Commemorative Cricket Ball Awarded to E.M Grace, 1864

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The Object

  • This cricket ball was presented to Edward Mills (E.M.) Grace following the 1864 cricket tour to Australia.
  • Half of the leather cricket ball is covered in engraved silver-plate. It reads “Presented to E.M. Grace. Esq. For His Excellent Wicket Keeping Melbourne & Ballarat 1864”
  • E.M Grace and the rest of the All England XI (eleven) cricket team had travelled out to Australia on the SS Great Britain in autumn 1863. It was the second tour of Australia by an English cricket team.
  • Born in Downend, Bristol E.M. Grace was a qualified doctor who played cricket for both England and Gloucestershire County Cricket club.

The Story

E.M. Grace

In autumn 1863 the All England XI Cricket team left Liverpool on the SS Great Britain to take part in the second cricket tour of Australia. It was building on the success of the first England cricket tour of Australia which had taken place 2 years before. Amongst the 12 players in 1863, was Bristolian Edward Mills (E.M.) Grace. He kept a diary during the 2-month long voyage detailing what his life was like on board as a first-class passenger.

In his diary Grace wrote about how the team practiced during the journey. Activities included the long jump, small games of cricket and running races. He also mentions various concerts and dances that were held for the 1st class passengers. The team arrived in to Melbourne on 17 December 1863 and they played the first of their 14 matches at the Melbourne Cricket Club on 1 January 1864.

After his return to England, Grace played cricket for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and became known as an excellent all-round cricketer. During his career he made over 10,000 runs and took 305 wickets.
Grace came from a cricketing and medical family. His father Dr Henry Grace, a doctor in Downend, formed Gloucestershire County Cricket Club in 1870. His younger brother William Gilbert (W.G.) Grace was also an outstanding and flamboyant cricketer, who is still remembered today as the one of the most famous cricketers in the world. E.M, W.G. and their brother Fred all played for England in the first Test Match against Australia held in England.

E.M. Grace was also qualified doctor, a job which he did for nearly 40 years mostly in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire.

Continue The Story

Reasons for travelling

For much of her working life, the SS Great Britain carried paying passengers. Some, like the England cricket team, were travelling for work purposes whilst others had left their homes behind to start a new life in a new country.

The ship was originally designed to carry 252 passengers in 1st and 2nd class between Liverpool and New York. Most of these passengers were wealthy people travelling either on holiday or going to America for business reasons. When the ship was refitted in 1852 to make the journey from Liverpool to Australia, it could carry 610 passengers. This included over 300 people travelling in the newly created 3rd class and steerage bunks. The reasons why people travelled on the ship changed as well. Most of the passengers were emigrating to Australia in the hope of finding a better quality of life. Some were going to dig for gold in the newly discovered gold fields near Melbourne, while others were hoping to set up businesses or farm the land and some were travelling out to join family members already there. A few female passengers travelled under the care of the ship’s captain as they were going to Australia to meet and marry their future husbands. For other passengers like the recently married Mary and Joseph Crompton, the voyage was a honeymoon trip.

The SS Great Britain was also occasionally used to carry soldiers rather than paying passengers. Between 1855 to 1856 it carried around 45,000 troops to the war in Crimea and then in 1857 it took soldiers and horses to India to fight in the Indian Rebellion.

However, not every passenger had paid to travel, there are reports in passenger diaries of stowaways being discovered on board. Once caught the stowaway had to join the crew and work for the rest of the journey to pay for their passage.

Extra Resources

Watch this short film and find out about the diaries that some passengers wrote on board the SS Great Britain (stream via YouTube)

  • Find out more about this object and others like it in our online Collection.

E.M. Grace’s commemorative cricket ball. BRSGB-2016.00010