Ashes urn a cricketing auction marvel

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 5th December, 2017

Two historic pieces of Ashes memorabilia will head Leonard Joel’s inaugural sporting memorabilia auction from 10am Thursday December 7 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.

One is an engraved silver tray, presented to the Melbourne Cricket Club president Sir William Clarke and Lady Clarke following England’s defeat of Australia in the first Ashes Test series in 1882-83, and has a catalogue estimate of $80,000-$100,000.

The other is the Ashes urn presented in 1909 to Australian Test captain Monty Noble by Lady Darnley following Australia’s victory over England.

The Ashes urn is the pinnacle for any cricketing memorabilia collector. This one is of particular significance because it is believed to be one of only three still in private hands (the other two are on loan to the Melbourne Cricket Club Museum) and the most important piece of cricketing memorabilia to appear on the market in many years.

Despite its short stature (10 centimetres), the Ashes urn is the most fiercely contested trophy in Test cricket – representing the enduring competition between Australia and England.

The Ashes originates from 1882 when Australia became the first country to defeat England on home soil.

Journalist Richard Brook then published his now famous obituary in The Sporting Times mourning the ‘death’ of English cricket and stating the ‘Ashes’ would be taken to Australia.

Later that year, Ivo Bligh (who became Lord Darnley) captained England’s team on its Australian tour in what the British media dubbed the quest to regain ‘The Ashes’.

England won the Test series 2-1 and a group of Melbourne ladies, including Bligh’s future wife Florence Morphy and Lady Clarke, presented him with a small urn inside a velvet bag said to contain ‘The Ashes’ – the remnants of a burnt bail.

This remained with Bligh’s family until, at his request, bequeathed to Lord’s Cricket Club where it is on permanent display.

Since the 1998-99 Ashes series, a Waterford crystal representation has been presented as the official trophy to the winners of the Ashes series.

The Monty Noble collection includes other trophies and silverware commemorating significant moments in his career.

Highlights are an 1899 gold vesta case, a 1908 engraved silver tea service, a carved ivory walking stick handle with a kangaroo and lion representing Australia and Britain, and original team photographs.

Other cricketing highlights include Australian baggy green Test caps belonging to fast bowlers Dennis Lillee and Alan Connelly.

The auction also contains collections from swimmer Murray Rose (who competed in the 1956 Melbourne and 1960 Tokyo Olympics) and 1930 Australian Rugby League legend Ray Steahr.

Leonard Joel sporting memorabilia head Max Williamson says Rose (who died in 2012) was one of the most popular Australian Olympians and the collection includes trophies, swimming trunks, blazers and dressing gowns. 

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