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Gower, Sir Henry Dudley Gresham Levesonlocked

(1873–1954)
  • R. H. Hill
  • , revised by Gerald M. D. Howat

Gower, Sir Henry Dudley Gresham Leveson (1873–1954), cricketer, was born on 8 May 1873 at Titsey Place, Limpsfield, Surrey, the seventh of the twelve sons of Granville William Gresham Leveson Gower (1838–1895), whose estates amounted to nearly 7000 acres of land in Surrey, and who sat briefly (1863–5) as Liberal MP for Reigate, and his wife, Sophia (d. 1926), daughter of Chandos Leigh, first Baron Leigh. Sophia was the sister of Sir Edward Chandos Leigh QC, who was president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1887. Leveson Gower (pronounced ‘Loosen Gore’ and always known by both names) was educated at Winchester College, where he was in the eleven for three years. As captain in 1892, he led his side to victory against Eton College by making 99 runs and taking eight for 33 in the match. He then went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, and played against Cambridge at Lord's four times (1893–6). As captain, in his last year, he took Oxford to a remarkable victory after being set 330. He did not take a degree.

Short in stature and slight in physique, Leveson Gower was an outstanding fielder and a good cutter of the ball. He made his début for Surrey in 1895 and four years later made 155 for the county—his highest score in first-class cricket—against his old university. He played 122 matches for Surrey between 1895 and 1920, and captained the county to third, fifth, and second place in the championship in the seasons 1908–10. It was his personal qualities of leadership off and on the field (as, indeed, the title of his autobiography indicates) which marked him out rather more than his talents as a performer. Compared with his university contemporaries such as C. B. Fry and Pelham Warner, he did not fulfil expectations.

Although he embarked on a career as a stockbroker, Leveson Gower was able to find time to tour both the West Indies with Lord Hawke's eleven and America under Warner in 1897–8. In 1898 he was asked to take over the administrative responsibilities of running the Scarborough cricket festival in Yorkshire, already well established by its founder, C. I. Thornton. He had shown signs of his abilities in raising elevens against the two universities in the Eastbourne cricket week. Soon the Scarborough festival became almost synonymous with H. D. G. Leveson Gower's eleven, and attracted the annual visiting tourists as opponents. In 1909–10 Leveson Gower led the MCC in South Africa, where he captained England in the first three tests before standing down from the side. His last appearance in first-class cricket was in 1931, for his eponymous eleven, the end of a career in which he had made 7638 runs (average 23.72).

Leveson Gower married on 23 April 1908 Enid Mary, daughter of Robert Sharp Borgnis Hammond-Chambers KC; they had no children. He served in the Royal Army Service Corps during the First World War, attained the rank of major, and was mentioned in dispatches.

Leveson Gower had been elected a member of the MCC committee as early as 1898. Eleven years later he became an England selector, before becoming chairman of the selectors in 1924 and in 1927–30. He was also treasurer of Surrey (1926–8) and president (1929–39). For his services to the Scarborough festival he was given the freedom of the borough in 1930 and eventually completed an association of over fifty years. While the festival proved an enjoyable annual event for players and spectators alike, Leveson Gower maintained the divisions between amateurs and professionals and their wives even after the close of the day's play. He was a man of his time—an 'Establishment' figure—but his overall qualities of humour, kindness, and vitality were central to his character. His schoolboy nickname of Shrimp stuck with him throughout his life and remained apt. Leveson Gower was knighted in 1953 and died at his home, 30 St Mary Abbots Court, Kensington, in London on 1 February 1954. He was survived by his wife.

Sources

Wealth at Death

£7158 0s. 11d.: administration, 28 June 1954, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

John Wisden's Cricketer's Almanack
J. Burke, A general [later edns A genealogical] and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom [later edns the British empire] (1829–)
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]