From The Vaults

27 September 2021
PLAYER PROFILE: Francis Luscombe (1849-1926)

Francis "Frank" Luscombe was the fourth man to captain England at rugby. He gained the first of his six England caps against Scotland at the Oval on 5 February 1872. He was capped against Scotland four times in 1872, 1873, 1875 and 1876 and Ireland twice in 1875. England won both their games under his captaincy, against Ireland at Rathmines, Dublin on 13 December 1875 and against Scotland at the Oval on 6 March 1876.

Frank was born in Upper Norwood on 23 November 1849. His family rented a large house The Grove, on Church Road, a road that led towards the new site of the Crystal Palace. His father, John Henry Luscombe (1797-1883) was a ship owner. He was the owner of one of the last convict ships to sail to Australia the Norwood.

Frank attended Tonbridge School where he played both cricket and rugby. On his return to London he started work at Lachlan and Partners in 1867 and was a very active sportsman. On 17 October 1868 he and a number of friends formed The Gipsies Football Club. They played both rugby and football although rugby was soon to dominate. Luscombe captained the club at both codes. The Gipsies played at Peckham Rye and changed at the King's Arms. The Gipsies became one the leading clubs of the 1870s and in their 15-year history, they disbanded in 1883, nine of their players gained a total of 21 caps for England.

Frank's brother Sir John Henry "Harry" Luscombe (1848-1937) was also capped for England. He was born in Forest Hill shortly before the family moved to Upper Norwood. He won his only England cap in the first ever international against Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh.

The Gipsies played against Crystal Palace Football Club in a rugby game in March 1870. At the time Frank Luscombe was occasionally playing for CPFC. He played five times for them over the 1869/70 and 1870/71 seasons.

CPFC were founding members of the Football Association in 1863 and reached the semi-finals of the first FA Cup in 1871/72. One of their players, England international Charles John Chenery kept a diary and this features in a new book covering the history of the club. Chenery mentions attending the first rugby international between England and Ireland, at the Oval on 15 February 1875.

Available Now

Stuart Hibberd is a local historian based in south London. His latest book The first Crystal Palace Football Club 1861-1876 includes over 50 biographies of early footballers, including Frank Luscombe. The book is richly illustrated and covers other sports played at the Crystal Palace in this period including cricket and athletics.

It is available to purchase from the author at a cost of £20 plus £3.50 postage and packaging.