Bradman Oval, Bowral

The history of Bradman Oval is more than a geographic story, it is the story of an Australian rural community, and a boy who became the pride of their town, and captured the hearts of a nation by becoming the greatest batsman who ever lived.

Cricket on Bradman Oval Bowral by Martin BultBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Acknowledgement of Country

Bradman Museum would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land at Bradman Oval: the Gundungurra people, their nation and their Elders past and present. Bradman Museum recognises and respects their continuing cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land incorporating Bradman Oval, which continues to today. The Bradman Foundation acknowledges and pays respect to the contribution they make to the life of Bowral township, and the wider Southern Highlands region.

Mittagong v Bowral District Cricket teams (1925) by Photographer Unknown - Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

‘Bradman Oval is a very special place for me … as a young boy growing up in the country town of Bowral, I had dreams of playing for Australia. I had a keen interest in many sports with the notable exception of swimming. I much preferred running and won the 100 yards, 220 yards, quarter and half-mile races in Bowral School’s Sports Day. My fast running was of great assistance to me when playing cricket.’

- Sir Donald Bradman foreword, Olympic Torch Relay Celebration, Bradman Oval, September 4, 2000

This image shows the combined Mittagong and Bowral District Cricket teams in 1926. A young Don Bradman (seated front row, in cap) played with the Bowral Cricket Club from the age of 12. His extended family were also deeply involved in local cricket.

Don's father George is pictured here, standing top right. Through the enormous influence and coaching of his maternal uncles George and Dick Whatman (seated centre, with moustache) - the Captain of the Bowral Cricket Team - the young boy from Bowral went on to become the world’s greatest batsman.


Mittagong XIII v Bowral XIII Players L-R: J Beaumont (Mittagong), R Webb (Mittagong), J Kettel (Bowral), W Jeffrey (Mittagong), F Savell (Mittagong), B Rudge (Bowral), O Prior (Bowral), W Waine (Bowral), S Cupitt (Bowral), J Harrold (Bowral), George Bradman (Umpire). (Middle Row) S Smith (Bowral), W Neal (Mittagong), G Whatman (Bowral), R Whatman (Bowral), S Willis (Bowral), TC Welsh (Mittagong), M Harold (Bowral). (Front Row) W Smythers (Umpire), ACook (Mitagong), J Ryder (Mittagong), Don Bradman (Bowral), W Willis (Mittagong), G Bensley (Bowral), W Gallagher, W Neal (Mittagong), D Roberts (Mittagong), J Dobson (Mittagong).

Official Glebe Park Opening (1909) by Berrima District Historical SocietyBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

A 'Glebe' for the community

'Glebe' is defined as 'a piece of land serving as part of a clergyman's benefice'. Since Mayor of Bowral, Ald. Oxley, opened Glebe Park in 1909 (shown here) the land has served the Bowral community for it's recreation.

Glebe Park Cricket Match (1926) by Photographer UnknownBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Early years of a town

In June 1823 Governor Thomas Brisbane granted land including what would become Bowral to NSW Surveyor-General and explorer John Oxley. In 1859, forty-three acres of this land was granted to the Bishop of Sydney for the use of The Church of England. Established in 1861 as Bowral, local residents called the area surrounding the current oval ‘a Glebe’. As the 'age of leisure' swept the newly industrialised british colonies, cricket became the prime local and national sport of interest in Australia The Glebe was first associated with cricket in 1891, when a Bowral team played Marulan village side on the ground.

In 1909 the Bowral Council leased 24 acres of this land from the Church for community sport and recreation. The northern part was developed into two cricket fields with pitches made from clay from ant beds. Matting was used for the playing surface. Two grounds were reduced to one when the Glebe Street residential subdivision was approved in the early 1920s.This is also the time a the Bradman family purchased land directly opposite the oval, at 20 Glebe Street. The ground was like an extended yard for the young Don, who would score for his father's team and later join the men playing when aged only 12.

George Bradman with Bowral Town Cricket Team (1912) by Photographer UnknownBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

As the home of the Bowral District Cricket Club, the during Don Bradman’s time, a rudimentary shed was built near the intersection of St Jude and Bendooley Streets. In 1927, a wooden fence was constructed around the boundary.


