The Ashes birthplace gives up its treasures

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 28th June, 2014

After more than seven years, Margaret McLelland is retiring as the managing director and custodian of Rupertswood Mansion – birthplace of The Ashes – and handing it back to its owners The Salesian Order Victoria to run.

During this time, Rupertswood gained an enviable reputation as a boutique bed and breakfast and reception centre.

Many of the items currently in the old mansion at 3 Macedon Street, Sunbury will be auctioned from 11am Saturday July 5 and Sunday July 6 by Glenelg Auctions.

While its recent history as a boutique B&B and reception centre is well documented, Rupertswood is better known as the birthplace of The Ashes – the coveted international cricketing prize for matches played between England and Australia.

The famous urn containing the actual ashes of a burnt bail – which holds pride of place at Lords in London – came about because of a surprise Australian victory against England at The Oval in 1882.

At the time, sporting journalist Reginald Brooks published a tongue in cheek obituary lamenting the death of English cricket.

Rupertswood owner (and Melbourne Cricket Club president) Sir William Clarke subsequently invited the visiting English Test team to spend Christmas of 1882 at his mansion.

Following a social match between his workers and the English team, Lady Clarke humorously presented the English captain Ivo Bligh with the urn containing the ashes – a term which stuck and which Bligh highly prized.

The auction contains many interesting items including a framed copy of the urn and Ashes story, photograph of the visiting English team and Rupertswood workers, bronze entitled Le Devoir by Roussseau, French bronze of a town crier by H. Dumaige and quality porcelain.

A major feature is the Royal Dresden exhibition lidded vase and Royal Worcester pieces, along with an 1880s walnut bureau and secretaire.

An interesting drawcard should be the Victorian number plate “Ashes 8” originally on the car driven by Margaret McLelland.

Interestingly, in March 2006 the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay travelled to the area where a re-enactment of the handing over of The Ashes to the British took place.

The estate was sold in 1925 to Hugh Victor McKay, a wealthy industrialist and inventor of the Sunshine Harvester.

When he died the following year, pastoralist William Naughton bought Rupertswood – and then in 1927 sold it to the Salesian Society.


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