JULIUS CAESAR was the youngest child of BENJAMIN CAESAR (1797-1867), baker of Godalming and ANN BOWLER (1796-1880) who were married in 1816. He was the youngest of six brothers and one sister, Annie (1822-95), who married WILLIAM LINFIELD, a tailor at Brighton, in 1850. I have already related in a previous article (Longshot May 1993, “William and Anne Linfield of Worthing”) the rather strange circumstances of their marriage, and how they falsified the 1851 Census to hide this information from prying eyes. I also conjectured that part of the reasoning behind their decision had something to do with Julius, but more of that later. This article is an attempt to provide a detailed account of his life, which started so full of promise when he excelled at the game of cricket but came to a premature end after he suffered some cruel personal misfortunes.
Julius Caesar 1830-1878
‘Juley’ was born on March 25 1830 at Godalming, Surrey. When he died, in straightened circumstances, on March 5 1878, he was only 47 years of age. Nevertheless, during his short life he became one of the most well known players in the world of cricket. He was lucky, of course, to have been brought up in a family who were devoted to the game, so much so that they fielded their own team in a celebrated match in August 1850 when Twelve Caesars vied with Eleven Gentlemen of Godalming & District.
Julius’s name began to appear in newspaper reports of local matches when he was a mere lad of 16 years of age. A reporter on the Surrey Gazette of July 7 1846 concluded, with remarkable foresight, that Julius promised “to be as noted in the game of cricket as his ancient namesake was in the art of war.” Undoubtedly, he was very lucky to have the support of his family whose love of the game must have been a tremendous boost to someone with such natural talent. His father, uncles, brothers and cousins all played; in fact, on September 8 1846, the Godalming team at home to Shillinglee Park included five Caesars: George, Benjamin, Richard, William and Frederick.
It wasn’t too long before Julius’s talents far surpassed his relatives, although his brother Fred was quite good and he still appeared for the Godalming team for a number of years. A carpenter by trade, Julius was not tall (5ft 7in) but very strong which showed in his powerful batting. He hit hard and clean, and was soon renowned for his excellent batting. But he was also a very useful fielder, especially at point where he made some superb catches. His scoring for Godalming at the Oval in 1848 against the Surrey Club caught the attention of the county hierarchy, so much so that he was selected to play for the Players of Surrey XI against a team of the county’s gentlemen in June 1849. His performance was good, with 30 runs and 3 wickets in a stint at bowling. With William Caffyn and Thomas Lockyer, he joined the professionals at Surrey later that year. No doubt, the extra money would come in very handy.
Julius played his first game for Surrey on June 28 1849, when they played against Sussex at the Oval. Opening the batting for his new team, he scored 15 out of a total of 79. Sussex achieved a lead of 23 runs, but Surrey ran up 144 in their second innings. Sussex were out for 106 in their second innings, to leave Surrey winners by 15 runs.
In May 1850, he played his first match at Lord’s when he faced the bowling of the legendary William Lillywhite, who was then nearly 59. Julius opened the innings, and scored 13 and 22 not out in a 9 wicket victory for Surrey over Middlesex. It was about this time, in June 1850, that Julius married Jane Brewser, daughter of a local carpenter. But the marriage appears to have taken place without parental approval – for instead of marrying in their local church, they were married at Stoke Church, Guildford which was 4 miles away. Two months later, their first child, FREDERICK WILLIAM was born – which gives a clue to the nature of the suspected complications surrounding the event. Two more sons followed (JULIUS in 1859 and CHARLES BENJAMIN in 1862), while a daughter (ANNE JANE), born in 1857, died two years later.
As revealed previously, the problems surrounding Julius’s marriage had important implications for the matrimonial plans of his only sister, Annie. When they were married at Brighton on September 30 1850, both William Linfield and Anne Caesar were far from home, and sharing cheap lodgings, no doubt to satisfy the obligatory three week banns period before they could get married in the local parish church. But the deadly serious nature of their efforts to conceal their marriage is revealed six months later when both of them falsified the 1851 Census, each declaring they were ‘unmarried’. Annie was living back in Godalming, whilst her husband was a ‘visitor’ at the Spaniard Hotel in Worthing, where they eventually settled.
The most likely explanation for these odd events is that Anne’s parents strongly disapproved of the match. Knowing the family obsession with the game of cricket, her father probably had his own plans for her matrimonial future. Perish the thought that she might possibly want to marry someone who had never even played the game in his life! Julius’s behaviour no doubt infuriated her parents, thereby adding to the predicament she found herself in. The solution: to get married in secret, and then to tell her parents when the dust had settled. We will never know when she plucked up the courage to break the news, but their first child (WILLIAM HENRY LINFIELD) wasn’t born till 1854, some four years after they secretly wed in Brighton. I suspect it was mainly her father who was the problem. Some years after his death in 1867, her mother came to live with them in Worthing and is buried in the cemetery in South Farm Road. She died in 1880, aged 84.
