Robert Carpenter (right) with Thomas Hayward
Robert Carpenter (right) with Thomas Hayward

Robert Carpenter (1832-1901) was one of Cambridgeshire’s and England’s greatest-ever cricketers.

Robert Carpenter was born on 18 November 1832 in Cambridge at 48 Mill Road. His father, George (1818‒1849), was a butcher. Robert became a professional cricketer around 1854. In Cambridge he became known as the ‘Old Gardener’, because of his custodianship of Parker’s Piece (until 1881). He played in 1856 for Cambridge town against the University.

He first appeared for the United All England Eleven at Lord’s in June 1858, and played with that team throughout the 1860s, becoming its lead batsman. His highest score in first-class cricket was 134 for the All England Eleven against Yorkshire in 1865. He also played for Cambridgeshire (then a first-class county eleven) during the 1860s together with batsman Tom Hayward (the uncle of the younger Tom Hayward buried in Mill Road Cemetery) and fast-bowler George Tarrant, the three players who dominated that team in its heyday.

In 1859, he toured America with the first English overseas touring team under George Parr, and Australia in 1863/64 under the same captain. He was an attacking batsman, especially off the back foot. (For further details of his career and style of playing, see the download ‘Carpenter Death Notice’.)

Robert Carpenter death notice

After his retirement in 1876, he umpired, including two test matches. At his death on 14 July 1901, he left a widow, Eliza. He was buried in Mill Road Cemetery on 17 July 1901—see the download ‘Carpenter Funeral’.

Robert Carpenter funeral

One of his sons, Herbert (1869‒1933) played for Essex 1888‒1920.

Monument and Inscription

While Carpenter was definitely buried in Mill Road Cemetery (17 July, 1901), his grave was not transcribed by the Cambridgeshire Family History Society and has not been found to this day.

By Ian Bent

Robert Carpenter