When the great cricketer WG Grace died in 1915 it was inevitable that MCC would wish to commemorate his remarkable life and long association with the Club.
Grace’s rise to prominence fifty years earlier had ushered in cricket’s golden age and helped to cement Lord’s position as the game’s spiritual and administrative home. The Club President attended the funeral, and at the next Committee meeting a desire to create some form of memorial was universal. But with the Great War still raging it was agreed that the time was not right.
It was only in 1919, with the war over, that the idea of the memorial was revived. The Club might have been expected to commission its usual architect for the project, but Frank Verity’s practice had suffered badly during the conflict and he was declared bankrupt in 1920. Instead, MCC turned to Herbert Baker, a Kentish man who had made his name as an architect in South Africa and had recently worked with Edwin Lutyens in Delhi. Baker was known to MCC Treasurer Lord Harris from their joint membership of the wandering cricket club, Band of Brothers.
Baker’s first suggestion was to place a bust of Grace on a plinth between the Nursery End stands opposite the Pavilion, from where the great man could watch over proceedings much as the bust of Sir Henry Wood now does at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. But the Committee was not keen – that space was used from bringing the rollers on to the pitch – and after much wrangling a memorial gateway was agreed upon. Baker’s final design was masterly - three ornate pillars of white stone, set back from the red-brick boundary wall to which they were connected by curved walls in matching stone. The gates themselves were of wrought iron, produced by the Bromsgrove Guild and topped with a decorative design of a cricket ball under a blazing sun. The larger, central pillar bore the simple inscription: “To the Memory of William Gilbert Grace / The Great Cricketer 1848 – 1915 / These gates were erected by the MCC and other friends and admirers”.