Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pilch, Fuller

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PILCH, FULLER (1803–1870), cricketer, eldest son of Nathaniel Pilch and Frances Fuller, was born at Horningtoft, near Fakenham, Norfolk, on 17 March 1803. Brought up to the trade of a tailor, he showed more than an ordinary taste for cricket as a boy, and is said to have been early instructed in the game by William Fennex, one of the famous Hambledon players. At the age of seventeen, with his brothers Nathaniel and William, he played his first match at Lord's, when he assisted Norfolk against the Marylebone Club. Though he failed with the bat, William Ward, who made 278 for Marylebone, already predicted his future success. Moving temporarily to Bury St. Edmunds in 1825, he formed one of the powerful Bury Club, for which he played innings of 91 and 82, both not out, in 1826, and scored 137 not out against the Woodbridge Club in 1830. Meantime, in 1827, he had again appeared at Lord's for England against Sussex, when the new ‘roundhand’ bowling was publicly tested, and he proved the highest scorer in that historical match with an innings of 38.

Removing to Norwich in 1829, he there in 1833 defeated at single wicket Thomas Marsden, the Yorkshire champion, making 73 to the 7 and 0 of his opponent. In the same year he again overcame Marsden at Sheffield before twenty thousand spectators, obtaining 78 and 100 against Marsden's 25 and 31. In the two matches between Norfolk and Yorkshire in the following year Pilch made scores of 87 not out, and 73 and 153 not out, to which he added another of 105 not out for England v. Sussex, against the bowling of William Lillywhite.

In 1835 he transferred his residence to Town Malling, and from 1836 to 1854 formed one of the Kent eleven, receiving a salary of 100l. a year for his services. From 1841 to 1851 he was a member of Clarke's All-England eleven, but did not play in very many of their matches. During this period his chief innings were 107 for Benenden v. Kent, and 125 for Nottingham v. Twenty-two of the Forest and Bingham clubs in 1836; 160 v. Reigate, with Lillywhite, in 1837 (then considered the most wonderful feat on record); 114 for Chalvington v. Brighton, with Lillywhite, in 1839; 98 for Kent v. England in 1842; and 117 for Marylebone v. Western Counties, with Lillywhite, Dean, and Hillyer, in 1845. His last appearance at Lord's was in 1854.

Pilch stood six feet in height, and possessed a great reach, which he further increased by designing a bat of the regulation length but with a very short handle, allowing a corresponding gain in the blade. His style of play was entirely forward, its feature being the smothering of the ball at the pitch before the twist or rise could take effect. The cricket chronicler, John Nyren (1764–1837) [q. v.], used to say that Pilch's play almost reconciled him to round-arm bowling. Throughout his career he was opposed to some of the greatest bowlers that have appeared, and ranked among the finest batsmen and run-getters. There was no player to contest his supremacy until George Parr [q. v.] reached his prime, about 1850. Of a kindly disposition and quaint humour, Pilch was universally respected. He died on 1 May 1870 at Canterbury, whither he had removed and opened a shop for the sale of bats and other cricketing implements in 1842. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Gregory's. He was not married. The best portrait of him is in Pycroft's ‘Cricket Field’ (3rd edition, 1859). A bat which he used is in the pavilion at Lord's Cricket Ground.

[Lillywhite's Scores and Biographies of Celebrated Cricketers, 1862; Pycroft's Cricket Field, 3rd edit., 1859; Denison's Sketches of the Players, 1846; Sporting Magazine, 1833; Gale's Game of Cricket, 1888; information supplied by the Rev. F. C. de Lona Lane, Whissonsett Rectory, East Dereham, and Henry Perkins, esq., secretary to the Marylebone Cricket Club.]

J. B. P.