While England and Australia played their first test match as far back as 1877 (at the Melbourne Cricket Ground), the origins of The Ashes go back to a game played at The Oval (now officially known as The KIA Oval) in Kennington in 1882.

Playing their only test of that tour, the Australians only made 63 runs in their first innings, giving England a 38 run lead with a total of 101. Australia followed this up with 122 leaving England just 85 runs to win. They were stopped just eight runs short of victory.

The English team were berated in the press for the loss and on 2nd September that year, a mock obituary for English cricket appeared in The Sporting Times stating that, having died at The Oval on 29th August, 1882, it will be “deeply lamented”. There was a note at the bottom of the obituary (picture right) which said that the body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. And so the name, the Ashes, was born.

English captain Ivo Bligh subsequently promised that he would regain the ashes during the 1882-83 English cricket team’s tour of Australia while the Australian captain WL Murdoch vowed to defend them. It was during a social match played at Rupertswood Estate outside the city of Melbourne that Bligh was presented with the tiny terracotta ashes urn (today on display at the MCC Museum at Lord’s – see our earlier post for more).

The history of The Oval goes back to the mid-1840s when, following the establishment of the Surrey Cricket Club, it was granted a lease for the land from the Duchy of Cornwall (who still own it). The Ashes aside, memorable moments there have included the playing of the first match in the Australian Aboriginal team’s tour of England in 1868 (the first tour of England by a foreign side) and the first England v Australia test match to be played in England (1880). The Oval was also the location for the first international football match, played between England and Scotland in 1870, and the first FA Cup Final, played here in 1872.

Interestingly, The Oval also held a particular attraction for the US billionaire philanthropist,  J Paul Getty II, who built a replica of the ground at his estate at Wormsley Lodge in England’s south.

The history of Lord’s, London’s most famous cricket ground, meanwhile, goes back somewhat further. The current ground is the third to bear the name of Lord’s – the first was created on what is now Dorset Square in Marylebone at the behest of entrepreneur Thomas Lord (from whom it derives its name) and the first match staged there in 1787, the date on which the Marylebone Cricket Club was formed. Between 1811 and 1813, the ground was relocated to Marylebone Bank in Regent’s Park before moving to its current home in St John’s Wood (then the site of a duck pond).

Both grounds continue to host a range of cricketing and other events, such as the current Olympic archery competition being held at Lord’s.

WHERE: The Oval, Kennington Oval, Kennington (nearest Tube stations are Oval, Vauxhall and Kennington); WHEN: 90 minute tours of the ground are available (check website for booking details); COST: Tours cost £10 an adult/£5 under 16s/£25 a family ticket; WEBSITE: www.kiaoval.com.

WHERE: Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood Road, St John’s Wood (nearest Tube Stations are Warwick Avenue, St John’s Wood, Marylebone and Maida Vale); WHEN: 100 minute tours of the ground (which include a visit to the MCC Museum) are available daily (check website for times – note that there are no tours during the Olympics, these resume on 21st August); COST: Tours cost £15 an adult/£9 concessions/£40 a family ticket; WEBSITE: www.lords.org.

PICTURE: Wikipedia

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In honor of the Olympics, we’re staying with a sporting theme over the next couple of weeks and so this week thought we’d take a look at the oldest sports museum in London – and, it is claimed, the world.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Museum is located at Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood, just north-west of the City (keep an eye out for our post on Lord’s later this week), and is said to have been collecting cricket-related artefacts since as far back as 1864.

The star sight on display is that tiny urn, known simply as The Ashes, which was given to English captain Ivo Bligh during the English cricket team’s visit to Australia following a game on an estate outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882 (the term was actually first used in August that year when, following an English loss to Australia, at The Oval, The Sporting Times ran an obituary for English cricket and said its ashes would be taken to Australia).

The museum also contains cricket equipment used by some of the game’s greats along with memorabilia celebrating the likes of WG Grace, Victor Trumper, Jack Hobbs, and Donald Bradman as well as more recent players Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid and Paul Collingwood. Other exhibits include the Wisden Trophy, a stuffed sparrow bowled out by Jehangir Khan in 1936 and the battered copy of Wisden’s which EW Swanton used to help him survive a World War II Japanese internment camp.

There is also an extensive collection of cricket-related paintings and photography and a theatre – the Brian Johnson Memorial Theatre – which screens archival cricket footage.

It should be noted that the museum is closed during the Olympics (until 15th August) when Lord’s is playing host to the archery competition (people attending the archery, however, will have free entry). In celebration of the archery, the museum is hosting an exhibition of trophies and pictures related to archery, the centrepiece of which is an arrangement featuring the Musselburgh Arrow and Medals, prizes which have been competed for since 1603.

WHERE: MCC Museum, Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood Road, St John’s Wood (nearest Tube Stations are Warwick Avenue, St John’s Wood, Marylebone and Maida Vale); WHEN: Weekdays (with exceptions – check website for details and times); COST: £7.50 an adult/£5 for concessions (or included with tours); WEBSITE: www.lords.org.

This well-to-do area in London’s north-west, just outside Regent’s Park, takes its name from the historic ownership of land here by the Order of St John of Jerusalem (also known as the Knights Hospitaller).

The land had previously been part of the Great Forest of Middlesex. The Order of St John of Jerusalem, which since 1140s had its English headquarters in a Clerkenwell priory where St John’s Gate stands (this now houses the Museum of the Order of St John – see our previous entry here), took over ownership of land in the early 1300s after the previous owners, the Knights Templar, fell into disgrace.

Following the Dissolution, it became Crown land and remained so until 1688 after which it passed into the hands of private families, notably the Eyre family who owned much of the area.

It remained relatively undeveloped until the early 19th century when, following the introduction of semi-detached villas on planned estates, it was marketed as a residential alternative for London’s middle classes, away from the smog and congestion of central London.

It became favored by the bohemian set and residents included creative types like artists and authors as well as scientists and traditional craftsmen (apparently in the late 19th century it was also known for its upmarket brothels).

Rebuilt with swanky apartment complexes in the early twentieth century, these days it remains a leafy enclave for the wealthy. Many of the houses which have survived are heritage listed.

Landmarks include St John’s Church (pictured above, this was consecrated in 1814) and the St John’s Wood Barracks and a Riding School (this was completed in 1825 and is the oldest building still on the site) which is now home to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which carries out mounted ceremonial artillery duties such as firing royal salutes for the State Opening of Parliament, royal birthdays and state visits.

St John’s Wood is also home to Abbey Road Studios (home of the Beatles and that famous zebra crossing), Lord’s Cricket Ground (officially the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club which was moved here in 1814, the same year the church was consecrated) and the Central London Mosque located on the edge of Regent’s Park.

For more on St John’s Wood, take a look at the website of The St John’s Wood Society.