It was in August 1850, on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th, that Julius was involved in the famous family match in which Twelve Caesars took on Eleven Gentlemen of Godalming. Whatever the animosity between father and son, no doubt their differences were put aside – his presence in the family team was crucial. Julius took 5 wickets in the Gentlemen’s first innings of 123. The family were all out for 95 when their turn came to bat. In the second innings, Fred Caesar took 8 of the Gentlemen’s wickets and they were all out for 42, setting the scene for a famous family victory. Unfortunately, though, some unexpectedly brilliant bowling by the opposition had the Caesars all out for 54, and they lost by 16 runs. Nevertheless, it was still a remarkable achievement – and must have been the main topic of family conversation for years!
The 1850s were an outstanding decade for Julius’s cricketing career. But what do we know of the man himself? He was undoubtedly a complex character, full of nervous energy; and with a strange form of pessimism which had convinced him that a poor score would lead to his automatic suspension from the Surrey team. He had a terrible fear of fire, once waking the whole household at Hereford by ringing a bell and shouting “Fire!” after being disturbed in the night by a noisy reveller. But he was popular with his fellow cricketers, whom he kept amused by a constant flow of witticisms. Another amusing anecdote is related by Richard Daft in his book ‘Kings of Cricket’ which was published in 1893: “One of the liveliest members of our team was Julius Caesar, of Surrey. He was one of the smartest men altogether I ever came across. His scores for All England Eleven, Surrey, The Players, &c., were for a great number of years very large. His hitting was as smart and clean as anything that could be witnessed. He always travelled with a huge portmanteau, and like George Parr with the hat-box, he was extremely fond of it. He was always particularly anxious to let us know that it was “solid leather.” It was a great deal too large for his needs evidently; for whenever any amount of luggage was put on the top of it, it used to go down as flat as a pancake, so that sometimes he used to have a difficulty in finding it amongst the rest of our baggage.”
Another contemporary, William Caffyn, has also left a revealing glimpse of this rather strange character:
“The word ‘brilliant’ may be used very appropriately when describing the batting of my fellow countryman, Julius Caesar. He was one of those clean, hard hitters, whom it is so delightful to watch. Although only about 5′ 7″, ‘Juley’ was very powerfully made. He may be described as “a big man in a little room”. He had a wonderful knack of timing the ball, which had a great deal to do with his success as a batsman. He was not much of a cutter – those who set themselves out for a driving game seldom are – still, he had a good hard cut past cover-point, which he often made use of. The on-drive was his best hit, and he was also noted as a leg-hitter. He appeared at Lords in 1850, and I believe was engaged by Clarke for the All England Eleven at the end of the following year, with which he remained until Clarke’s death, and continued to play under the captaincy of George Parr, when he succeeded to Clarke’s office. ‘Juley’ was a first-rate boxer, and exceedingly fond of the noble art. He was of a peculiarly nervous temperament, and, laughable as it may appear, was always afraid of sleeping in a room by himself in a strange hotel, for fear someone might have died in it at some time or other…”
He then relates the story of Julius’s fear of fire and how he rang the bell violently in their hotel in Hereford, rousing the whole house (see above). Caffyn continues:
“As I said before, ‘Juley’ was of a very peculiar temperament, being always very elated when successful, and terribly dejected after getting a small score. Both ‘Juley’ and George Parr used to make a point of taking a certain amount of liquor before retiring to rest when they were in the thick of the cricket season. Once, it is said, they each agreed to lessen the quantity by half. They were both unsuccessful on the following day, but nevertheless agreed to give their new regime a trial the following night; but alas! the result was the same as on the previous day – viz., small scores in both cases. “George”, said ‘Juley’ to the famous leg-hitter as he came into the Pavilion without having troubled the scorer, “It is evident that we must take our usual quantity tonight.” “Right you are, my lad,” promptly replied ‘George’, “and we’ll make up for what we went short of last night and the night before as well!”
Not only did Julius play for the Surrey team during the 1850s, but he also played regularly for William Clarke’s All-England XI. The players travelled all over the country, and during the 1851 season they played 35 matches – in fact, the last 14 were played in 8 weeks! Somehow Julius and the other players managed to survive all the travelling, but Clarke paid badly – only some 4 to 6 per week – and the players were required to cover their own expenses! In September 1852, a meeting of rebels, indignant at the way they had been treated, decided they would never play for him again. So came into being the United England Eleven, in opposition to Clarke’s outfit. But Julius remained loyal to Clarke and continued to appear for the team on a regular basis for another ten years, finally withdrawing his allegiance when he joined the United South team in 1864.
