Davis Cup visits birthplace of Ryder Cup

By , September 18, 2016 22:17

Great Britain won tennis’ Davis Cup in 2015 – the country’s first victory in 79 years.

The compeition was conceived by four members of the Harvard University tennis team as a competition between the United States and the British Isles.  The tournament’s format was developed by Dwight Davis of Harvard who also bought and donated the eponymous trophy.

During the summer of 2016, the Lawn Tennis Association organised the Davis Cup Trophy Tour to capitalise on the victory and inspire a new generation of players.

On the third day of Great Britain’s semi-final against Argentina on 18 September 2016, the Trophy Tour arrived in front of the old town hall in St Albans.

Davis Cup Trophy Tour, 2016

Davis Cup Trophy Tour, 2016

davis_cup_18092016 davis_cup_stalbans_townhallRather disappointingly, the trophy sat on its plinth beneath a plain black gazeebo with no attempt to share the history and heritage of the compeition.

The organisers also missed a link with another transatlantic sporting event.

The Ryder Cup was first contested between teams of profesional golfers from Great Britain and the United States in 1927.

The trophy was donated by Sam Ryder, a St Albans businessman who had enjoyed considerable success as a mail-order seed retailer and had done much to raise the status of professional golfers.  Ryder also served as a city councillor between 1903 and 1916, as mayor in 1905, and also sat in the courtroom that occupied part of the town hall as a magistrate.

They did not grow old – from Henley-on-Thames to the Somme

By , June 26, 2016 12:14

The start of the Battle of the Somme is the most significant First World War anniversary that falls during Henley Royal Regatta.  In 2016, Henley coincides with the Somme’s centenary commemorations.

Cities, towns and villages mourned the huge losses from this first major action for the thousands who had volunteered for the Army during 1914 and 1915 many of whom joined-up alongside their friends in what became known as Pals Battalions.

Although there wasn’t a Pals Brigade for oarsmen, Henley Races, published in 1919, includes a chapter entitled Last Post which lists of 273 Henley competitors (including 14 coxes) who fell during the war.  It provides an insight into the impact of the Great War on Henley and the place of rowing in Edwardian society.

Educated at Radley and Wadham College Oxford, the book’s author was Sir Theodore A. Cook. He was editor of The Field and a timekeeper at Henley. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records that Cook “turned The Field in a propagandist direction” during the First World War. He was also a campaigner for “the preservation of true sportsmanship” and the amateur ethos.

Cook’s list reflects the definitions of “amateur” used by Henley and the Amateur Rowing Association at that time.   “Manual labour” and “menial duty” exclusions effectively restricted the right to compete at Henley and other leading regattas to the universities, public schools and those clubs serving the upper echelons of the middle classes.

Cook doesn’t explain how the list was compiled, but records from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge would appear to have been an important source, as he comments that “Cambridge has made a more complete record of her soldiers than Oxford.”

264 of those listed served in the Army, five in the Navy and 11 are either indicated as having been attached to the Royal Flying Corps or, from 1 April 1918, as serving in the newly constituted Royal Air Force.

Colleges are identified for 180 – two thirds – of the 273.  The largest contribution to the list – 26 – came from Trinity College Cambridge: 16 from First Trinity Boat Club and ten from the Third. Magdalen was the most prominent Oxford college, contributing 14.  E.D. Powell of Trinity College Dublin was the only oarsman identified as having come from a non-Oxbridge UK institution although G.D. East, killed while serving as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, is linked to both St Bart’s Hospital and Thames R.C..

42 individuals had competed in the Boat Race – 21 from each university.  Collectively they had amassed 71 Blues of which 40 were awarded by Oxford. 27 had been members of 40 winning Boat Race crews.

Twelve had competed at either the 1908 or 1912 Olympic Games. G.B Taylor killed serving as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Highlanders and formerly of Trinity Oxford and Argonauts R.C., had competed at both.  Four were Olympic Champions.

There is very much less information about club affiliations. Only thirteen English clubs are named compared with 36 Oxbridge colleges.  Total clubs losses of 67 are headed by London R.C. (15) and Thames (14).

While not all oarsmen get to race at Henley, the limited coverage of clubs suggests that Cook’s list understates the overall loss Henley competitors.   Hear the Boat Sing recounts the stories behind several club war memorials†.  Several oarsmen commemorated by their clubs are mentioned in the detailed records of the regattas from 1903 to 1914 that make up the bulk of the book but are missing from the Last Post chapter.  One example is A.J. Shaw who appears on the joint memorial erected on Trent Bridge by four Nottingham clubs and raced in the Wyfold for Nottingham Union R.C. in 1914 but is missing from the list.

In a similar vein, Chris Dodd’s history of London R.C., Water Boiling Aft, records that 90 members of the club volunteered between the outbreak of war and the end of 1914 and that 50 members did not return.  Only nine London members feature in Last Post.

Seven schools are identified against 91 of the names: Bedford (15),  Cheltenham (1), Eton (41), Radley (19), Shrewsbury (10,) Winchester (1) and Beaumont College (4)‡.

