Nostalgia: Cricketer Charles Kortright, of Brentwood, was the fastest, scariest bowler of all time
- Credit: Archant
Charles Kortright was born into a wealthy family at Fryerning, north of Brentwood, in 1871.
As a small boy, he was a boarder at Brentwood School. The school day began at 7am, but Kortright and his friends would climb out of their dormitory window at 4am to practise their cricket.
He played for Essex in the 1890s. In those days, cricketers were split between amateurs and professionals – “gentlemen” and “players”.
Tall and imposing, Kortright was a gentleman amateur.
Some experts believe he was the fastest bowler in the history of cricket.
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Figures such as six wickets for four runs, against Surrey in 1895, support the theory.
Curiously, Kortright never played for England.
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Only three countries played test cricket in the 1890s – England, Australia and South Africa – and there were fewer international series, and so not many opportunities to be selected.
Kortright played against legendary characters such as Dr W.G. Grace.
The ferociously bearded Dr Grace was not a nice man.
Knowing that crowds had come to watch him bat, he would defy umpires, refusing to budge when given out LBW or caught.
Once Kortright smashed two of his stumps, and even the resentful Grace had to head back towards the pavilion.
“Surely you’re not going, Doc,” Kortright called after him. “There’s still one stump standing.”
A furious “W.G.” said he had never been so insulted.
Kortright bowled “yorkers” – straight, full length deliveries that pitched near the batsman’s feet, shooting low towards the stumps.
But once he bowled a ball which was so vicious that it bounced right over the boundary.
Kortright gleefully claimed he was the first bowler ever to concede six byes – off one ball.
And he insisted that the ball was full-pitched -- not even a bouncer!
In later life, he settled at Brook Street, between Harold Wood and Brentwood.
A stalwart of Brentwood’s Thorndon Park golf course, he continued to support Essex cricket.
But he criticised fancy modern bowling techniques, such as in-swingers and out-swingers.
The bowler’s job, he insisted, was to get the batsmen out, and the best way to do that was to bowl straight at their stumps.
Charles Kortright died at Brook Street on December 12 1952.
But his proudest claim had nothing to do with cricket.
For a couple of seasons in the 1890s, he made few appearances for Essex because he was learning the brewery trade in Kent.
Luckily for Kortright, he inherited money and did not need a career.
He boasted that he was so rich that he never did a day’s work in his life.