Born in 1830, Godalming’s own Julius Caesar was a renowned cricketer and the seventh child of Godalming Baker, Benjamin Caesar. His mother’s maiden name was Bowler! By the time he was sixteen Caesar’s name began to feature in newspaper reports of local matches. Nicknamed ‘Julie’ and a carpenter by trade, Caesar was later landlord of the Cricketer’s Beerhouse in Farncombe. In 1848, although short and sturdy, he joined the professionals at Surrey and first played for his county in 1849. Caesar had a strong defence as batsman and in 1851 made his debut for the All England X1. In 1855 he was employed as a coach at Oxford University. In 1859 Caesar joined the first English Eleven to tour North America and travelled to Montreal playing several Canadian Teams before touring Australia and New Zealand in 1863 and 1864. In 1864, at a grand cricket match he was presented a testimonial in recognition of his cricketing services and received a gold watch and Albert chain.
Just one-year later, tragedy struck when a gun he was carrying went off during a pheasant shoot near Godalming, accidentally killing one of the beaters. Caesar’s profound shock at the incident affected his game, which then deteriorated rapidly, not helped by recurrent gout. In 1867 Caesar retired from first class cricket, aged 37, to concentrate on his cricketer’s outfitters business in Ockford Road. As an umpire he co-founded Broadwater Cricket Club with James Street. Caesar was appointed coach and supplier of cricket equipment to Charterhouse when the school moved to Godalming in 1872.
In 1874 his wife, Jane, died suddenly in Ockford Road, aged 45, and in 1976 his second son, Julius, aged 17, committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train at Peasmarsh. Caesar never really recovered and in 1878 he died in the Railway Tavern in Mill Lane where he had been living as a recluse, just before his 48th birthday. Local author, Geoff Amey, wrote about Caesar in The Ill-Fated Cricketer.
Caesar was buried in Nightingale Road Cemetery, Godalming, in an unmarked grave, a sad ending for a famous cricketer. In 2004 a service was held when a new headstone, carved with a bat, ball and bails, was dedicated to the local hero.
Godalming Museum © 2004