Sports Archaeology: A sub-discipline waiting to happen?


I’ve never heard of sports archaeology as a sub-discipline. But if not, why not?


A few weeks ago I published a piece of sports memoir, ‘And how much Cricket did you Play’ on this site and would now like to share with you one main place that featured in that account.


The first series of photographs taken in 2014 feature a paddock adjacent to the Monarto Cemetery, the ground I described as being frequently covered in cow pats and three-corner jacks. In the first shot the pavilion can be seen in the background, the second the pitch, and in the third the cemetery can be seen to be in good order.






At the same time I took some close up shots of the fine practice facilities, the ins and outs of the pavilion, and the spectacular view offered from that location.







Sadly the years have not worn well and when I returned this week the pitch shows further deterioration – oh, how Jim Laker would enjoy it, the pavilion has entirely disappeared, and the practice pitch is pretty crook too.






In search of remnants of great sporting contests there wasn’t much remaining. Feeling like those blokes from the TV series The Detectorists, however, I did manage to discover a ring-pull from a beer can but failed to document it.


Fortunately the cemetery remains in a fine state of preservation.





As a PS I should add that the Monarto Cricket Club is far from extinct and now occupies the former lower ground of the old Murray Bridge High School (picture below) where I played most of my home matches.




All photos: Bernard Whimpress



©Bernard Whimpress, May 2020


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About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Les Everett says

    When (if) we re-open the borders I’ll have an associate professorial role for you over here at in the school of Abandoned Cricket Pitches (pending) at UWA.

  2. Adam Muyt says

    Ah, what a quest. And is that ring-pull a ring-in from a different type of social occasion there?
    Looks like it was a nice way to spend an afternoon, Bernard.
    Thanks for posting.

  3. Bernard Whimpress says

    John – you’re suggestion about a book is worth considering. A few years back I also posted some shots of a long abandoned oval at the Torrens Island Quarrantine Station in Adelaide, and then there was that great series Daff did with Megan Ponsford’s pics in The Age a decade ago. Something for starters.
    Les – definitely up for that post. It puts me in mind of our (SA) Mark Thompson (Men in Sheds) who lists himself as head of the Institute of Backyard Studies
    Adam – same sort of social occasion I imagine. Some of the country boys like a can or two before having a hit.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    The sadness and beauty of an old abandoned cricket ground. The farm I grew up on had an abandoned cricket ground, always seemed a great shame that cricket was no longer played on it (apart from me bowling on it).
    Les is doing great work in collating abandoned cricket pitches, especially in WA, maybe we need a national register of former grounds and pitches. Then heritage list them all!

  5. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks Luke
    But no need to stop at cricket grounds – footy ovals, race courses, golf courses, tennis courts etc. Adelaide Sporting Sites, a book I did a couple of years ago with Santo Caruso and the Aus Society for Sports History SA chapter included a number of places that are no more – Adelaide City Baths, Thebarton Racecourse, Chelthenham Racecourse, Jubilee Oval, Apollo Stadium, Rowley Park Speedway among them.

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