Stepping back through history with... Graham Napier

PUBLISHED: 15:36 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:36 18 May 2015




As the 2015 cricket season gets underway, Essex cricketer Graham Napier visited the Essex Record Office to trace his family history and discover just how much of an Essex boy he really is

Graham NAPIER was born and raised in Colchester and has played for Essex County Cricket Club since 1997, when he was still just a teenager. He has been an integral part of the Essex squad for more than a decade and has had stunning successes with both bat and ball.

Graham is known for his entertaining, big-hitting style, and is most famous for his record-breaking 152 not out off 58 balls in a Twenty20 match against Sussex in 2008 — the highest individual score in a T20 innings in England and the highest number of sixes in an individual T20 innings. In 2010 a back injury threatened to end his career, but he bounced back as strong as ever to repeat his feat of scoring 16 sixes in an innings against Surrey in the same year.

As Graham embarks upon his 18th season playing for his county, it seemed a good time to investigate his true Essex roots. Expert staff at the Essex Record Office (ERO) have researched Graham’s family tree and took him through their findings from the papers looked after at the county archive. Graham was fascinated to discover that his family has deep roots in Essex, going back to at least the 1700s.

Several of his ancestors were from the Tilbury area and include agricultural workers, gamekeepers and blacksmiths. Apparently blacksmiths were reputed to be so strong they could hit a cricket ball out of the ground, so now we know where he gets it from.

Graham discovered that one of his great-grandfathers, Edward Chatten, was killed in action in World War I in September 1918, just two months before the Armistice. His daughter, Graham’s grandmother, was baptised a few months after her father’s death, so it seems likely that Edward never got to meet his baby daughter. Graham is now planning to visit Edward’s grave in France when he gets the opportunity.

Just like his ancestors, Graham is in the archive himself, among the records deposited by Essex County Cricket Club. The staff dug out some scorebooks to show him, including one from 1997 which includes his very first professional games for Essex and one from 2008 recording his record-breaking T20 score of 152.

Graham said: ‘It’s safe to say I’m truly from Essex going back several generations. What a great experience to come to the ERO and trace back my family history. It’s something I’d recommend more people do.’

So when you watch our county team in action this summer, you can be sure that you are cheering for a true Essex boy.

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