PERCY PERRIN - ETHEL MARY WEBB

Ethel Mary Webb  

Ethel Mary Webb was born at 11 Summerhill Road, then called 1 Shakespeare Villas, on 18 June 1878, the oldest of a family with five children, who later moved to 143 West Green Road. Their father was a wine merchant. Ethel married Percival Albert Perrin at St James’ Church, Muswell Hill on 3 April 1901, and the couple went to live at 194 Muswell Hill Road.   

Ethel Perrin’s husband Percy Perrin, often known as Peter, was one of the leading cricketers in England in the Edwardian ‘Golden Age’ of amateur cricket. Many of the leading practitioners were from public school and university backgrounds, but Percy came from an entirely different sphere. Born in a small terraced house in Lancell Street, Stoke Newington in 1876, his parents were publicans who had moved there from Shadwell and who had taken a pub nearby.

the_bull_perrins.jpg (68443 bytes) They moved to Tottenham Hale in 1878 where they ran the White Hart, and later took on The Bull, a fifteenth century timber-framed building where the Connaught is now located in Tottenham High Road.The Perrins were evidently very successful in the pub business and later in property because they were able to pay for the education of their two sons at a time when state secondary schools were few and far between.

Percy was sent to Margate College, a small, private school for boys in Kent, whose aim was to provide a ‘sound commercial education’. As a cricketer he was coached there by John O’Connor who later played for Derbyshire. In 1892 during the school holidays he started to play cricket for Tottenham Cricket Club, then an important local club whose ground was located where Keston Road now stands. His father died in that year and his mother took over the pub licence, presumably with Percy later ‘learning the ropes’ after he left school in 1893.

In 1895 Percy broke several Tottenham batting records, and his performances came to the attention of Essex County Club, then based at Leyton. At the beginning of 1896 when he was nineteen, despite being almost unknown outside Tottenham and not qualified to play for Essex, Perrin was put into Essex side and was the county’s leading run-scorer in the season. He played regularly for Essex from 1896 right through to 1926 when he was fifty. When not required by Essex he continued to play for Tottenham, and perhaps, when playing there, his eye caught that of the young woman from Summerhill Road.

In 1899, aged 23, Percy took over the licence of The Bull from his mother and turned it into a very successful business, at the same time building and then letting out other commercial properties in the High Road. On the cricket field his most successful seasons were 1904 and 1906 and would almost certainly have played for England if there had been Tests in either of those years. When he was away playing cricket, it is likely that members of the family, including Ethel, filled in for him at the pub in the early years. The Perrins gave up The Bull in 1913.

percy_perrin_1904.jpg (138713 bytes)

In his career as a county cricketer Percy played more matches, 496, in the County Championship than any other amateur. A big, heavy man, he was a hard hitting right hander he scored more Championship runs, 27,703, than any other Essex player, including Graham Gooch. At Chesterfield in 1904, he scored the first first-class triple century in the twentieth century, 343 not out, setting an Essex record which has lasted a hundred years. In that innings he hit 68 fours, setting a world record total which has remained unbeaten over the same period.

Off the field the Perrins’ enterprises were equally successful. With John Robson, a local builder, in 1910 they bought some 300 tenanted houses around Glendish Road at Tottenham Hale, and later had an estate agency with several branch offices.

rolls_royce_1913.jpg (41563 bytes) These businesses were so successful that they bought one of the first Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts in 1913, coachbuilt by Angus, Sanderson. Its detailing, which included inlaid mother of pearl  and special upholstery, suggest that Ethel had an important hand in its design as Percy was a man of plain tastes.

(The illustration is an example of a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost 1913)

The car was requisitioned by the Government during the First World War and used in France by the Army’s Director of Transport. They bought other Rollers in 1931 and 1936.

The Perrins had one son, Meredith, who was born in 1901: he married an American-born woman, Yvonne Earle, who after the Second World War went to live in Australia: Yvonne became a well-known children’s book illustrator. Between the wars, the Perrins bought further land in Norfolk and a second home in the Broads village of Hickling, where they became friends of Lord Desborough, a former MP, a punting and fencing expert, who had chaired the organisation which ran the Olympic Games in London in 1908. Perrin and Desborough entertained members of the Royal family at their shooting estate and in return were invited to Sandringham. The family had come a long way from Tottenham.

Shortly before he stopped playing cricket for Essex, Percy became a Test match selector. He remained a member of the Test selection committee for ten years, alongside the likes of Lord Hawke and Sir Stanley Jackson. In 1939, the last year before the Second World War, he chaired the committee, picking players for the series that year against the West Indies. A diffident man, he was much respected for his judgment of candidates for Test cricket, even though he himself had not attained that standard. It is said his judgments were pithy, and delivered in a low Cockney growl: sometimes he rolled his own cigarettes in the Pavilion at Lord’s. He died at Hickling just after the end of the Second World War, when his estate was valued at 5 million at 2005 prices.

Ethel Perrin survived her husband by almost twenty years. Local people in Hickling remember her as a good employer, and a quiet, kindly woman who made sure that the ducks on Hickling Broad, close to her house, were properly looked after and fed every evening. Their grandchildren now live in Queensland.

(This article has been reproduced for the website from the original written by David Jeator March 2005)

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