Bowral Town Cricket Team, circa 1912. George Bradman, Don's father, is standing fourth right. Note the matting stretched over the concrete pitch.

Don Bradman Oval News, Southern Mail Newspaper (1930-08-29) by The Southern Mail NewspaperBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Local and national pride in Bradman

Following the town's 'son' - Don Bradman - breaking the World Record at the Sheffield Shield at the SCG in January 1930, Don came to represent great pride to the Bowral community.

As early as August 1930, news of Bowral cricket ground at Glebe Park being renamed in Bradman's honour was being advocated. The Southern Mail's editor wrote,

"...Don needs no such monument to keep his memory green in his home town, the name would be an inspiration to the youth of the district for all the years that are to come."

These were austere times as the Great Depression raged, purchasing the land from the church would have been a big sacrifice for many. By February 1934, Bowral Council was able to negotiate purchasing the land at Glebe Ground (Glebe Park) from the St Jude's churchwarden, for an immense sum of 1000 pounds, to be paid over 10 years.

In October 1938, Bowral Council officially renamed the oval in Bradman's name. However, the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 (to 1945) brought austerity once again to the town and the ground wasn't officially marked as 'Bradman Oval' until 1947.

Don Bradman and Alf Stephens in Bowral (1933) by Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don Bradman with lifelong friend and mentor Alf Stephens (Bowral Mayor 1928-29), in the Southern Highlands 1933. Stephens had immense influence on Bradman's development as a cricketer. He constructed a practice pitch at the Stephens family home in Bowral and encouraged young Bradman to regularly practice there throughout the early 1920s. Stephens and his wife Lily regularly toured to England when Bradman played there in Test matches.

Early sign showing Bradman Oval renamed by Photographer UnknownBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Early sign identifying Bradman Oval, Bowral.

Bradman Oval Gates (1962) by Photographer Unknown - Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The oval thrived over the decades as Bowral District Cricket Club's home ground. It also hosted community events such as the ceremonial launch of the annual Bowral Flower Festival. Image, sign erected 1962.

Sir Donald Bradman & Bill O'Reilly at Bradman Oval rededication (1976) by Holman Fairfax Collection - Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The Rededication: Returning Home

On September 4, 1976 a match was held to rededicate ‘Bradman Oval’ after numerous improvements to the playing surface. NSW players such as John Benaud, Gary Gilmour, Len Pascoe and Doug Walters competed alongside local cricketers.

The ground had been levelled with a stone retaining wall erected on the western boundary, the overfill being used to level a 2m deep grassed drainage channel on the eastern boundary. At the same time a more substantial dressing shed was built on the southern rise.

In a poignant and historic moment, former Australian Test bowler, Bill O’Reilly, (then aged 70) bowled the first ball of the match to his lifelong colleague Sir Donald Bradman, on the oval where the two first played against one another in rival district teams Wingello and Bowral.

Sir Donald Bradman with Mayor & Players. Bradman Oval rededication (1976) by Donation David Woods, Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Don Bradman, followed by Bowral Mayor David Wood, acknowledges the players, Bradman Oval, September 4, 1976.

Image includes Gordon Lewis, Jack Chegwyn, Bill O'Reilly (partly obscured), John Benaud, Len Pascoe, Marshall Rosen, and Keith Moore.

Bradman Oval in Bowral, NSW (1985) by Bradman MuseumBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

NSW's worst drought of the century occurred between 1982-1983. The oval continued to be used for cricket and community events, despite the climate and water restrictions.

Garry goes into bat for The Don by Illawarra mercury. Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Project Bradman

In 1983, Bowral Lawyer and local history enthusiast Garry Barnsley, canvassed a proposal to Sir Donald Bradman - to establish a cricket museum in his name. Barnsley later submitted to council for the Bradman Museum and Oval upgrade. In march 1989, the dressing shed was demolished and construction of the Bradman Pavilion commenced.

Chant Goes Up for Bradman Plan, Article (1986-08-13) by The Canberra Times, newspaperBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

News of the Bradman name at the oval being extended to include a dedicated cricket museum was widely reported. 'Project Bradman' Committee founder and spokesperson, Garry Barnsley, is quoted,

"...It seemed to me that something ought to be done to visibly link between Bradman and Bowral."

