Has any Sussex cricketer a better sounding name?
This gentleman with such a wonderfully sounding name played eight games, as a right hand bat, for Sussex as an amateur in 1898. His existence as a Sussex player was discovered by the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club Museum and we are thankful to them for passing on the results of their research. He also played once against Warwickshire for the short-lived London County team run by W. G. Grace. In total he scored 271 runs for Sussex with a top score of 80 against a good Nottinghamshire attack.
Born in Crowborough
De Montezuma was born at Crowborough in April 1869 and baptised at Rotherfield on 4 August 1869 and so played for Sussex under the birth qualification. His parents were both born in England; his father, also Leonidas, was born in Hackney in 1831, his mother Louisa (née Goddard) was born in Stoke Newington. They married in the City of London in 1857. Our Sussex cricketer was the sixth of their nine children, all born in England. His father, though, had been brought up for a while in Rio de Janeiro – he had several siblings born there – and was recorded in the 1871 census as a lieutenant in the Brazilian navy. Shortly after our cricketer’s birth the family moved to South-East London and they appear in a succession of censuses: he was a resident of South Norwood, Croydon, Sydenham and Beckenham.
The Royal Naval School
He was a boarder at the Royal Naval School, New Cross, a charity-run establishment for the sons of navy officers; it closed in 1910 and its buildings are now part of Goldsmiths’ College. His name can be found in local newspapers as a successful all-rounder in South London club cricket, especially for the Norwood and Spencer clubs. He played club cricket only rarely in Sussex, and then mostly for visiting London teams.
But all was far from well in his life. In 1892, his business partnership with his sister’s husband, as a ‘colonial merchant’ in the City, was dissolved. At around the time of his father’s death in 1895 he became a patient at the Bethlem Hospital, Beckenham with symptoms which we might today call a bipolar disorder.
A short-lived career
It was three years after his spell in Bethlem Hospital that de Montezuma had his short lived career with Sussex. He made his debut for Sussex against Essex at the County Ground, Leyton, with his last appearance against Lancashire at Old Trafford. He also played the one game for the short lived team London County in 1904 against Warwickshire in which he took four wickets, finishing with figures of 4/71 which was the best bowling performance in that innings.
The occupations recorded in the censuses of the time do not tell us a great deal about him.– music publisher’s clerk, for instance. In 1911, at 42 living ‘off his own means’, he was at home with his widowed mother. He never married. He died in March 1937 in the City of London Mental Hospital at Stone in Kent, these days near the Dartford Crossing, with assets of £48 8s 5d. His death went unreported in the cricket press and, it seems, here in Sussex.
First Class Batting Record
M:9, I:15, NO: 4, Runs: 285, HS:80 not out Ave: 25.9
By David Jeater (with assistance from Roger Gibbons of Gloucestershire CCC).