Cook corroborates Chris Dodd’s observation that oarsmen had been quick to join the flood of volunteers after the outbreak of war: “After July 1914, however, all rowing stopped except at schools. Nearly every boat club known at Henley — I am glad to record it — had sent its able-bodied men to the Army or the Navy before a whisper of conscription had been heard.”  He continued, “Both the University crews, and all the British competitors in final heats at the Henley of 1914, were in naval or military training by the Christmas of that year. “

Cross-referencing the Last Post list against the records for the 1914 Regatta reveals that the Christ’s Cambridge Ladies Plate eight and Jesus College Thames Cup crew lost four members each while the London R.C. Grand, Eton and Radley Ladies Plate crews and Selwyn College Thames Cup crews all lost three.  The Brasenose four that raced in both the Wyfold and Vistors lost three members while the 3rd Trinity Goblets pair of E.G. Williams and Le Blanc-Smith were both killed.

In The English, A Social History, 1066-1945, Christopher Hibbert states that 750,000 volunteers had enlisted by the end of September 1914 rising to more than a million by the end of that year.

Last Post suggests a high correlation between amateur oarsmen and the officer class.  Just ten of the 273 were privates or non-commissioned officers.

Hibbert notes “A high proportion of the killed and wounded [in the First World War] were officers, many of whom had received their commissions on the strength of certificates granted by the Officer Training Corps of the public schools and universities, and many more of whom had gone straight from school to France as second lieutenants before reaching that not very high standard of efficiency that the getting of a certificate demanded.”  About one in five officers from public schools were killed: the exact numbers for Eton were 1157 fatalities among the 4852 Old Etonians who served overseas.

53 of the 273 – a fifth – held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant while 88 – a third – were Lieutenants.  82 were Captains while 20 had achieved the rank of Major. The list also includes six Lieutenant Colonels and two Colonels.  (There were also four Reverends and one cadet.)

26 of those named had been awarded the Military Cross (one with a Bar), four the Distinguished Service Order, one the Distinguished Service Cross and one the Croix de Guerre.  Medals won on the water at Henley included 27 in the Grand, 32 in the Ladies, 12 in the Thames, 5 in the Stewards, 19 in the Wyfold, 18 in the Visitors, two in the Goblets and four in the Diamonds.

The Somme Campaign

Stretching along 14 miles of the Western Front between Maricourt in the south and Serre in the north, the Somme was one part of an Allied master-plan hatched in December 1915 to defeat Germany with simultaneous large scale attacks on the Western, Russian and Italian fronts during the summer of 1916.

Giuseppe Sinigagli, a member of Lario Club Como, was one of the representatives of overseas clubs mentioned in the list.  The 1914 Diamonds winner died on 10 August 1916 serving as a Lieutenant on the Karts Plateau on the Italian front.

The first day of the Somme offensive resulted in 57,470 British and Commonwealth casualties of whom 19,240 were killed.  July 1st 1916 holds the record for the highest number of casualties suffered by the British Army in a single day.   By the end of the 141-day campaign on 18 November, more than a million men on both sides had been either killed or wounded.

Although Cook’s list doesn’t record where the fallen fell, it has been possible to confirm that at least four of the 273 died on the first day of the Somme.

Two of these four were 2nd Lieutenants.

Charles Treverbyn Gill, was attached to the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was a graduate of Exeter College Oxford and a member of London R.C.. As a junior officer in an infantry regiment, Gill would almost certainly have led his unit “over the top” when the advance started at 7.30 am on what was a bright summer morning.  As such, there is a high probability he would have been one of the early casualties.  He’s commemorated at the Peronnne Road Cemetery, Maricourt.

In 1915, Christopher Monckton, had raced for Eton II against Beaumont School in one of the private matches that were virtually the only rowing on the Henley reach after the outbreak of war. From two Eton eights that raced that summer, no fewer than six fell in the War. A year later, Monckton was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers but attached to No 13 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corp. He was killed in action while flying BE2c 2648 having taken off from Savy aerodrome on a bombing mission at 14:40. His plane was last observed in combat with a German aircraft.  The 18-year old was laid to rest in Mons-en-Chaussee cemetery.

The other two Henley oarsmen identifiable as having been killed on 1 July were both part of a fatally-flawed and ill-fated “diversionary” attack on Gommecourt.  From this heavily fortified German salient the main British advance towards Serre at the northern end of the Somme front could be threatened by flanking fire.

Bernard Sydney Harvey and John Robert Somers-Smith were both Captains in the London Rifle Brigade which was part of the 56th (1st London) Division deployed with the 46th (North Midland) Division against Gommecourt.

“Gommecourt was particularly easy of defence, and from the shape of the ground it was a most difficult place from which to disengage troops in the event of partial failure or incomplete success.”

Official History of the War, Military Operations: France & Belgium 1916, Vol 1.

Born in August 1888, Harvey had raced at Henley for Trinity College Oxford in the Wyfold and Visitors in 1908 and in both the Ladies Plate and Thames Cup in 1909.  (Doubling-up was commonplace at Edwardian Henley.) He had also trialed for the Oxford Blue Boat in 1909.

