When Rain Stops Play - Why Not Visit A Cricket Museum?

By David Prudames | 04 May 2002

Left: The Last Stand, 1995, Jack Russell, © Jack Russell Gallery

"How is this reason (which is their reason), To judge a scholar's worth, By casting a ball at three straight sticks And defending it with a fourth?" - Rudyard Kipling

Mr. Kipling didn't understand, but for certain of us, the first glimpse of the summer sun brings the smell of freshly cut grass, the taste of cucumber sandwiches, the sound of polite applause and the sight of floppy white hats flooding into the brain.

If the clunk of leather on willow, the tones of Brian Johnston or the scream of "Howzat" is in your blood, look no further than our trail of shrines, museums and online tributes to the game of cricket to keep you dry until the rain stops.

Left: Broadhalfpenny Down, Hambledon

While cricket was almost certainly born of various medieval games, it is believed by many to have been nurtured into the art it is today by the good people of Hambledon village in Hampshire.

Hambledon Cricket Club was founded in 1750 and played its games on the Broadhalfpenny Down pitch that can still be seen in use today. The Hambledon team, emerging from the Bat and Ball Inn, were a match for any side in the country including the All-England team they destroyed by a whole innings in June 1777.

Right: a memorial to the game of cricket.

Hambledon set the pace for the game in its formative stages and a stone monument in the village celebrates that fact. Keen cricket historians can also attend the famous Bat and Ball Inn or catch a Broadhalfpenny Brigands game on the Broadhalfpenny Down to see where it all started.

Follow the scent of linseed oil to St. John's Wood in London and the unofficial home of cricket; Lord's Cricket Ground, sporting arena for almost 200 years, spiritual home for the world's greatest players and host to the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum.

Left: admiring the Ashes, © James Finlay/MCC.

The MCC is reputedly the world's oldest sporting museum and its collection, dating back to 1864, contains some of the most priceless artefacts in the cricketing pantheon. The urn donated to the England team on its 1882-3 test series defeat of Australia, now known as The Ashes, is on display as is kit used by the likes of Sir Donald Bradman, Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne.

Left: inside the MCC museum, © James Finlay/MCC.

Of particular interest is the celebration of W. G. Grace, perhaps the most famous cricketer ever to strap on some pads. While the stuffed sparrow 'bowled out' by Jehangir Khan in 1936, and the copy of Wisden that sustained cricket writer and broadcaster E.W. 'Jim' Swanton through his time in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp are intriguing asides.

The museum also has a growing gallery of cricket-related art and the Brian Johnston Memorial Theatre where visitors can view some extraordinary cricket footage.

Right: the famous Long Room, © James Finlay/MCCv

A tour of the famous ground provides access to the museum, but it can be visited on its own during match-days.

Right: in the footsteps of Lara (not Croft but Brian) at Edgbaston.

Baltis, the Bullring and Spaghetti Junction are just three reasons to visit Birmingham, but to anyone of a cricketing persuasion one word sums up Britain's second city: Edgbaston.

Home to Shakespeare's local Warwickshire side and a test venue of some one hundred years, Edgbaston has provided an arena for some of the greatest players in cricket history.

The international achievements of legends such as the record-breaking batsman Brian Lara, king of spin Shane Warne and the talismanic all-rounder Ian Botham are celebrated by the museum, as are the domestic achievements of Warwickshire itself.

Left: Shane exercised his googly near here.

Items of memorabilia include a menu for the 1911 county championship winning celebratory dinner and a letter penned by Prince Philip to congratulate the side on winning the title in 1994.

Keep going up the M6 to Manchester for a trip to yet another sporting theatre of dreams, home of Lancashire County Cricket Club, Old Trafford.

Just as famous as its footballing namesake this ground holds within its compounds a museum displaying memorabilia dating back to 1738.

As well as doffing a cap to Lancashire's most recent leading light, former England captain Michael Atherton, the museum offers an explanation of that famous phrase through its origins in an 1884, Old Trafford game between Australia and the North of England.

One hundred with the bat and ten wickets from Lancastrian Richard Barlow sealed victory for the North of England and as he left the field the Aussie skipper stopped him. Removing his cap the Australian said: "I'll take my hat off to you." The phrase has now entered common usage and said hat can be seen in the Old Trafford museum.

Head back to the Midlands and at Leicestershire County Cricket Club's Grace Road ground you will find yet another tribute to the best reason for summer. "Discovering Cricket at Grace Road" uses life-size figures to salute the achievements of Leicestershire and its alumni, while using memorabilia to explain the appeal of the game itself.

Left: inside the Leicestershire County Cricket Club Museum.

The collection, which spills over into the ground's Charles Palmer Bar, also hoards artefacts and photographs exploring the history and evolution of cricket and the tools used to play it.