The Canberra Times. August 13, 1986

Sir Donald and Lady Bradman opening Bradman Museum (1989-10-14) by Mirror Australia Telegraph PublicationsBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

A town's dreams fulfilled

Modelled on a classic English cricket pavilion, the completed building featured authentic touches like imported Welsh slate used on the roof. It was dedicated by Lady Jessie Bradman in the presence of Sir Donald and The Hon. John Fahey, M.P. on 14 October, 1989.

Additional improvements including the upgrading of the central wicket to first-class standard, outfield drainage, new sight screens and three full-length synthetic practice pitches were completed at the same time. In 2013 a new picket fence replaced the original constructed in 1989.

Sir Donald and Lady Bradman at Bradman Museum, Bowral opening. (1989-10-14) by Bradman Museum Collection.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

In 2001, after Sir Donald Bradman's passing, his and Lady Jessie Bradman's combined ashes were laid to rest overlooking Bradman Oval, in a dedicated memorial garden.

Take a self-guided tour of Bradman Oval today, including the memorial rose garden and Reflection Walk (behind the pavilion). Street View by Google 2018

Sachin Tendulkar at Bradman Oval (2014-10-29) by Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Many notable teams and players have visited Bradman Oval over the years. India's Sachin Tendulkar visited the Bradman Museum in 2014, paying his respects to Sir Donald Bradman's final resting place on the grounds and taking a tour of the museum. He met with crowds and played cricket on the oval with the children of Bowral District Cricket Club (BCC).

England Cricket Team play at Bradman Oval, Bowral NSW, Unknown, 1999, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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The England team visited Bradman Oval in 1999, playing before record crowds.

Steve entering the oval, Cole Bennets, 2019, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
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Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh is a regular at Bradman Oval, where his Steve Waugh Cricket coaching clinics are held each school holidays for children.

Bradman Oval Bowral, NSW (2011) by Bradman Museum Collection. (Photographer unknown)Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

As it is now
Today Bradman Oval is recognised as one of the most historic and picturesque cricket grounds in Australia. As well as hosting one-day women's international matches, cricket coaching camps, NSW state representative trials, home games for the Highlands District Cricket Association and social matches, the Bradman Foundation also hosts many philanthropic events on the oval;

The Coverdrive Program (held in conjunction with local charity The Kollege of Knowledge Kommittee for Kids) gives disabled children opportunity to play sports weekly on the Oval. The annual 'Spirit of Cricket Carnival' sees NSW Under 14 cricketers compete annually on The Don's home ground. Cricket legend Steve Waugh hosts children's cricket camps each school holidays, and every Christmas the ground is alight with candles and cheer at Carols by Candlelight. Bradman Oval remains a public recreation area for all people of the Southern Highlands, thereby staying true to its original purpose in 1909, of a place for the entire community.

Bradman Oval is more than a cricket ground; it is a place of beauty, history and community. Places such as this brings people together. Happy memories are made here and can shape our lives. As a significant place for the Gundungurra people, it is also now a deeply important place for the people of Bowral, and many Australians alike.

Credits: Story

Author: David Wells, Bradman Museum
Art Direction: Monica Donoso, Bradman Museum

© Bradman Museum 2019

National Library of Australia: The Southern Mail, August 29 1930, front page.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times.
'Garry Barnsley' Southern Highlands News, Fairfax Ltd.
1909 image courtesy Berrima District Historical Society.
Bradman Oval images: Martin Bult.
Steve Waugh image, Cole Bennets.
1926 teams image, Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1996.258
Sachin Tendulkar image, Bradman Museum Collection.
Sir Donald and Lady Bradman, 1989 opening. Mirror Australia Telegraph Publications. BM 2012.067 / BM 1996.206
Alf Stephens and Don Bradman, Bradman Museum Collection. BM 1994.088
1912 Bowral cricket Team (Including George Bradman). Bradman Museum Collection. BM 2011.028
Bradman Oval sign (erected 1962). Bradman Museum Collection. BM 2001.262
Sir Donald Bradman and Bill O'Reilly, Bradman Oval 1976. Holman Fairfax Collection, Bradman Museum. BM 1996.150

Bradman Museum opening, October 1989. The late Jack Egan. Bradman Museum Collection.

Bradman Oval Street View by Google 2018.

Archive footage authorised for use by Bradman Museum for non-commercial gain.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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