FRY, C.B. (1872-1956)
Plaque erected in 2005 by English Heritage at 144 St James's Road, Croydon, CRO 2UY, London Borough of Croydon
Journalism and Publishing, Sport
C.B. FRY 1872-1956 All-round Sportsman was born here
CB Fry is best known for his cricketing achievements, but he was a gifted all-round sportsman who also played football for England, equalled the world record in long jump and became a top-class sprinter. Outside of the sporting arena, he was a prolific writer who established the formula for lucrative celebrity sports journalism that continues to this day.
Charles Burgess Fry was born in Croydon at 144 St James’s Road, part of a terrace of seven, unlisted detached houses, originally known as ‘Edinburgh Villas’. The house dates from the middle of the 19th century and remains largely unaltered, apart from the addition of pebble-dashing and new windows and doors. Fry became interested in cricket at the age of seven and also displayed a talent for athletics, having taught himself to jump a distance of 20 feet (6 metres) by the age of 17. He did not live in London for long, but his birth in Croydon meant he was eligible to play for Surrey County Cricket Club, which he joined in 1891.
In the same year, Fry entered Wadham College, Oxford, on a scholarship. For four years he represented the university at cricket, football and athletics, serving as captain of all three in 1894. Despite this, he remained a dedicated student and became a distinguished classicist, serving on the staff at Charterhouse School from 1896–8.
In 1899 Fry was picked to open the innings for England against Australia at Trent Bridge, partnering WG Grace in WG’s last test appearance. He took part in 26 test matches for England, forming a famous partnership with KS Ranjitsinhji. He was a member of the Sussex County Cricket team between 1894 and 1908 and of the Hampshire team in 1909-21. Over the course of his career in first-class cricket, which came to a close in 1922, Fry scored over 30,000 runs and made 94 centuries. He remains an outstanding name in cricket, from an era when the game was at its zenith.
Once regarded as ‘the handsomest man in England’, Fry led a remarkably eclectic sporting life. He later became a top-class sprinter and hurdler, was a fine swimmer, golfer and horseman, ventured into rugby, played football for England in 1901 and was an FA Cup finalist for Southampton the following year.
A prolific writer, he turned increasingly to sports journalism, and from 1904 to 1911 edited and directed Fry’s Magazine of Sports and Outdoor Life from offices in Southampton Street, Covent Garden. He came into contact with key sporting, literary and political figures of his time, including William Gladstone, Winston Churchill, PG Wodehouse and Hilaire Belloc.
He spent over 40 years in Hampshire as Director of the Royal and Merchant Navies’ training ship, Mercury, which he ran with his wife Beatrice. In recognition of his service, ‘CB’ was made an honorary captain in the Royal Navy Reserve.
In addition to this, Fry took on political commitments. In 1920, he went with Ranjitsinhji on the Indian delegation to the League of Nations at Geneva, and spent a great deal of time in India throughout the course of the decade. Back in the UK, he stood as a Liberal candidate for Parliament three times, but narrowly missed out on being elected. After leaving the Mercury in 1950, he moved to a flat close to Lord’s cricket ground in London, where he died at the age of 84.