As the long-anticipated Ashes series between England and Australia began in June, 125 years after, a Sussex garden became part of the history of cricket’s most compelling confrontation.
In 1884, and on four later occasions, the Australian team began their tour with a match at Sheffield Park where one of the most glorious grounds in the country had been created among the lakes and ornamental woodland. It was the vision of Henry North Holroyd, 3rd Earl of Sheffield and cricket fan. He had fallen in love with the game at Eton and when he inherited the title on his father’s death in 1878 he had the wealth to indulge his passion. The Aussies played their last tour warm-up at Sheffield Park in 1896, when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was guest of honour.
Cricket declined with the Earl’s death in 1909 and the pitch was dug up during the First World War and used for growing wheat. But now, a century on from Lord Sheffield’s death, the pitch has been lovingly restored. A new square has been laid, the outfield and surrounds restored to their former glory, and it was Midas who the National Trust turned to for a carbon neutral power solution in the newly built pavilion.
After site visits and studying the anticipated electrical draw of the finished pavilion Midas supplied a JCB G45QX machine with a remote tank, both in our trademark British Racing Green livery, a tight deadline was met, both the machine and tank were craned into place the week before the big day in a synchronised move that saw the on site electricians connect and commission the building all at the same time. So to the 28th June 2009, an historic encounter saw a specially created Lord Sheffield’s Australian XI play an Old England XI in front of nearly 2,500 spectators. Ominously for England fans, it resulted in victory for the men from Down Under!!!