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.