In the early 1930s several Bowral residents proposed that Glebe Park oval be renamed in tribute to Donald Bradman, who had grown up in the town.
As told previously, at the end of 1934 Bowral Council received agreement from the Archbishop of Sydney for the purchase of Glebe Park. A history continues here.
The purchase was only agreed to after lengthy negotiations over terms and conditions. Council's parks committee had found that the land was divided into two allotments, with one, on a non-approved plan, divided into seven building allotments. As the Bowral rector and churchwardens felt morally bound not to let any of the land go out of their hands except as a park, council agreed to acquire the land for use as a park only and to have it dedicated as such.
Once the purchase was finalised, Bowral Cricket Club suggested to Bowral Council that the oval's name be changed to Bradman Oval in recognition of Don Bradman. The Southern Mail of August 30, 1938 reported that at a Bowral Council meeting "Alderman Crabtree said, in view of the great achievements of Bradman, it would be fitting to alter the name of Glebe Oval to Bradman Oval". Ald Pickles seconded the motion, stating that people who visited Bowral were more anxious to see where Bradman lived and where he learnt his cricket than anything else.
The paper advised on October 11, 1938 that Bowral Council "decided on the motion of Ald Crabtree that the cricket oval in Glebe Park be named Bradman Oval. The ground is opposite the residence of Don Bradman's father". That same month The Referee (Sydney) noted: "Bradman Oval as name of the Bowral ground made famous by Don Bradman is very appropriate. There he slammed up his first 300 score."
At a council meeting in October 1939 Ald Crabtree said that "it was all right painting the fence at Bradman Oval, but the lavatories were in a disgraceful condition. The last plan had been turned down because the doors opened opposite some nice homes". New plans were drawn up for sewered lavatories and a shed, but remained on hold. In April 1942 the health inspector suggested a new brick pavilion and lavatory at Bradman Oval would be the most suitable.
Due to it being World War II, major improvements were delayed until 1946 when sight screens were erected and the concrete wicket was replaced with turf, using black soil obtained from Oxley Hill. Then, in 1947, signage was erected to formally mark the ground as Bradman Oval.
Bowral Council built a dressing shed in 1954 and, after being lobbied by Gordon Whatman (then president of the Moss Vale and Southern Districts Cricket Association and distant relative of Don Bradman), made extensive upgrades in 1975 including earthworks to provide a uniform slope away from the wicket and better seating.
Read more: Young Don Bradman
On September 4, 1976 these works were officially recognised with the re-dedication of Bradman Oval featuring a cricket match between a local team and a Jack Chegwyn XI led by Doug Walters. In attendance were Sir Donald Bradman and famed bowler Bill O'Reilly, the match commencing with O'Reilly ceremonially bowling the first ball to Bradman.
In March 1989 the Bradman Trust, a community-based organisation led by local lawyer Garry Barnsley, began construction of the Bradman Pavilion to house the player's club room, change rooms and also to serve as a cricket museum. The Pavilion was dedicated by John Fahey MP, on behalf of NSW Premier Nick Greiner, in the presence of Sir Donald and Lady Bradman on October 14, 1989, 30 years ago this month.
On August 27, 1996, Sir Donald's 88th birthday, the Bradman Museum was opened by the Hon John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia. An expanded museum and the International Cricket Hall of Fame are now operated by the Bradman Foundation, which has also funded further improvements to the oval including a new picket fence and upgrading of the central pitch to international standard.
Today Bradman Oval hosts regular one-day international matches, home games for the Bowral Cricket Club and social matches, while remaining true to its original 1909 purpose of being a recreation area for the township of Bowral.
Sir Donald Bradman passed away in February 2001 at Kensington Park, South Australia, forever remembered locally and internationally.
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 3 of a 3-part series.
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