Were The Ashes ever in Pettistree?

Pettistree might once have had “The Ashes”----well not the present Cricket Team --------------

From looking at the Deeds of Pettistree Lodge it was known that in June 1900 it was purchased by the Honourable Ivo Francis Walter Bligh, second son of the Earl of Darnley of Cobham Hall, Kent. There was no evidence that he had ever lived there until the 1901 Census was released in 2001. Then it was revealed that at the time of the census, 9th April 1901, living in Pettistree Lodge, was Ivo W F Bligh (by this time Lord Darnley as his elder brother Edward had died in 1900), Florence Countess of Darnley and Lady Dorothy aged eight years. There was also a governess, cook, parlour maid, housemaid, kitchen maid and ladies’ maid. The kitchen maid was Emma Clements, a familiar name in the village.

Presumably the family returned to Cobham soon after this as the house was leased to a family called Showell and in 1910 to Captain Gilligan after his marriage to Margaret Tidswell. Later as Colonel Gilligan he continued to lease the lodge until 1924 when he bought it.

It was after watching the television programme “Clarissa and the Countryman” and a visit they made to Cobham Hall that an investigation was triggered as to whether there was anything on the internet about the Darnley family and their possible connection to Henry Stuart, the husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Surprisingly the following 20th century story unfolded instead ……….

The story of The Ashes began at The Oval on 29th August 1882. England lost to the Australians for the first time in a Test Match on home soil. The match was very exciting. The Australians were all out for 63 runs in their first innings but their ace bowler Fred Spofforth ensured an English collapse by taking 14 wickets for only 90 runs. The “Sporting Times” then published a mock obituary:

“In affectionate Remembrance
ENGLISH CRICKET which died at the Oval on August 29th1882.
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances.
NB The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

Soon after the disastrous match the England team sailed for Australia under the captaincy of a young man called Hon. Ivo Bligh and the programme included three representative matches against the Australian XI. The first match was won by the Australian team but Bligh’s team won the second and third and it was fondly believed that Ivo Bligh had gone on a pilgrimage to “recover the Ashes”

On the voyage out to Australia the ship carrying Ivo was in a collision and his wrist was injured. Perhaps this was the reason why the team lost the first match and he was out for a duck!

At Christmas 1882 the England team was staying at a large estate called Rupertswood, owned by a family called Clarke, just outside Melbourne. The Clarke’s music teacher was a beautiful young lady called Florence Morphy, daughter of a magistrate of Beechworth, a very productive gold mining town.

Whilst there the team played a game of cricket probably made up of estate workers and won the game. In a speech Ivo Bligh made a reference to “The Ashes” and four ladies burned something. What they burnt is not really known although there has been considerable conjecture (cricket bails? Florence’s veil?.....). They put whatever the remains were in a bag and presented them to Ivo Bligh. Thus “The Ashes” became a reality. The England team returned home bringing “The Ashes” with them.

In 1884 Ivo returned to Australia and married Florence Morphy, with whom he had fallen in love. Ivo is known to have always kept The Ashes on his mantelpiece – could this have been at Pettistree Lodge, albeit for a short time? For more information visit: http://www.lords.org/history/the-ashes/