Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Birthplace Of The Ashes

I did a double take when I drove past this sign a couple of weeks ago, when out and about for work. The country town of Sunbury - or outer Melbourne suburb to some - claims that it is the birthplace of the Ashes. How did I not know this before?

I stopped to do some online research, to find out about the story, and the link between Sunbury and the greatest cricket rivalry there is – which started again for another round just last night!

Sunbury is where the beautiful Rupertswood Mansion is, and this lays claim to the place where the "Ashes" were first handed over to England Captain Ivo Bligh in the Summer tour of Australia in 1882-83, in an urn.

This of course follows on from the famed death notice for English Cricket appearing in The Sporting Times following the Australian win in England (of just one test) in 1882. The notice claimed that English Cricket had died as a result of the low scoring defeat at The Oval – which was actually the ninth ever Test between the two nations – and was ‘deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances’. The notice also advised that the body would be cremated and that the ashes would be taken to Australia.

Before the very next tour of Australia by England in the Summer of 1882-83, Bligh had gallantly claimed that he would bring home the ashes, and his English team were a source of great sporting hope for England! The record outlines that there were four Tests played over this Summer, and a host of tour matches, but after three it was claimed that England had indeed won The Ashes back.

Sir William Clarke, owner of Rupertswood, and the President of the Melbourne Cricket Club at the time, hosted the English cricketers over Christmas of this tour, and it was here that The Ashes was presented. Sir Clarke’s wife Lady Janet, and English Captain Bligh’s future wife at the time, Florence Morphy, presented what is thought to be an old perfume bottle to Bligh, as a bit of a joke the story reads, after a match between the English team and the staff and guests of the grand house, on the grounds of Rupertswood.

This famed little urn has physically returned to Australia twice since Bligh took it back to England at the end of this tour, and where it was finally presented to the Maryleborne Cricket Club by Florence upon his death - one of these times for a full lap just as many of us did in 2006, for The Smashes!

I drove on from the Birthplace sign on the way in to Sunbury to check out Rupertswood, which is a beautifully restored building, now on the grounds of a private school, used as a hotel and a host for functions. I parked in the school carpark, and went for a wander to the front of the building, and for a peek inside. Such a big part of the history of the sporting battle between England and Australia.

Now, onward with the new battle for Australia to win them back, again, after that unspeakable Boxing Day Test in 2011. Go Aussies!

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