Bristol

SS Great Britain's role in 1861 England cricket tour celebrated

All England Eleven Image copyright SS Great Britain Trust
Image caption The English side played their first game on New Year's Day 1862 and won by an innings and 96 runs

Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous ship, SS Great Britain, is marking its role in pre-Ashes cricket - carrying the first English team to tour Australia.

The original diary kept in 1861 by EM Grace, brother of WG Grace, forms part of a new exhibition.

In an entry on his birthday he noted he had treated his table to bottles of Champagne, Moselle, port and brandy.

The ship left Liverpool on 19 October 1861, arriving in Melbourne on 23 December.

EM Grace's diary recalls life at sea was difficult at first and he felt "awfully queer and sick" as the ship rolled.

Photographs and objects from the tour will be displayed on board the ship, which now sits docked as a tourist attraction in Bristol's Harbour.

The event is to coincide with the Cricket World Cup, which is being held in England and starts next Thursday, with some of the matches being played in the city.

Image copyright SS Great Britain Trust
Image caption EM Grace documented the 66-day voyage in his diary, which is on display as part of the exhibition

In another extract Grace noted a group of "seven or eight rather plain young ladies" who "delight in promenading on deck" which "makes my head ache".

Image copyright SS Great Britain Trust
Image caption A commemorative cricket ball and other items from the tour

Other snippets recount an incident in which "one of the sailors cut his finger off eating his dinner" and when Grace "created quite a sensation" by appearing for the first time "in my white cap and canvass boots with the red tips".

Image copyright SS Great Britain Trust
Image caption Bound copy of the newspaper The Cabinet - written on board the SS Great Britain by passengers to help pass the time

The tour saw the cricketing term "Test match" coined to describe the games played.

Image copyright SS Great Britain Trust
Image caption EM Grace shared a cabin with a John Sutcliffe who slept on the top bunk according to Mr Grace's diary

After the tour, all but one of the English team returned home, in time for the 1862 English cricket season.

Charles Lawrence stayed to open a sports shop in Sydney and took up a position coaching at the Albert Club.

He went on to play for New South Wales against the second English cricket team to tour Australia, which also travelled on board the SS Great Britain, in 1863.

The exhibition runs from Saturday to 21 July.

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