Somerset: here you might find cider, Glastonbury, Andy Caddick's arm, Marcus Trescothick's bat and a museum for lovers of John Major's favourite sport.

Opened 12 years ago in the re-developed Priory Barn, next door to the county ground in Taunton, the museum features a dynamic mix of permanent and changing exhibitions.

Right: Priory Barn, home of the Somerset Cricket Museum.

From ceramics and cigarette cards to a Victorian hand press used to print scorecards and Joel Garner's boot, the permanent collection will appeal to fanatics and flirts alike, while this year's temporary exhibition looks at the county's Australian connections.

For real enthusiasts the museum offers a £5.00 a year membership offering access to a reference library of over one thousand books and videos.

Left: part of the Somerset collection.

Dedicated to the art of an English cricket legend, the Jack Russell Gallery in Chipping Sodbury is a very good reason to spend a little more time in the West Country.

Left: Lord's 1993, The Home of Cricket, Jack Russell, © Jack Russell Gallery.

Known as much for his dogged defence in front of the wicket as behind it, Robert 'Jack' Russell had a long and distinguished career for England and Gloucestershire.

Left: Sydney Cricket Ground, 1995, © Jack Russell Gallery.

Throughout his career Russell has spent his days and evenings off painting cricket scenes and the natural world around him: a fine selection of his work can be seen at this gallery dedicated entirely to him.

Right: The Last Stand, 1995, Jack Russell, © Jack Russell Gallery.

Talking of enthusiasts, Thirsk Museum has a very distinct appeal for every scorecard-collecting fan.

This museum in Kirkgate is located in the birthplace of one Thomas Lord, commissioned in the nineteenth century by the White Conduit Club to find them a venue at which they might pursue their love of cricket.

Right: The Thomas Lord Room.

The resulting site at St John's Wood in London now bears the name of its founder and has become the most famous cricket ground in the world: Lord's.

The Thomas Lord Room features the only surviving example of his signature, a portrait of him presented by his old ground's present owners, the MCC, and some Yorkshire cricket memorabilia.

Head back south to Kent to find another one for the specialist at the Eden Valley Museum.

This museum briefly celebrates the local cricket ball manufacturing tradition with a display of the production method and tools used. There are also examples of a ball at the various stages of manufacture.

Left: making a cricket ball.

It is one for the enthusiast, but an interesting opportunity to understand the craft behind one of the world's most popular sports.

The official website of cricket in England can be found at www.ecb.co.uk which provides access to both the MCC homepage and that of the governing body in the UK. It offers the latest news, up to date scores, statistics on just about everything, links to cricket sites around the world and fixtures both international and domestic.

The International Cricket Council is the game's world governing body and has a website located at www.cricket.org where the laws of the game are laid out, details of all tours and tournaments are available and information on the body's anti-corruption unit and development of the game can be found.

www.cricinfo.com offers live ball-by-ball scorecards of all international and domestic cricket fixtures as well as carrying news, a calendar of events and a searchable statistics archive. This is a comprehensive site with every scrap of information you could ever need to follow the game.

Although there are 18 first-class cricket grounds in Britain, www.cricket-grounds.co.uk offers a photographic archive that also featuring, amongst others, the brand new Rosebowl in Hampshire and Canterbury with its famous tree.

For many years the name Wisden has been synonymous with cricket and the foremost guide to the game. At www.wisden.co.uk cricket's ultimate online encyclopaedia features guides to players, games and test series, Wisden Cricket Monthly and columns by the likes of Nasser Hussain, Ian Healy and Javed Miandad.

Over the years the Ashes test series has become the most famous tournament in the game and there is an online guide to it at www.334notout.com. Both a tribute and living archive, the site has a history section as well as player, game and series profiles. There is also a special feature on the infamous 'Bodyline' series of 1932-33.

When it comes to the Ashes a name that immediately springs to mind is Sir Donald Bradman, whose lifetime of achievement in the sport is celebrated by the Bradman Museum in his hometown of Bowral, Australia. The museum has a website at www.bradman.org.au where a history of his career and a museum archive can be viewed.

Talking of heroes, at www.sporting-heroes.net/cricket-heroes/default.asp there is a searchable photographic archive of some of the greatest cricketers ever. With a photograph, career history and player profile, the archive is both comprehensive and informative.

The USA - home of baseball, basketball, gridiron… and cricket!?! Believe it, America has a thriving cricketing culture and its governing body has a website at www.usaca.org - a perfect site for any cricket fan in the 'States missing days spent waiting for the rain to stop.

For access to cricket online around the globe, www.cricketindex.com offers a gateway to cricket sites posted in English, in various countries as diverse as Pakistan and Sweden.

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