George Osbaldeston

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Portrait of George Osbaldeston, attributed to Francis Grant, circa 1825–1835

"Squire" George Osbaldeston (1786–1866) was an English sportsman and politician.

Osbaldeston spent his childhood at Hutton Buscel, the family estate in Yorkshire. His father (also called George Osbaldeston, a member of parliament for Scarborough) died when he was six, so he and his three sisters were brought up by his mother, Jane, who despite being a great political hostess, was wildly extravagant and squandered much of his inheritance. He spent most of his life trying to recover from this poverty, mainly by trying to win bets and sporting competitions. For example, in 1831 he won an endurance horse race (200 miles in ten hours) for a prize of 1,000 guineas.[1] The money he made from these sorts of wins were overshadowed by the gambling debts of around £200,000 which eventually forced him to sell his house and led to his dying almost penniless.


Born 26 December 1786 in Westminster, London, He was educated at Eton from 1802 until 1803, when he was expelled. Thereafter he studied at Brighton (1803–04), where his behaviour was little improved. He matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford in 1805. The combination of his absolute avoidance of academic work (even by the standards of the day) and his rowdy behaviour (including incidents such as pouring hot gravy over the head of a fellow student he disliked during hall) meant that he narrowly avoided being sent down.[2] Ultimately, he left Oxford without a degree in 1807. On the other hand, during his student days he excelled in all sports, setting a pattern for the rest of his life.


From 1809 to 1811 he was lieutenant-colonel of the 5th regiment North Riding local militia.

In 1812, under pressure from his mother and the local aristocrat and Whig power-broker William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, Osbaldeston stood as a Whig parliamentary candidate for East Retford. He won one of the two seats, despite the machinations of his agent, who, claiming he had not been paid his fees, accused his own candidate of electoral malpractice, resulting in a trial.[3] He had little interest in politics, and rarely attended the House. In his autobiography, Osbaldeston wrote that:

"There was a general election and my mother, in her political enthusiasm persuaded me to stand. I did so much against my inclination and was returned, but not without paying dearly for the distinguished honour, as it is deemed. I did not consider it an honour at all; I thought it a great bore."[4]

At the next election, 1818, he resigned. In 1829 he was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire.[5]


It was however sport that was both his passion and the thing for which he is most remembered. He seemingly excelled at all sports. He was a noted shot at the Old Hat and Red House clubs, where he used a gun with a bore of 1½ inches. Sir Richard Sutton recorded that he once shot 98 pheasants with 100 shots.[6] He rowed at his various schools, at Oxford and into middle age.

He was particularly famous for his racing abilities, in flat, steeplechase, endurance and carriage races. In 1826 he won a celebrated steeplechase for a purse of 1,000 guineas on his horse, Clasher, against Dick Christian riding Clinker, a horse owned by Horatio Ross. On one occasion, in 1831 at Newmarket, he rode 200 miles in 8 hours and 42 minutes, using 28 horses. On another occasion he wagered 100 guineas with Paul Methuen that he could drive a stage-coach from St. Paul's churchyard to Greenwich in an hour with a full complement of passengers. Osbaldeston won his bet, although the coach was loaded with a number of hefty Life-Guardsmen and despite being sent back from the bottom of Ludgate Hill for a false start.[6] His last race was at the age of 69, and he also bred racehorses.

In cricket, he was a fine all-rounder who batted and bowled right-handed, his bowling style being fast underarm. An outstanding Single Wicket player, he was chiefly associated with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) but he also represented Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. He played 34 important matches between 1808 and 1830 as an amateur. His highest score was 112 for M.C.C. v Middlesex in 1816, where Osbaldeston also scored 68 in the second innings. His record in important matches was 1002 runs at 18.21, 2 centuries, 43 wickets, 15 catches and 2 stumpings.

Above all though, his passion was fox hunting. He had his own pack of hounds from the age of 16, and was later master of nine hunts, notably the Atherstone (1815–17), the Quorn (1817–21, 1823–27), and the Pytchley (1827–34). He was regarded by contemporaries as one of the best sportsmen of his generation, and became something of a folk hero in later hunting circles.

Personal life[edit]

He was also known for his romantic escapades, such as attempting to seduce a friend of his mother's, Lady Monson (an unrequited love affair, despite his claims that she was the one woman he had really loved), staying at the house of a friend and seducing both his daughters on the same night, and leaving a ball for two hours to pick flowers from his garden for a lady there.[2] He was rumoured to have a son by a Miss Green, a prostitute, whom he sent abroad. He finally married an Elizabeth Williams in 1851 at the age of 65, most likely as he was then able to live in her Regent's Park house.

His relationship with his mother, Jane, was ambivalent. In his autobiography he claims that: "a cleverer woman never existed, not a better mother."[7] By all accounts Jane doted on her only son. On the other hand, he resented her extravagance, her misuse of his inheritance, and her attempts to force him to pursue a political career. Ultimately, he exiled her to a house in London which he had bought.

He had a great rivalry with his fellow cricketer Lord Frederick Beauclerk. In 1818 this resulted in Osbaldeston being barred for life from membership of MCC (after an intemperate resignation in disgust at the outcome of a single-wicket match and despite the attempted intercession of E. H. Budd[6]); this event effectively finished Osbaldeston's career in major cricket. He also fought a duel with Lord George Bentinck, in the aftermath of a race of 1831, the outcome of which was disputed. Neither was hurt and they were later reconciled.

Of his brilliant beginning and impoverished end, his great friend and rival Horatio Ross commented, "He was open-hearted and trusted others; he was constantly deceived and robbed, and when his affairs were getting into confusion, he had not the moral nerve to pull up in time; nor had he a sufficiently business-head on his shoulders to guide him safely out of his troubles."[6] He died 1 August 1866 in St John's Wood, London


  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ a b George Osbaldeston/E.D. Cummings, Squire Osbaldeston: His Autobiography, John Lane, London, 1926
  3. ^ Jane Osbaldeston to Earl FitzWilliam, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments 83/10-1, Sheffield Archives
  4. ^ G. Osbaldeston, ed. E. D. Cummings, Squire Osbaldeston: His Autobiography, p. 26
  5. ^ Dictionary of National Biography
  6. ^ a b c d C.H.Wheeler, Sportascrapiana: Facts in Athletics (2nd edition), Simpkin, Marshall & Co, London, 1868
  7. ^ G. Osbaldeston/E.D. Cummings, Squire Osbaldeston: His Autobiography, p. 1

External sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • George Osbaldeston/E.D. Cummings, Squire Osbaldeston: His Autobiography, John Lane, London, 1926
  • HS Altham, A History of Cricket, Volume 1 (to 1914), George Allen & Unwin, 1926
  • Derek Birley, A Social History of English Cricket, Aurum, 1999
  • Rowland Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
  • Arthur Haygarth, Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 (1744–1826), Lillywhite, 1862
  • John Major, More Than a Game, HarperCollins, 2007
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Craufurd
William Ingilby
Member of Parliament for East Retford
With: Charles Marsh
Succeeded by
William Evans
Samuel Crompton