage of the first class cricketers produced by the Sewell family, having played 8 documented games from 1822 to 1827, mainly for the MCC and the Gentlemen. The extended family was to later produce a cricketer named TD Bhutia, great grandson of WH Sewell, who would later play for the Sikkim Under-22 team in the 2001/02 season.

During his tenure in India, the 45 year-old William had found the time to be joined in holy matrimony with Georgina Hacking Hamilton, daughter of John Dalrymple Hamilton, the ceremony being solemnised at St. George’s Cathedral, Madras, in 1831. The union was to be blessed with six children in all, three sons, and three daughters

The third son of the union was Henry Fane Haylett, more commonly referred to as Henry FH, and was born on 2 August, 1838 at Berwick, Sussex. Making a career for himself in the armed forces, Henry FH became a Colonel in the East Indies, later being appointed as the Superintendent of Family Payments and Pensions. Wedding bells rang out for Henry FH on 7 May, 1860 when he married Violetta Ann Burn. The couple were to raise a family of seven sons.

The seventh and last offspring of Henry FH and Violetta was born at Lingsugur, a municipal town of the Raichur district of Karnataka, India, where his father had been serving as an army officer at the time, on 30 September, 1872. He was christened Edward Humphrey Dalrymple, but was popularly known as EHD Sewell.

EHD was initially educated at the Rectory, Easthope, in Shropshire, before going on to Bedford School in the county town of Bedfordshire, England. The oldest of four independent schools for boys in Bedford, the school was established on 15 Aug/1552, shortly thereafter benefitting from the largesse of the Harpur Trust established by William Harpur and his wife Alice in April 1566. Divided into two sections, the Preparatory School for ages between 7 to 13 years, and the Upper School for ages between 13 to 18 years, the school has traditionally turned out well educated young adults ready to take up adult responsibilities and to forge for themselves rewarding careers in various disciplines.

The “burly” EHD Sewell gradually developed into a right hand batsman and right arm medium-paced bowler of considerable merit. In his early days in the game, it was his fielding that really caught the eye, and his ability as a catcher had once been described as deserving “to take rank among the historic instances of such feats.” His other strength lay in his love for rugby, a game in which he excelled, turning out regularly for Bedford, Blackheath, and the Harlequins in local leagues. His expertise in both games would stand him in good stead after his active playing days would finally be over.

His cricket profile has EHD putting up a stellar performance for Bedfordshire against a Surrey Second XI team at Luton in the first week of August 1891, his first documented cricket match. Sewell was about a month shy of his 20th birthday at the time. Although he scored only 17 in the first innings, it was the second highest individual score in the Bedfordshire first innings total of 132 all out.

The Australian team and the Essex  team prior to their match at Leyton, circa May 1902. Sewell is third from left, second row.
The Australian team and the Essex team prior to their match at Leyton, circa May 1902. Sewell is third from left, second row. (Getty)

In the opposition’s firs innings of 108 all out, Sewell held four catches, including those that dismissed the first three batsmen in the card. In the Bedfordshire second innings, Sewell top-scored with 29 in a team score of 132 all out, identical with their firs innings effort. Thereafter, EHD was absolutely unstoppable in the Surrey Second XI’s second innings of 30 all out, bowling unchanged through the innings and picking up 5/7 from his nine overs, and holding three catches. Thanks to his all-round efforts, Bedfordshire won the match by 126 runs.

Having completed his education in England, EHD qualified for the Indian Civil Service as a 20-year-old in 1892. During the following year, the 21-year old Sewell met, wooed and married the Darjeeling-born Annie Sharpe. The couple was blessed with a son, Douglas, born on 11 October, 1895 at Coonoor, in the Madras Presidency. Douglas was to make a name for himself in the Minor Counties Championships playing for Buckinghamshire.

Shortly after joining his civil service in the Madras Presidency, EHD joined the Madras Cricket Club and was drafted into the club’s game against Lord Hawke’s touring team of English players in India, the second team of English cricketers to tour India. He later also played for Madras Presidency against the tourists.

According to S Muthiah writing in an article about Sewell in 2015, he appears to have had a remarkable cricket career in India, mainly playing for the Madras Cricket Club. Muthiah says: “he went on to set an impressive record in the years that followed, playing mostly for the Madras Cricket Club. Between 1892 and 1898, he scored 7800 runs, made 22 centuries and took 760 wickets. One year, he scored 2665 runs at an average of 140.26 and took 152 wickets at 9.5 each!”

It must be mentioned, however, that the majority of these games were of the “Minor” cricket variety. Muthiah makes special mention of two specific games: “In 1894, playing against a regimental team he hit a ball that measured 147 yards and in 1896, playing for the Madras Salt Department against another regimental team, he made 74 out of his team’s score of 78 in the first innings and 51 out of 56 in the second!” Sewell was particularly remembered for his fielding while in India, even Wisden remarking that he fielded “with dash and certainty.”

