A sparrow lies across a cricket ball on a plaque.

While travelling to The Grand House Sparrow Exhibition, the bird starred in a short film re-enacting its demise on the cricket pitch © MCC Museum 

Sparrow killed in a cricket match makes a flying visit

Famed for its sudden death mid-flight during a cricket game, a tiny sparrow paid a visit to the Museum for some conservation work. 

Informally named The Lord's Sparrow, the innocent bird was struck dead during a match between Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Cambridge University in 1936.

Since then, the sparrow has been mounted on a plinth with the ball that killed it and given pride of place at the MCC Museum. There, it has intrigued visitors for decades.

'People expect to see balls, bats and gloves at the museum, not a sparrow,' says Neil Robinson, head of heritage and collections at the MCC. 'Those who don't know the story are always surprised.'

The unexpected presence of the sparrow, as well as its sensational story, makes it a unique object in the museum's collection.

'The sparrow helps people to appreciate that even a cricket museum can be full of unusual objects,' continues Neil. 'There are all sorts of stories to be told that have a relevance beyond cricket.

'Take taxidermy for instance. It is a forgotten art and not a lot of children are familiar with it.'

The sparrow sits on display in a glass case in the foyer of the MCC museum.

The original taxidermist was said to be one of London's leading craftsmen, but his identity remains a mystery to this day.
 

The bird lives permanently in a glass case in the museum foyer and has only been taken out once. This was for The Grand House Sparrow Exhibition - a showcase of famous sparrows at the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam in 2006.

The slight creature was too vulnerable to be shipped the usual way and was carried by a curator instead.

There, it featured with another famous dead bird - the Domino Sparrow, which was shot after disrupting a TV company's attempt at achieving a world record in domino toppling. It flew through a window and knocked over 23,000 dominos just days before the event was to be televised live in 11 different countries.

Over time, the Lord's Sparrow has experienced some damage.

'It's very fragile and the colours have faded throughout the years,' explains Neil. 'It places a bit of pressure on its display but it's one of the most requested items in our collection.'

Conservator works on the sparrow in the lab

Chelsea McKibbin works on the sparrow in the conservation lab © MCC
 

It has now arrived at the Museum and is being cared for by conservator Chelsea McKibbin. Conservation work includes skin repair, armature fixing and dry cleaning.

The sparrow had severe skin splits throughout its abdomen and a loose wing. It was also suffering from light damage and general atmospheric dust and grime, which is common in urban museums.

'We're delighted to be working with the Natural History Museum on conserving the sparrow,' says Neil.

MCC's beloved sparrow will be ready to return to its original home mid-March, in time for World Sparrow Day.

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