The multi-millionaire who played county cricket for Denbighshire

The county teams which played during the Victorian era contained a number of colourful and aristocratic characters – this was the case with Denbighshire who featured in their games during 1877 a man who ended up making his fortune in the United States before returning to the UK and becoming a Conservative MP and wealthy benefactor to many good causes.

The man in question was Urban Hanlon Broughton, the son of a railway engineer who hailed from Yorkshire. Born in Worcester during April 1857, Urban had been raised in Wrexham and educated at Grove Park School where he received a decent grounding in a range of subjects as well as learning the rudiments of cricket. Urban subsequently studied engineering at the University of London, besides playing club cricket for Wrexham and acting as their assistant secretary. In 1877, whilst still an undergraduate, Urban was also chosen to play for Denbighshire against Shropshire at The Racecourse ground in Wrexham with the young engineer opening the bowling and batting at number eleven for the county team.

After graduating, Urban embarked on what became a highly illustrious career as a civil engineer during which he oversaw the creation of the docks at Felixstowe prior to working in the United States where, amongst other grand projects, he designed the hydro-pneumatic sewerage system for Chicago and served as the chief contractor for the 1893 World Fair which was held in the city adjoining the Great Lakes.

Urban Broughton – multi-millionaire and Denbighshire cricketer. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Whilst in the United States, Urban also met and married Cara Duff, a wealthy heiress and daughter of an oil tycoon. The pair subsequently returned to the UK in 1912 with the very wealthy couple living at Park Close near Egham, and subsequently at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire. Having retired as an engineer, Urban also became involved in politics and in 1915 was elected as Conservative MP for Preston. He duly served for three years and, using his social contacts in the United States, helped to consolidate Anglo-American relations.

After the War he continued to be a generous benefactor to a number of causes including a donation of £52,000 to the King’s Fund for Disabled Officers and Men of the Navy, Army and Air Force. In 1929 Urban had been due to become Baron Fairhaven in the New Year’s Honours List, but the announcement of the List, including his peerage, was delayed owing to the poor health of King George V. By the time the List eventually became public, Urban had sadly died of pneumonia with the title, on the advice of Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin, going instead to his eldest son Huttleston with Cara also becoming Lady Fairhaven.

Following Urban’s death in Mayfair on 30 January 1929, Lady Fairhaven and her sons purchased Runnymede Meadow and, later that year, in the words of The Times newspaper, presented it to the National Trust “to preserve forever the site where the Magna Carta was signed and to honour the memory of Mr Urban Broughton.”

Leave a Reply