Rev John FC Denning MA was Curate at St. Lawrence Parish Church from 1889 to 1895. and headmaster at Westfield House School in Parsonage Lane from 1893 until it closed c1906. Westfield House (now a private house) was a Boys' Day and Boarding Classical and Mathematical School established in 1842.
Even when he was no longer curate, Denning continued to help in the parish, and is remembered for holding regular morning services at the Workhouse, afternoon services at Hungerford Newtown, and also managing to fit in services at Denford Park, using a rather old-fashioned bicycle as his means of transport. He was appointed Chaplain to the Union (Workhouse) in October 1894, and gave the Churchwardens of St. Lawrence Parish Church three months notice to terminate his engagement as Assistant Curate of the Parish, which was on 15th February 1895.
He was a keen sportsman, and especially good at cricket, as were his brother and two sons.
- Rev Dennning with his splendid collection of sporting trophies.
A Grand Old Sportsman:
On 14 Aug 2003 the Newbury Weekly News published an article by John Taylor entitled "Rev J F C Denning: A grand old sportsman":
Should there ever be a vote to decide the Newbury area's greatest ever sportsman, one of the foremost candidates would surely be the Reverend Denning of Hungerford.
The Rev Denning's obituary in the Newbury Weekly News on October 19 1939 was headlined 'End of a Fine Innings' and continued, 'A remarkable Sporting Career'. Reverend Denning played football at 65 and cricket at 78, he was 85 years old when he died.
The name Rev. Denning was well known to me as a boy, he was a legend in local sport. Hopefully this article will help to keep his name remembered as one of the area's greatest ever sportsman.
The Reverend Denning was born in Shrewsbury, at Shrewsbury school he was captain of games and won many sporting honours.
He continued his athletic achievements at Trinity College, Dublin and won between 60 and 70 awards for running in the few years he was in Ireland. He was ordained in 1881, then after taking his MA degree in 1883 he held teaching appointments at Weymouth College and King William College on the Isle of Man.
He went on to be a curate at Malton in Yorkshire and Bridgewater in Somerset before coming to Hungerford in 1889 as curate at the parish of Denford.
His record on the football field was unequalled. In the considerable
number of years he played he took part in 2,000 matches. The founder of the Somerset football Association, he was captain of the county team for four years. As soon as he arrived in Hungerford, he devoted his energy to reorganising sport in the town. He was connected with both the football and cricket club in Hungerford for close on 50 years.
He was a member of the Newbury team that won the Berks and Bucks Junior Cup in 1890, he was then 36. In 1905 with his son as partner at full back, he played for Hungerford when they won the Graystone Cup after a replay with Newbury Union Jacks.
The Reverend Denning played for the Berks and Bucks in county matches on many occasions.
It was the Rev. Denning that introduced six-a-side tournament football to this part of the country, which was very popular for many years.
However, it will be for his prowess on the cricket field he will be chiefly remembered. In his early days he had a number of centuries to his credit, but in his later years he concentrated on bowling. He was capable of causing havoc among the opposing batsmen. His secret was variation in pace, a natural break and sheer cunning. One season he took the astonishing total of 300 wickets and on numerous occasions he had over 200 to his credit. During his 50 plus years as a cricketer, well over 5,000 wickets fell to his wily bowling.
In one innings he took nine wickets for one run and he frequently sent eight batsmen back to the pavilion.
Bert Bushall another grand old Hungerford sportsman of the past, who is now 85 years old and lives at Chilton Foliat remembers playing with Rev. Denning, Bert was 16 years old in 1934 when he first began to play for Hungerford.
Bert told me Rev. Denning bowled underarm with devastating effect, and in co-operation with Hungerford wicket keeper, the Reverend Parsons of Boxford, they were a deadly combination. More on Bert in future Local Heroes. The Reverend Denning played cricket until he was 78, but he still kept his connection with Hungerford Cricket Club for several more years.
He so loved cricket that he continued to act as umpire and on one occasion he and his brother A. W. Denning were umpires of a match in which Rev. Denning's son and two grandsons were playing. Reverend Denning's energy behind the scenes was as great as on the field of play
The summer tours he organised were a feature of local cricket. It was regarded as an honour to be invited to take part. He continued to arrange Hungerford's annual tours until his death.
The Reverend Denning was the area's finest sportsman of his era, no doubt his name will live on as a legend, as one of Newbury's great Local Heroes of the past.