This recreation area has grown to become an important outdoor venue for the township of Bowral, but it didn’t begin with such an esteemed name, nor did it always look so picturesque. Today you can hire Bradman Oval or simply sit by its side and enjoy watching many matches across the cricket season.
Bradman Oval is located on land which formed part of Governor Thomas Brisbane’s original land grant of 2,400 acres in June 1823 to John Oxley, Surveyor General of the Colony, explorer, author and businessman. This was the first land granted in Bowral.
Oxley’s son, John Norton Oxley conducted the first survey for the township of Bowral in 1859. At this time a portion of land comprising about forty-three acres was granted to the Bishop of Sydney for the use of The United Church of England and Ireland. Being church land, this area noted as ‘a Glebe’, was first associated with cricket in 1891, when the Bowral Association played Marulan on the Glebe wicket.
Later that same year, international cricket came to Bowral with Lord Sheffield’s sponsored English team (of twelve players) captained by the legendary Dr W.G.Grace, visiting ‘Boural’ (as spelt in Wisden’s Almanac). On December 15 and 15, 1891 the team soundly defeated the Twenty Four of Boural with Wisden describing the home cricketers, in unflattering terms, as “a poor lot’. W.G.Grace “played a capital innings of 46”.
In 1909 the Bowral Council leased 24 acres from the Church for sport and recreation with the Mayor of Bowral officially declaring the new Glebe Park open in February of that year.
The northern part of this land was developed into two cricket fields with wickets made from clay of ant beds and coir matting used for the playing surface. This was later reduced to its current size of one playing field when a residential subdivision was approved in the early 1920s.
During Don Bradman’s time, a shed was built near the intersection of St Jude and Boolwey Streets and in 1927, a rail fence was constructed around the boundary of the oval. The Bowral Council purchased Glebe Park in 1934 and four years later, the Bowral Cricket Club suggested to the Council that the cricket ground be renamed, Bradman Oval.
Some improvements were made in 1946, with the concrete wicket being replaced with turf, using black soil obtained from Oxley Hill and sightscreens were erected. However it was not until 1947 that the ground was formally named Bradman Oval.
Council constructed a modest 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 further improvements in 1975 including earthworks to provide a uniform slope away from the wicket, a steel pipe and mesh fence around the boundary, improved drainage and seating.
On 4 September 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. Sir Donald Bradman and Bill O’Reilly both attended the celebrations, the match commencing with O’Reilly ceremonially bowling the first ball to Bradman.
In March 1989 the Bradman Foundation commenced construction of the Bradman Pavilion. The Pavilion was dedicated by Hon. John Fahey, M.P., on behalf of Hon. Nick Greiner, Premier NSW, in the presence of Sir Donald and Lady Bradman on 14 October 1989.
Since the opening of the Pavilion the Foundation also funded additional improvements including the upgrading of the central wicket to international standard, three full-length synthetic practice wickets as well as a new picket fence around the Oval.
Today Bradman Oval is one of the most sought after playing grounds in Australia. As well as hosting regular one-day international matches, cricket coaching camps, home games for the Bowral Cricket Club and social matches it remains a recreation area for the township of Bowral being true to its original purpose of 1909.