Thousands of people will stream in and out of the SCG for this year’s summer of cricket, but very few of them will know that Sydney’s first major home of cricket was actually a few kilometres away in Redfern.
Adjacent to the Redfern Oval, the Albert Ground was opened as a dedicated sports ground in 1864, and was Sydney’s original cricket ground. Prior to this, Hyde park was used as Sydney’s main sporting facility, until it became public gardens in 1856.
Although the New South Wales Cricket Association preferred to play at the Domain, a cheaper alternative, The Albert Ground was a notable money making business hosting a number of inter-colonial or ‘state’ games between NSW and Victoria.
The Albert Ground presented an opportunity to play cricket in a fenced area, away from grazing animals. It also hosted a grandstand and a pavilion for its spectators.
However, early Lebanese settlers camped on the cricket ground before being evicted by authorities. The newly evicted community would soon make the Eastern side of Elizabeth Street home, becoming one of the earliest migrant communities in Redfern.
The Redfern facility hosted five first-class matches between the 1870 and 1878 cricket seasons, regularly hosting crowds of more than 10,000 a day.
The home team for the stadium, the Albert Club, was a champion team, also consisting of the famous Fred Spofforth, universally known as ‘The Demon’, who was the best bowler of the period and is recognised as the first bowler to take 50 Test wickets.
The Albert Ground was the home to cricket in New South Wales until the late 1870s, when it was demolished to give way to the Garrison Ground at Moore Park, which, as we know it today is the Sydney Cricket Ground.
This snippet was taken from Bourke Street Public School’s book 50 Secrets of Surry Hills and Redfern which provides a fantastic look into our neighbourhood and its history.
50 Secrets of Surry Hills and Redfern can be purchased for $50 from Bourke Street Public School or online with proceeds going to the schools P&C.