In 1853, now aged 23, Julius made his first appearance for England. He was not terribly successful, but in August he was selected again, to play against Kent at the Canterbury ground. Batting at number 5, he completed a brilliant innings to score 101. His score was the highlight of an England total of 324. England were the winners by an innings and 179 runs. At this time in his career, Julius was landlord of the “Cricketers” beerhouse in Godalming; however, his applications in 1853 and 1854 for a spirit licence were unsuccessful.
But, according to Caffyn, “for one who played so much first-class cricket, Caesar was the worst thrower I ever met. Oh, the looks of unspeakable rage I have seen poor Tom Lockyer bestow on him when ‘Juley’ dashed the ball in so far out of reach as to cause an over-throw. I shall never forget, too, his once having an excellent chance of running-out a batsman from cover point. ‘Juley’ fielded the ball as brilliantly as could have been desired, and threw it towards the wicket with great force, but instead of going into Lockyer’s hands, it unfortunately struck poor old Clarke – who was at point – smartly between the shoulder-blades. “Confound you, you clumsy idiot!” yelled the infuriated veteran, turning savagely on poor ‘Juley’. “I don’t believe you could hit a haystack broadside if you stood ten yards from it!”
On August 25 1856, William Clarke died at his London home. George Parr took over as secretary and captain of the All-England XI, and soon organised the election of a new management committee, to which Julius was elected as one of the members. During 1857, the All-England XI played two matches against their arch rivals, the breakaway United England XI. The AEE won both matches, the first by 5 wickets, and the second by 133 runs.
In 1859, Julius was selected to play in the first England team to tour overseas – to Canada and the United States – which departed from Liverpool aboard the ‘Nova Scotia’ on September 7. George Parr assembled a very powerful professional side, which included six players from each of the All-England XI and the United England XI, and they won their five matches very easily. The team included Parr, Lillywhite, Diver, Caffyn, Lockyer, Hayward, Carpenter, Wisden, Jackson, Caesar and Stephenson. It was during this trip that Julius found himself facing a revolver! Richard Daft related the incident:
“There was then not such good feeling between the Old Country and America as there is at the present time, and ideas of revolvers and bowie knives were indulged in by the Englishmen, probably without the slightest foundation. George Parr, the most nervous of men, resolved to make himself very agreeable to the Yankees; and during the whole of his sojourn in the States he did nothing but laud everything American and decry everything English. Caesar did the same; but unfortunately getting one night to a bar where London porter was sold, he managed to pick a quarrel with one of the natives, and, after a good deal of strong language, threatened to punch the Yankee’s head if he would but step outside.
The American told him that sort of thing was not in his line, but said, “Here is my card!” and at once held the muzzle of a revolver close to Julius’s nose; he was terribly alarmed, and immediately began to make friendly overtures to the American, pretending to treat the whole affair as a joke, and presently succeeded in smoothing matters over. He, however, took the earliest opportunity of getting out of the place, when he fled like the wind to his hotel, fancying that he could feel at every corner he turned a bullet in some part of his body, as he said afterwards. “The first Yankee I meet on British ground,” said Julius the next day, “I will give a hiding to, if I get three months for it.”
Presumably we shall never know whether Julius fulfilled his wish. Each man made 90 from the tour, a useful sum in those days. In 1861-62, the first England side was selected to visit Australia, under the captaincy of HH Stephenson of Surrey. However, it was not a particularly representative team since many players (including Julius) refused to go. They were unhappy with the terms, but in 1863 George Parr took out a much stronger side which included Julius. They set sail aboard Brunel’s ‘SS Great Britain’ from Liverpool on October 15 1863, arriving in Australia 63 days later. They played a total of 14 games in Australia and 5 in New Zealand, all against 22 man sides, but were undefeated throughout. Each man received 250, a considerable sum for a professional sportsman.
