Profiling another famous person with links to SE London and north Kent, Ken Tracey looks at a sporting legend connected to several places in our area.

Dr William Gilbert Grace, the greatest cricketer of all time, was the first sports superstar.

His bulky, bushy image featured in advertising, but it was not designer clothes or fragrances for this blustering colossus. He wore cricket whites to advertise Colman’s Mustard.

WG as he was known was born in Downend, Bristol on July 18, 1848 into a cricketing family. His future was assured, he would play cricket and become a GP like his father.

It was at the age of 51, when his distinguished cricket career was over, that he was invited by the Crystal Palace Company to set up and manage London County Cricket Club on a salary of £600pa, at the prestigious Crystal Palace.

He moved from Gloucestershire to St Andrew’s, a house at 7 Lawrie Park Road, Sydenham, close to the cricket ground, with his wife, Agnes and two of their four children; Bessie and Charles.

The house was demolished in the 1960s, now a maroon plaque marks the site.

Personal tragedy struck soon after their move, when 20-year-old daughter Bessie caught typhoid and died. An athletic girl and a good batsman, she had been close to her father.

There was more heartbreak in 1905 when WG's eldest son, 30-year-old WG Grace Junior (Bertie), died following an appendicitis.

WG craved the country life he’d enjoyed in Gloucestershire, so in 1909 the family moved to the rural village of Mottingham. They lived at Fairmount, Mottingham Lane, SE9. However, their peace was shattered during the war by German Zeppelins rumbling overhead.

The house is now a care home. While there he played for Eltham Cricket Club.

Grace died in 1915, following a stroke. He is buried at Beckenham Cemetery, Elmer’s End Road, along with wife Agnes and children, Bessie and Bertie.

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The Graces pub nearby honours the family name and still has a cricket pitch length bar.

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