Stuart Forster tours Lord’s Cricket Ground and the MCC Museum in London.
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The Ashes cricket series, contested between England and Australia, is one of the world’s great sporting rivalries. Lord’s Cricket Ground in London holds the original urn and, even if you can’t get your hands on match tickets, it’s possible to take a look behind the scenes within the famous venue.
I joined a tour of the famous old ground, which Thomas Lord acquired for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), back in 1814.
If you’ve got 100 minutes to spare and are keen on sporting history it’s well worth taking a tour. The guided tours run most days, so long as the ground is not being made ready for or hosting a major match.
MCC Museum and original Ashes urn
In the museum I saw the original Ashes urn, for which England and Australia compete. Even if the Aussies win an Ashes series, the original 10-centimetre tall urn remains on display in London. England fans, though, hope that the men in baggy green caps don’t even get their hands on a replica.
Official MCC Story of the Ashes by Bernard Whimpress (£):
If you enjoy the history of this sport then you’ll find it rewarding to browse the exhibits of the museum. It hosts artefacts dating from the earliest days of cricket, including items from around the world.
In addition to signed bats, oil paintings, trophies and blazers – the kind of thing you’d expect to see – there are some unusual items too. These include a stuffed sparrow, which on 3 July 1936 made the fatal error of flying in front of a delivery from Cambridge University’s Jehangir Khan.
The Ashes by Graeme Swann (£):
Lord’s Long Room Bar
In the Long Room Bar I enjoyed a cup of coffee while viewing portraits of cricketers such as Ian Botham and Mike Atherton. More oil paintings are on display in the Long Room, depicting some of the great names associated with Lord’s and the history of cricket.
Perhaps the most eye-catching is Lewis Cage: The Young Cricketer, a painting dating from 1768 by Sir Francis Cotes. Antony Amos, Lord’s Tours and Museum Manager, saw my interest and explained, “it’s showing you the dress, two stumps and an old cricket bat, giving you an idea of the development of the game”.
The book Remarkable Cricket Grounds by Brian Levison (£):
A look inside Lord’s dressing rooms
We then took a look in the dressing rooms and spent time reading the honours boards, on which new names will be written if there are notable performances in the forthcoming test.
One of the highlights had to be stepping out through the dressing room doors and onto the pavilion’s balcony. For a few moments I felt a tingle of excitement as I imagined how it might feel to be padded up and ready to take to the field during a Test.
I learned that the Nursery End is not named because of the cricket academy that nurtures new talent but because, long ago, it was the site of a garden nursery.
The J.P. Morgan Media Centre
Today it’s the home of the J.P. Morgan Media Centre, where up to 120 journalists will be at work during a Test match.
Inside the media centre Irving, one of guides who lead visitors around Lord’s, asked “why do you think these windows are sloping inwards?”
A fellow visitor guessed that it prevents rain leaving streaks on the glass. The correct answer though, is that the design helps ensure batsmen are never dazzled by reflections on the glass during sunny days.
Irving has guided tours at Lord’s since 1990 and jokes that only the famous Father Time weather vane on the Grand Stand has been in the ground longer. The figure on up the stand’s roof represents the Grim Reaper in the guise of an umpire, taking off the bales.
A reminder, perhaps, that we should make the most of the time we have remaining on this planet and strive to enjoy our innings.
After touring the ground I entered the Lord’s Tavern to experience another of England’s great traditions; a lunch of fish and chips accompanied by a hand-pulled ale.
Only in London by Duncan J.D. Smith:
Find out more about Lord’s tours on the Lord’s website or by calling +44 (0) 20 76168595.
Learn about London’s tourist attraction on the Visit London website.
Discover more about travel and tourism in Great Britain on the Visit Britain website.
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