I have to thank fellow history buff Simon Storey for making me aware of a wonderful piece of sporting history.
The picture below is of a model (not to scale) held in the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s Museum. It was Simon’s job to make an appraisal of the object, constructed in 2006. It must have been tricky to value, as it’s definitely unique.
THE BACK STORY OF THE GRANDSTAND
The grandstand was designed by architect George Browne. It took about half a day for the seating to be reversed by a gang of men.
Isn’t that ingenuous? Honesty, those Victorians were so bold and forward thinking, even though they are often categorized as staid and prudish! Because the grandstand was on the MCC’s property they were able to charge admission fees from the football fans in winter….still more ingenious! I’m wondering whether the design could be adopted in New South Wales, where grandstands have been causing much controversy in recent years.
An engraving of the cricket ground and new stand appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News, 6th January 1877.
The test match began on March 15, James Lillywhite’s English professional side against the Aussies. An amateur English team led by Fred Grace had intended to make the trip down-under, but for some reason that tour was cancelled. Meanwhile the Australians, captained by Dave Gregory, were happy to face whoever showed up.
A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE FOR THE REVERSIBLE GRANDSTAND
Sadly, the grandstand burned down in 1884, a great loss for the MCC.
From The Weekly Times, Saturday September 6;
General regret was expressed on Sunday by lovers of cricket and football when it became known that the valuable grandstand on the Melbourne Cricket-ground had been destroyed by fire. At about a quarter-past 9 o’clock in the morning the attention of Mr.. M’Alpin, the curator, was drawn by one of his children to the west end of the stand, from which smoke and flames were freely issuing. Having attached the hose, which is kept on the premises, he laid the water on, and endeavored to extinguish the flames, but his efforts were of little or no avail, as the destructive element had been too long at work, and assisted by the strong wind that was blowing, soon asserted a mastery over the insufficient appliances he had of checking it.
A number of fire engines from around the city turned up after an alarm was rung, but it was all too late.
It was rumoured that a dropped cigar had caused the blaze. What a sad sight its destruction presented;
The stand was replaced by a more conventional structure. What a shame.
By the way, Australia won that first, 1877 test match by 45 runs. The second went to England, thereby drawing the two test series.
FOOTNOTE – ANY SORT OF SHELTER WAS RARE IN AUSSIE BUSH CRICKET.