Once again, the tour was not without its incidents. William Caffyn was also in the England team and recorded the following story from the tour:
“On the evening of the 7th April (1864), we went aboard t
e steamer ‘Wonga Wonga’ bound for Melbourne, after a farewell luncheon in Sidney. When we had got a few miles outside the ‘heads’, we were in collision with a small vessel called ‘The Viceroy’. We were at tea when this occurred, and were much alarmed when we felt the shock of the collision. The little Viceroy was sunk almost immediately. A boat was lowered, and we succeeded in saving the crew. Poor George Parr was dazed and paralysed with alarm. Tarrant quite lost his head – rushed down below to get a collection of curios – then when the boat was lowered, he tried to get into it, and was told by the sailors to keep out of the way, in no very choice language. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, behaved in a manner worthy of his name, keeping very cool and collected, and doing all he could to assist the crew. It being quite dark, our situation was no very enviable one… as it was some time before we could make out the extent of the injust to our own vessel. We had a considerable number of ladies aboard, most of whom were naturally very excited and nervous. We had a good laugh afterwards at old Jackson – he had done very well at the farewell luncheon, and went fast asleep. We found him sleeping peacefully when the excitement was all over. Soon we were on the way back to Sidney, and he had not the least idea that anything had happened. We put back to Sidney for repairs (where our arrival caused the greatest astonishment). We were not able to start again till two days later. Mosquitoes were so troublesome on the voyage to Melbourne, that we had to sleep on deck – and caught bad colds. Some piece of machinery gave way a few miles from our destination, and caused a further delay of several hours. Eventually we arrived at Melbourne at about 2 am on April 11th.”
Back in England in the Summer, Julius made his highest score (132 not out against Sussex at Hove in July, 1864). ‘The Sporting Life’ said it was ‘as finely a played and truly artistic innings as we have had the pleasure of witnessing for a very long time.’
Unfortunately for Julius, however, at the peak of his success as a cricketer, things started to go badly wrong for him. He liked to go shooting and was apparently a very good shot, according to Caffyn. But on October 18 1865, whilst engaged on a pheasant shoot near Godalming, he accidentally let off his gun whilst negotiating a stile. The charge of shot shattered the spine of a beater, William Foster, who died several hours later. Julius was inconsolable. According to Caffyn, “Poor ‘Juley’ was in a terrible way; and I truly believe his mind never got over the shock till the day of his death.”
The shock undoubtedly affected his cricket. After two shaky seasons of occasional appearances, he retired as a professional player in August 1867. He began trading from his home in Godalming as a cricketing outfitter, but the offer of a rewarding job in 1872 promised to secure him a much brighter future. He took up the post of cricket professional at Charterhouse School, which had recently moved there from London. In addition to his duties as coach and groundsman, he was also appointed official supplier of all cricketing materials to the school. But Julius was not to enjoy the benefits of his new career for long.
In 1874, he lost his wife, Jane from cancer. Two years later, on October 3 1876, the body of his second son, Julius Jnr. was found on the railway line between Guildford and Godalming – he was 17. The subsequent inquest revealed that letters found on the mangled body included one to his father from ‘your unfaithful son’ and made references to his girlfriend, whom he had ‘ruined’. The inquest jury decided that Julius junior had thrown himself in front of a train and returned a verdict of ‘suicide while of unsound mind.’
Julius, racked with grief, never recovered from the pain of his son’s death. Of particular poignancy was the knowledge that young Julius was a very good cricketer and likely to make the grade as a professional. Julius rapidly declined, drinking more than was good for him and gradually sank into poverty. The President of Surrey CCC, Frederick Marshall initiated an appeal on his behalf, declaring that Julius, once a ‘plucky, straightforward, honest man, full of fun,’ was now in ‘the depths of poverty’ caused by ‘illness and family troubles.’
In his last years, Julius lodged at the Railway Tavern in Godalming, where he died on March 5 1878 at the age of 47. He was buried in Godalming Cemetery in Deanery Road, but no headstone marks his grave.
‘The Sporting Life’ summarised his life and contribution to cricket, adding that ‘a series of unlooked-for misfortunes, coupled with bad health and domestic affliction, broke up the once strong and jovial-hearted man.’
Julius Caesar was undoubtedly one of the early cricket ‘greats’ who played his part in popularising the game before it achieved the widespread following which developed soon after his death. He was a complex character, who experienced ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in his general temperament, but who was well liked by his fellow players. Unfortunately, a series of personal tragedies, beginning with the shooting accident in 1865, eventually destroyed him which is sadly reflected in his premature death. Nevertheless, he made an important contribution to the early development of the game of cricket, and he should be remembered for his part in that.
‘Seventy-seven Not Out’ by W. Caffyn ‘Kings of Cricket’ by Richard Daft (1893)
‘Godalming Cricket 225 not out’ by PJ Mayne (Godalming Cricket Club,1992)
‘The English Cricketers Trip to Canada and the United States in 1859′ by Fred Lillywhite (1860)
‘The tragedy of Julius Caesar’ by Geoffrey Amey (1980)
Article in cricketing journal “Is yours an SS Great Britain Family?”
Full passenger lists of all 14,000 people who travelled on the England-Australia route between 1852 and 1875.