Continuing his cricket education, the young Sewell found himself to be part of the Madras Cricket Club team that had toured erstwhile Ceylon towards the end of 1892, playing “Minor” games against the Colombo Cricket Club at Colombo, and against Ceylon at Kandy. It may be mentioned here that in the Colombo game, Sewell captured 6 wickets, and a further 11 wickets in the Kandy game, with five-wicket hauls in both innings. This seemingly insignificant tour to neighbouring Ceylon was to have an important impact on the cricket career of Sewell, and culminated in his being selected for the home team in the historic match between the visiting Lord Hawke’s XI and the All-India XI at Allahabad.

The 26th of January 1893 was to prove to be a red-letter day in the annals of Indian cricket and in the cricketing career of EHD Sewell as well. For the first time, a cricket team was about to take the field in a first class match under the banner of All-India against a visiting foreign team. The venue was Alfred Park, in the city of Allahabad, famous for the confluence of the river Yamuna, for ever associated with the legends of Lord Krishna and the sublime Radhika, and the Ganges, said to have descended upon earth from the locks of Lord Shiva. There is, however, another river linked to this convergence of waters; the mythical Saraswati which is thought to have dried up many millennia ago. The Triveni Sangam is one of the revered holy spots of Hindu philosophy.

There was, however, a modicum of bad news in the visiting camp on the morning of the match. The original 13-member squad had been reduced to the bare minimum quorum of 11 by the absence of skipper Lord Hawke, down with fever, and of the Nottinghamshire man JS Robinson, down with a wrenched ankle. In His Lordship’s absence, the experienced George Vernon, who had previously toured India with his own team in 1889-90, went out to toss along with the Mussoorie-born George Chesney, leading the All-India team and appearing in his only first class match. Chesney won the toss and elected to bat first. It would be the fourth and last first class match played by Lord Hawke’s team on their current India tour.

There were 7 men in the All-India team who were making their respective first class debuts, and the 21-year-old EHD Sewell was one of them. The home team, perhaps somewhat in awe of the situation in which they found themselves, were dismissed for 139 in 106.4 (5-ball) overs. The only noteworthy individual contributions were from opener ME Pavri (29) and one-drop man Walter Troup (49). Of the seven bowlers employed by Lord Hawke’s XI, only Ledger Hill did not pick up any wickets.

Hill compensated with the bat, however, scoring a commanding 132 in his side’s first-innings total of 343 all out, and almost trumping the opposition total off his own bat. The home team’s second-innings total of 199 all out was not enough for them to escape defeat by an innings and five runs, Hill rubbing salt into the wounded pride of the Indians by taking 4/25 from his 11 overs of underarm legerdemain. For the Indians, a definitive landmark had been reached in their evolving cricketing ethos, although their pride had been wounded.

The archives reveal a gap in the cricket career of EHD Sewell from December 1894 to May 1900. It is known that Sewell had resigned from his Indian Civil Service position in 1900 with the intention of going back to England and making a career for himself as a professional cricketer.

As has been well documented in the history of English first class cricket, the great WG Grace, the Champion of Gloucestershire, had decided to sever his ties with his county following disagreements with the Board members, moving to London in 1900 to set up another first class cricket team named London County, strong enough to take on the other county teams on even terms. EHD Sewell played his second first class match under the colours of London County against Warwickshire at Birmingham in mid-July 1900. WG Grace was just a day past his 52nd birthday when he won the toss and strode to the wicket in the company of Ted Arnold.

The first wicket produced 122 runs, WG dominating the bowling with a polished 82, and Arnold contributing 58 to the ultimate total of 198 all out. The Warwickshire fast bowler Frank Field picked up 6/85, with his fellow opening bowler, the slow left-arm orthodox Sam Hargeaves taking 3/59. EHD contributed six to the total. The home team replied with a robust 319 all out before Field (5/56) and Hargreave (4/48) combined again to dismiss WG’s team again for 145, Warwickshire winning the match by nine wickets.

Sewell had his moments in the sun in the match against Surrey at Crystal Palace from 28 April 1904. Winning the toss for Surrey, Kingsmill Key batted first and the visitors were dismissed for 230 in 59 overs on the first day. For Surrey, the fast-bowling pair of Bill Lockwood (48) and Tom Richardson (49) added 75 for the ninth wicket in 40 minutes to provide a veneer of respectability to the team total.

In the time remaining in the day, London County reached 123/4 with Les Poidevin batting on 16 and Albert Knight on 5. The fall of the fifth wicket at 116 brought Sewell, batting at No 7. to the crease to join Poidevin. The pair put on 74 runs before Poidevin (65) was dismissed by Bill Lockwood, bringing Essex man Johnny Douglas, in his last year with London County, to the wicket.

The seventh wicket realised 185 runs before Douglas (66) went back. Sewell’s epic innings ended at 181, his highest first-class score. He was undone and bowled by the wiles of the leg-spin bowler and occasional wicketkeeper Ernie Hayes. London County declared at 466/8, largely due to the efforts of Sewell. EHD’s 181 runs were scored in three hours and included five fives and 28 fours. Despite a solid 67 from Bobby Abel and John Moulder (out hit wicket to WG Grace), the county could only reach a second-innings total of 185, and WG’s team won the match by an innings and 51 runs.

