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The Ashes

The term 'Ashes' was first used after England lost to Australia - for the first time on home soil - at The Oval on 29th August 1882.

A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary of English cricket which concluded that: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia". The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public.

A few weeks later, an English team, captained by the Hon Ivo Bligh [later Lord Darnley], set off to tour Australia, with Bligh vowing to return with "the ashes"; his Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, similarly vowed to defend them.

Watch: The Ashes Urn in 101 seconds

As well as playing three scheduled matches against the Australian national side, Bligh and the amateur players in his team participated in many social matches. It was after one such match, at the Rupertswood Estate outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882, that Bligh was given the small terracotta urn as a symbol of the ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain.

On the same occasion, he met his future wife - Florence Morphy - who was the companion to Lady Janet Clarke, mistress of Rupertswood, and governess to the Clark children.

In February 1884, Bligh married Florence. Shortly afterwards, they returned to England, taking the urn - which Bligh always regarded as a personal gift - with them. It stayed on the mantelpiece at the Bligh family home - Cobham Hall, near Rochester in Kent - until Bligh died, 43 years later.

At his request, Florence bequeathed the urn to MCC. Today, over 75 years on, the tiny, delicate and irreplaceable artefact resides in the MCC Museum at Lord's. Each year, it is seen by tens of thousands of visitors, from all parts of the world on the famous Lord's Tour.

Strauss with Urnx640


In the 1990s, recognising the two teams' desire to compete for an actual trophy, MCC commissioned - after discussions with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia - an urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy.

This was first presented to Mark Taylor after his Australian side emerged triumphant in the 1998-99 Test series against England. Since then, the trophy has been presented to the winning captain at the end of each Test series between Australia and England.

From October 2006 to January 2007, the urn formed the centrepiece of the MCC Travelex Ashes Exhibition, which visited seven museums in six Australian states and attracted over 105,000 visitors. It remains the last time that the Urn left Lord's.


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