Benjamin Aislabie (14 January 1774 – 2 June 1842) was an English wine merchant, slave plantation owner and cricket administrator. He was the first Honorary Secretary of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and was influential in its early development. He also played cricket between 1808 and 1841 as an amateur but was, statistically, one of the worst players on record.

Benjamin Aislabie
Mezzotint of Aislabie painted by Henry Dawe in 1838
Personal information
Full name
Benjamin Aislabie
Born(1774-01-14)14 January 1774
Newington Green, London
Died2 June 1842(1842-06-02) (aged 68)
Regent's Park, London
Domestic team information
FC debut30 May 1808 MCC v Middlesex
Last FC1 July 1841 MCC v Cambridge University
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 56
Runs scored 224
Batting average 3.15
100s/50s 0/0
Top score 15*
Catches/stumpings 7/–
Source: CricInfo, 18 August 2007

Early life


Aislabie was descended from John Aislabie who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer during the South Sea Bubble.[1] Aislabie's father, Rawson Aislabie, was a London soap and wine merchant who lived at Stoke Newington and owned plantations in Dominica in the British West Indies; he died around 1806 leaving a will worth £60,000.[2]

Aislabie was born at Newington Green in London in 1774, the youngest child of Rawson and Frances Aislabie.[1] He was educated at Sevenoaks School and possibly at Eton College.[a] It is not known if he played cricket at school, and he is first known to have played the sport for Homerton Cricket Club in 1795.[2][3]



Aislabie joined the MCC in 1802 and played for the club between 1808 and 1841. He was President of MCC in 1823 and was the first Honorary Secretary of the club, a role he fulfilled between 1822 and his death.[3][4][5] He is often considered to have been a poor administrator with the club "lurching from crisis to crisis" during his time as Secretary,[4][6] although he attempted to reduce the detrimental impacts of gambling on the sport during his tenure[3] and, according to an obituary in The Sporting Magazine, was "universally respected" by the club's members.[7] During his time as Secretary the membership of the club almost doubled from around 200 to close to 400.[1]

In 1838 a bust and portrait of him were commissioned for the Lord's Pavilion and he laid the foundation stone of the tennis court at the ground the same year.[2] The portrait, by Henry Dawe, is still in the MCC collection; a mezzotint of it was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 1966.[8][9] The painting and one other of Aislabie, which were hanging in the Long Room at Lord's, were removed from display in June 2020 due to his ownership of slaves.[10][11][b]

He played 56 first-class matches, 20 of them for MCC. His playing career was notable for him scoring only 224 runs at a meagre batting average of 3.15 runs per innings. His performances were hampered by his girth, and towards the end of his career he was so obese that he had a permanent runner and by the time of his final appearance in 1841, aged 67 and weighing 20 stone (130 kg), he needed a substitute fielder to field for him as well.[3][4] Statistically he ranks as one of the worst first-class cricketers of all time, although he enjoyed playing the sport and is the third-oldest first-class cricketer on record.[4][12]

Aislabie often arranged MCC matches with leading public schools. He features as a character in the cricket match at Rugby School in the novel Tom Brown's School Days.[2][3]

Business and personal life


Aislabie was a successful wine merchant operating out of the Minories in London in partnership with William Meade and Benjamin Standring, becoming the senior partner in the firm in 1802. The firm numbered Lord Nelson as one of its clients. He also inherited some of his father's estates on Dominica and continued to own plantations throughout his life, at Canefield and Morne Daniel on Dominica; he also had an interest in one in Antigua.[2][3][13] The estates, operated using slavery, were passed on to his son in his will.[12][14][15][16] Aislabie was compensated for the loss of his slaves following passage of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which prohibited slavery throughout the British Empire in 1834.[10] He leased Lee Place in Lee, in north-west Kent,[c] from Charles Boone between 1809 and 1823 and lived in Sevenoaks and London, including at East Park Place near Regent's Park.[1][2][13][17]

He was an overseer for Lee Parish in 1814 and was instrumental in distributing charity, including food and fuel, to the poor of the parish during the harsh winter of 1814. He allowed the parish to store coal and potatoes to distribute during the 13-week frost and employed a number of labourers during the winter.[13][17] He was resident in Lee at the time of the anti-slavery Lee Petition and it is likely he had an opportunity to sign it, but did not, probably because of his interests in the West Indies.[10][17][18]

Aislabie married Anne Hodgson in 1798; the couple had 12 children, six of whom, five daughters and a son, survived into adulthood.[1][d] His son, William, attended Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and inherited his estates in Dominica.[2][13]

Benjamin Aislabie died at his house at Regents Park of an abscess of the throat in 1842 aged 68 and was buried at St Marylebone Parish Church.[2][3][4]


  1. ^ There is some doubt whether Aislabie attended Eton or not. His name, according to Etoniana in 1935, does not appear on the school roll although it is possible he was omitted, attended under a different name or was only at the school for a short period.[2]
  2. ^ The paintings were removed from display in response to a rise in awareness of the legacy of slave ownership following the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020.[10] The MCC also owns another portrait of Aislabie as well as the bust.[11]
  3. ^ Lee is now in the modern London Borough of Lewisham in southeast London.
  4. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has six daughters surviving into adulthood; all other sources, including more contemporary sources such as Etoniana, give the names of five daughters.


  1. ^ a b c d e Midwinter E, Clark C (2004) Aislabie, Benjamin, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2019-12-30 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Benjamin Aislabie, Etoniana, vol. 59, 30 July 1935, pp. 137–140. Available online at Eton College Archives. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Carlaw D (2020) Kent County Cricketers A to Z. Part One: 1806–1914 (revised edition), pp. 25–26. (Available online at the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. Retrieved 2020-12-21.)
  4. ^ a b c d e Benjamin Aislabie, CricInfo. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  5. ^ Benjamin Aislabie, CricketArchive. Retrieved 2019-12-29. (subscription required)
  6. ^ Williamson M, Miller A (2007) Fat bats and roly bowlers, CricInfo, 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  7. ^ Cricket, The Sporting Magazine, 1842, p. 270. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  8. ^ Portrait of Benjamin Aislabie, Lord's, MCC. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  9. ^ Benjamin Aislabie, National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  10. ^ a b c d Hoult N (2020) Exclusive: MCC removes Benjamin Aislabie artwork from public display due to slave-owning past, The Daily Telegraph, 2020-06-10. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  11. ^ a b Dobell G (2020) MCC to review art collection amid slavery links of former secretary, CricInfo, 2020-06-29. Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  12. ^ a b Mukherjee A (2017) Benjamin Aislabie: More than worst First-Class cricketer contender, Cricket Country, 2017-08-27. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  13. ^ a b c d Benjamin Aislabie, reprint of Hart FH (1882) History of Lee and its Neighbourhood, pp. 8–9 in Etoniana, vol. 65, 31 December 1936, pp. 230–231. Available online at Eton College Archives. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  14. ^ Benjamin Aislabie - Profile & Legacies Summary, Legacies of British Slave-ownership, University College London. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  15. ^ Dominica 243 (Cane Field), Legacies of British Slave-ownership, University College London. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  16. ^ Benjamin Aislabie – Lee Resident, Slave Owner & Possibly the Worst Ever First Class Cricketer, Running Past, 2015-12-09. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  17. ^ a b c Benjamin Aislabie, Lewisham Council. Retrieved 2008-04-14. Archived 2008-12-01.
  18. ^ Lee Petition, Local History and Archives Centre, Lewisham. Retrieved 2019-12-30.