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Bronze statues of cricketers on a misty street

Harold Larwood and the Bodyline Series

Outside Kirkby in Ashfield library are 3 bronze cricketer statues which re-create a scene from the infamous 1932-33 cricketing Bodyline Series.

The bowler is Harold Larwood MBE, the batsman is the Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman and the cricketer fielding is William Voce. The statues were installed to celebrate the Kirkby area’s unique contribution to English cricket.

There is a bronze plaque next to each of the cricketers, with the following quotations:

Sir Donald Bradman

"Undoubtedly body-line was a reaction against the dominance of the bat over the ball... But it was the wrong remedy. Killing the patient is not the way to cure his disease"

Harold Larwood

"Down the mine I dreamed of cricket; I bowled imaginary balls in the dark; I sent the stumps spinning and heard them rattling in the tunnels. No mishap was going to stop me from bowling in the real game, especially this one."

William Voce

"We're not a bad side ... and if we don't beat you, we'll knock your bloody blocks off."

The statues

The statues were created by renowned bronze sculptors David Annand (Voce and Bradman) and Neale Andrew (Harold Larwood).

The artwork incorporates a ‘wicket ‘area between the batsman and bowler and lettering carved into the stonework to commemorate the Bodyline Series. The diagonal lines of the stone paving illustrate the line of the ball of Bodyline bowling.

Bodyline Ashes Tour 1932-33 and local cricketers

Controversy surrounded the method of fast bowling which short pitched deliveries to a packed leg side field with great pace and accuracy. The fast Bodyline bowling led by Bill Voce and Harold Larwood, both Notts CCC Players who originated from Nuncargate near Kirkby in Ashfield, saw several Australian batsmen injured at the crease, most famously Bill Woodfall in the 4th Ashes test at Melbourne in January 1933. 

Bodyline bowling was deemed not to be sporting in what was considered a gentleman’s game and such was the controversy that it put a strain on diplomatic relations between England and Australia for a period of time. 

The Bodyline technique was the idea of Douglas Jardine, England captain for the 1932-33 Ashes series. In the Ashes test prior to 1932-33, Don Bradman, Australia’s most famous batsman, took the English bowler’s apart as Australia won the series 4-1.

Bodyline was the answer to slow Bradman down in 1932-33. Even so he still managed a good average during the Bodyline series. England regained the Ashes with a 4-1 victory in 1932-33 but it has been shrouded in controversy ever since because of the Bodyline bowling technique. 

There is a strong local cricketing tradition from the early part of the 20th century when several cricketers from the Nuncargate area played for both Notts CCC and England. Included in these were:

  • Harold Larwood
  • Bill Voce
  • Joe Hardstaff Snr
  • Joe Hardstaff Jnr. 

There was also a strong link between local coal mining and cricket with Larwood and the Hardstaff’s working at Annesley Colliery. Annesley Colliery signing on books from the 1920’s, which contain details of the cricketers can be found in the Nottinghamshire Archives. Harold Larwood’s father was Union Branch secretary at Annesley Colliery from the 1920s until the 1950s. 

Larwood and his family emigrated to Australia in 1952 and he was received as a great sporting hero.  Descendants from his family still live in Australia, one of his grandson’s, Andrew McGrath, visited England in 1993 and was taken on an underground visit to a coal-face at Annesley Colliery.