This is a sponsored article on behalf of Lord’s Cricket Ground.
On Sunday 22 June, Lord’s Cricket Ground celebrates its 200th birthday with a special Anniversary Day. There’ll be matches, food, family entertainment, activities, workshops and, excitingly, special access to the Ground’s Victorian Pavilion (more details can be found here). But with 200 years of history behind it, Lord’s Cricket Ground also has a few unusual spectacles up its sleeve …
Old Father Time
It always pays to look up in London, and that goes for Lord’s too. Here you’ll find one of the capital’s most unusual weather vanes, and perhaps the only one to have its own Wikipedia entry. ‘Old Father Time’ has presided over the ground since 1926. The hunched figure, removing the bails from a wicket, stands over 1.6 metres tall. He was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, who was also the architect of a now vanished grandstand at the ground, as well as parts of the Bank of England. Poor Old Father Time has found his perch to be precarious one over the years. During WWII, he was wrenched from his lookout by a barrage balloon. Then in 1992, he was struck by lightening. You can find a replica of the vane in the MCC Museum.
The most famous trophy in cricket is permanently housed in the MCC Museum at Lord’s, regardless of whether England or Australia are the current holders. The diminutive terracotta urn is just 15cm tall, and reputed to contain the ashes of a cricket bail. The tradition of playing the Ashes began in 1882, when Australia won their first Test on English soil. A newspaper ‘obituary’ declared English cricket dead, and ‘the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia’. The two nations have fought for the trophy ever since — with replica versions raised triumphantly, most often by Australia. The long and fascinating history of the urn itself can be read in the museum.
An Aboriginal Club
The first Australian victory might have occurred in 1882, but that team was preceded by a tour in 1868 composed entirely of Aboriginal players. The Times snootily dismissed the tour as “a travestie upon cricketing at Lord’s”, but the matches were well attended by the public, and the Aborigines won as many matches as they lost. A number of mementoes from that tour can be seen in the MCC Museum, including a war club from South Australia. During breaks in the cricket, Aboriginal player Dick-a-Dick would invite people to throw cricket balls at him, which he would then dodge and bat away with his club. According to accounts, he was never hit, even when multiple balls were unleashed.
WG Grace Statue
During the Aboriginal tour, a promising 20-year-old player called WG Grace was able to beat the visitors in a cricket-ball-throwing contest. He would go on to become the most famous cricketer of all time, still captaining England into his 50s. You’ll find dozens of references and exhibits to Grace at Lord’s and the museum, but perhaps the most memorable is the statue of the great man, forever frozen in time in front of Thomas Lord’s antique grass roller. The bronze statue was cast in 1999 by Louis Laumen, and you’ll find it in the Coronation Garden near the museum.
A Dead Sparrow
Perhaps the most unusual site in the MCC Museum is a dead sparrow mounted on the ball that killed it. The ornithological tragedy occurred at Lord’s on 3 July 1936 during a game between Marylebone Cricket Club and Cambridge University. Indian cricketer Jahangir Khan unleashed a wicked bowl, which struck the unfortunate avian mid-flight. Since its demise, the bird has only travelled from Lord’s on one occasion: to an exhibition of famous sparrows in the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam in 2006.
Anniversary Day takes place at Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood, London, NW8 8QN on Sunday 22 June. Tickets cost £10 for adults, £5 for under 16s and £7.50 for over 65s in any stand. To book tickets visit www.lords.org/anniversaryday or call 0207 432 1000. For more information on Lord’s Bicentenary visit www.lords.org/bicentenary.