It has to be about cricket

Now all posts on this site must pass the Port Melbourne connection test. PMHPS suggests that it is not straining this test to say that Port Melbourne has a connection with the history of the Ashes. Read on.

Over Christmas 1861, the colony of Victoria was in a fever of anticipation for the arrival of the All England Eleven – the first English cricket team to visit Australia. The tour was organised by Melbourne businessmen Spiers and Pond.The team arrived on board the ss Great Britain – itself an occasion for marvel and excitement. The ss Great Britain was the most technologically innovative ship of its day. Designed by the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the iron ship launched in Bristol in 1843 was described as the ‘greatest experiment since the creation.’ * Before entering service as a passenger ship to Australia, she had served as a troopship in the Crimean War and carried reinforcements to Bombay to respond to the Indian Mutiny.

The tour was accompanied by a whirlwind of banquets, galas and celebrations. It caught up even those uninterested in cricket ‘It is gratifying to know that by all classes the greatest interest is shown, and even those persons who seldom witness a game of cricket are manifesting as great a curiousity to see the matches as the oldest cricketers.’ (Argus 24 December 1861)

Since this small post is making a big claim, the argument is taken from an article on the Origin of the Ashes which claims that ‘there would certainly have been no Ashes if this pioneering and courageous group of men had not braved the most dangerous journey in the world .. in 1861.’

The joy of local history is putting two and two together. The All England Eleven Hotel that once stood on the north eastern corner of Princes and Rouse St, Port Melbourne opened in 1862 – no wonder it bore than name! The hotel would have looked directly down the street (not yet Princes St) to the Great Britain berthed at Railway Pier where the team disembarked.

Got it wrong? Got something to add – please share what you know via the comments form.

Sources 

ss Great Britain The ss Great Britain has been restored, like our Polly Woodside, and can be visited in Bristol. The restoration is a huge story in itself

The tour is written up in detail in the Origin of the Ashes – which includes a photograph of the team on board the Great Britain

 

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