The son of William Bancroft (senior), he continued the good name of the family in cricketing circles in South Wales. His formative years were spent at the Bryn-y-Mor ground, playing for the Swansea Colts team, and the town’s 1st XI, in addition to being coached by his doting father who took great pleasure in passing on tips to his enthusiastic son who showed rich promise – so much so, that he was chosen as a sixteen-year old to play for the Glamorganshire side against Carmarthenshire at Neath in 1864. Any nerves that William may have had were quelled by the presence of his father in the county side, along with several others from the Swansea club, including JTD Llewelyn, with young Bancroft opening the batting with the Squire of Penllergaer who was to play a major role in his adult life.
During his teens, William appeared in several showpiece matches, including Swansea’s game against the United All England in 1866 at Brunswick Court, followed two years later by their match at the Bryn-y-Mor ground in the Uplands district against the Australian Aborigines as well guesting, through Llewelyn’s influence, for Cadoxton against the United South of England. 1868 also saw William score his first half-century at county level with 51 against Breconshire, whilst the following summer he showed his prowess with the ball by taking 11 wickets against Radnorshire.
A bright future was being forecast for the young professional but, with his father still employed by the Swansea club, William accepted lucrative offers to act as a professional in Northern England and Scotland. Dduring the course of the next few years he therefore played for Settle, Dunfermline, and Merchiston Castle, besides appearing for the South Wales CC on their annual visits to London in addition to coaching at Rathway College in Oxford. In 1875 William returned to Swansea and succeeded his father as the Swansea professional, in addition to acting as private coach to the Llewelyn family at Penllergaer.
The following summer, he played with credit for the Swansea club in their games at St. Helen’s against the United South of England. The following summer, he performed with credit at the Swansea ground against the All-England Eleven. Many regard William Bancroft was the finest home-grown all-rounder in South Wales cricket at the time and it was a shame that the winding-up of the Glamorganshire club prevented him from regularly playing at county level during the years when he was at his peak.
By the time a new county club had been created in 1888, his skills as a batsman were on the wane. Nevertheless, he was still a canny bowler and a fine coach, with several of his colleagues from the Swansea club, including his son Billy and Willie Llewelyn playing for the county side. In 1891, the latter took his life in the grounds of his family’s home – he had been due to play the following day for Glamorgan against Devon at Swansea, and with several amateurs unable to play at such short notice, it was William Bancroft who came into the county side as a late replacement alongside Billy.
However, the veteran never got onto the field as rain washed out play after just a handful of overs in Glamorgan’s 1st innings. The following year, father and son duo managed to take the field together for Glamorgan at Swansea – and in much more happier circumstances – as the county played a Colts team, several of whom had also benefited from William’s wise words in the nets at the St. Helen’s ground.
BANCROFT, William (junior)
Born – Bury St. Edmunds, 31 January 1848.
Died – Swansea, 19 April 1906.
Batting and Fielding Record
Minor County Friendlies – 11 v Colts XXII at St. Helen’s, Swansea, 1892.