The Ashes

How a 'small but special' urn became the symbol of cricket rivalry between England and Australia.

It started with a perfume jar

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.

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.

The Ashes Today

Today, over 75 years on, the tiny, delicate and irreplaceable artefact resides in the MCC Museum at Lord's.

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.

The Urn paid another visit to Australia in the winter of 2019-20 when for two months it featured in the Velvet, Iron, Ashes exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. 100,000 visitors saw the Urn during its three month stay in Melbourne

You can see the Urn in person by going on a Tour of Lord's

Take a look at some famous Australian Ashes performances at Lord's.

3D Model

MCC and the Postal Museum have collaborated to produce a 3D image of the Ashes Urn. 

Photogrammetry is the creation of 3D models by taking photographs of an object from many angles and feeding them into a computer programme which runs through them all to compute each part of the object and then create a digital replica. 

The Urn was taken to the Postal Museum where 5000 images were shot to capture intricate details of the artefact and combined to create this 3D photo.  


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