Between 1900 and 1904, Sewell played 15 times for London County, scoring 682 runs at 27.28 with a best of his afore-mentioned 181. His three wickets for the team proved to be expensive as he averaged 69.66 with the ball. It was during an interval in his tenure for London County that Sewell made his county and Championship debut, turning out for Essex as a professional against Surrey at The Oval from 5 May, 1902. In an inconclusive match severely curtailed by the elements, Sewell scored eight runs in his only innings.

Sewell’s career with Essex stretched from 1902 to 1904 during which he played 55 first class games for them, scoring 1822 runs for them at 21.18, with a highest of 107, one of his tow centuries. He hit 11 fifties and held 45 catches for his county. He also had seven rather expensive wickets.

EHD Sewell became something of a legend in Minor Counties cricket, and his feat of scoring centuries in three consecutive games between August 18-23, 1913 is still spoken of with a sense of awe. Sewell was one month away from completing 41 years of age at this time.

The sequence had begun with the game against Hertfordshire and his feats would have been all the more memorable to him as he had been playing alongside his son Douglas. Both father and son had registered ducks in the first innings, with EHD leading his team. In the second innings, following on, the skipper had registered 106, opening the innings.

In his very next innings, against Bedfordshire, EHD scored 109 with eight fours, adding 28* in the second innings. In the next match, against the MCC at Lord’s, Sewell opened the batting and scored 115 in 135 minutes with 13 fours, one five and two sixes. Buckinghamshire defeated the MCC team by an innings and 34 runs in the game.

After his first-class career, both with London County and with Essex, ended August 1904, his appearances became somewhat sporadic. During this phase of his life, EHD played for a variety of teams including the MCC, WG Grace’s XI, Players of the South, HDG Leveson-Gower’s XI, and the Gentlemen of England.

It was perhaps in the fitness of things that his last first class game should have been under MCC colours, the opposition being Scotland, and the venue being Lord’s from 7 June/1922. Sewell was almost 50 years of age by this time. Winning the toss, the MCC declared at 576/6, scored in 122 overs, the runs coming at a frenetic rate of 4.72 per over, and the innings being declared closed at stumps on the first day.

This was part of the match report for the first day’s play in The Scotsman: “Glorious weather favoured the meeting between the M.C.C. and Scotland at Lord’s Cricket, London. This is the first of a series of two three day matches arranged by the Scottish Cricket Union in London, and it is officially announced that the match will rank as first class. The attendance was poor, and did not exceed 500 at any part of the day. On a bone dry wicket the Scots fielded the whole day, the M.C.C. running up the huge total of 576 for six wickets. There were three century makers…..”

In an innings embellished by 3 individual centuries, the veteran Sewell contributed 52* (with eight fours and one six), sharing an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 70 with skipper, Colonel “Jock” Hartley (22*). Despite a fighting 103* by middle-order batsman John Fergusson in the first innings Scotland had to follow on, and lost the match by an innings and 183 runs, the match barely running to one and a half hour’s play on the third day.

To sum up, EHD Sewell’s first-class career spanned 1892-93 to 1922, and comprised 87 matches, producing 3430 runs at 24.50. His highest score was the 181 mentioned above, and was one of his five centuries. He had 18 fifties and held 70 catches, fielding always having been one of his strongest points. His profile also shows 17 wickets at 47.47.

Along with his activities on the field, EHD Sewell began to write, particularly about cricket and rugby, the two games he was passionately fond of and in which he excelled. Initially working as a columnist for several journals including The Times of India, he also authored numerous books, from 1908 to 1946. Of his published works, seven were on the subject of rugby, and there were more than 10 on cricket.

Writing in Cricket, Literature, and Culture: Symbolising the Nation, Destabilising Empire, author Anthony Bateman says: “One of a small number of public-school educated professional cricketers of the pre-war period, Sewell became a prolific writer of books on cricket and rugby that were characterised by their trenchant views and forthright prosody…”

It was 1936, and India were making their second Test-playing tour to England, this time under the dubious leadership of the Maharajah of Vizianagram, a petty, autocratic, and ambitious man of very limited cricketing and management skills. One of the issues that had marred that series for India had been the unnecessary conflict of wills between CK Nayudu and the skipper. The other major discordant note had been struck by the skipper’s ego clash with the young and talented Lala Amarnath resulting in the latter being sent back home in “disgrace” on disciplinary grounds.

Writing for the Times of India at the time, EHD Sewell had broken the story as follows: “I have the full authority to announce that a sensational decision to send Amarnath back has been made. He is aboard the Kaiser-I-Hind, which leaves Southampton today.”

In his later years, Sewell coached the Surrey youngsters at The Oval and became the Honorary Secretary of the Buckinghamshire club, playing in the Minor County matches for them as an amateur. The multi-faceted EHD Sewell passed away on 20 September 1947 at his London residence of Westbourne Park, Paddington, aged 10 days shy of 75 years.