Somers-Smith won the Ladies Plate with Eton in 1905 and competed again as Captain of Boats in 1906.  He stroked and steered Magdalen College Oxford to victory in both the Wyfold and Visitors in 1907 and then the Stewards and Visitors in 1908.

As well as trialling for the Oxford Blue Boat in both 1907 and 1908, he reached the semi-final of the Grand in 1908, losing to Gent. He went on to win gold at the Olympic Regatta of the 1908 London Games – also held at Henley – where he stroked his Magdalen coxless four to victories over Canada in a heat and Leander in the final.

He had been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry at the 2nd Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915).  His elder brother Richard, a double rowing blue for Oxford, had been killed at Hooge in the Ypres Salient on 30 June 1915 – a year and a day before the start of the Somme offensive.

The two Captains were among 2,026 who paid the ultimate price at Gommecourt.  Like so many thousands of those who fell on the Western Front, they have no known graves. By coincidence, their names are adjacent to each other on the Thiepval Memorial.

The second overseas club referenced in the list is erroneously named as New South Wales. K. Heritage had been a member of the winning Sydney R.C. Grand crew of 1912 which went on to represent Australia at the Stockholm Olympics.  As a Captain in the Australian Infantry, he was awarded the M.C. He fell on the 26th day of the Somme Campaign and is buried at Pozieres British Cemetery at Ovillers La Boisselle.

Post Script

Nine of the 273 listed succumbed to injuries between the armistice of 11 November 1918 and the publication of the book in mid 1919.  Even while writing the introduction in 1919, the author warned that the list was “subject to revision.”

One of these was W.A.L. Fletcher, DSO, Chairman of the Regatta Committee and Umpire. As an oarsman in the late 1880s and early 1890s, he won four Boat Races with Oxford, two Ladies Plates, and the Thames Cup.  He raced three times for the Grand.

Another Henley official who did not survive the war was W.F.C. Holland, a committee member and judge. Rowing at bow behind Fletcher at stroke in the 1890 Oxford crew, his rowing honours included three Boat Race victories in four appearances, three wins in the Grand and one in the Ladies.


Mainzer Ruder-Verein von 1878

In his introduction to the records relating to Henley 1914, Cook wrote, “This Regatta had begun before the murdered Archduke Francis Ferdinand was buried; but the shadow of coming catastrophe was not seen upon the famous racecourse, and we all went home after the meeting without the slightest premonition that it would be some five years before we met again, or that – in the dreadful interval of the coming warfare – so many who were competing in the races of 1914 would be lost to us forever.  In one contest that fateful summer there was, as we look back on it, a very singular prognostication of the results to be shown in 1918.” He was referring to the race in the Grand between Jesus College Cambridge and the Germany club Mainzer Ruder-Verein von 1878.

Mainzer appeared at Henley several times during the early 20th century.  In 1914, they were quite possibly en-route to Henley to race in the Grand and Stewards as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June lit the fuse that would lead to war.

At that time in Germany, all able bodied men between the ages of 17 and 45 were liable for military service: 17 year olds could be called-up to serve in the Landsturm home defence force, similar to the British Army’s Territorial force.  On his 20th birthday, if not working in an exempt profession, a man would start two-years of active service.  This would be followed by 4-5 years in the reserves with an obligation to attend two-weeks training each year – considered to be something of a holiday from home and work during peace time.  After the reserves, men were attached to the Landwehr for a further 11 years.  Most Mainzer members were attached to the “Grand Duchess” (3rd Großherzoglich Hessian) No. 117 Regiment, which was garrisoned in Mainz.  The regiment had a reputation for its sporting prowess.

The 1914 Grand entry included five members of the Mainzer crew that became the very first of the noble tradition of German eights to take gold at international championships when it won the European Championships in Gent in August 1913. Victory for Mainzer over Jesus College Cambridge by ¾ of a length in their first heat meant that for the first time in its 75-year history, and much to the regret of Cook, all four semi-finalists in the Regatta’s blue-riband event were from overseas. In the closely contested semi-final, Union B.C. Boston, USA, who never led by more than half a length, held on to win by a canvas.

Four from the eight also raced in the Stewards, losing to Leander in their first heat having suffered from steering problems off the start and the collapse of their three-man, Oskar Cordes, as the crews approached Phyllis Court.

Of the Grand eight, we know that Werner Furthmann, Josef Fremersdorf, Oskar Cordes, Lorenz Eismayer and cox Johann Baptist Stohschnitter all survived the war.  However, injuries prevented Fremersdorf from returning to the water until 1921 while Cordes, who went on to become a leading figure in the German rowing federation, lost a leg. Eismayer’s brother Konrad also perished.

George Oertel (7) and Erich Vetter (6) were members of both the 1913 European Championship and 1914 Grand crews.  Oertel served  at Verdun, the Somme and Champagne and was wounded five time, three times seriously.  He survived the hostilities but died suddenly in March 1920.  Vetter was killed in action. Richard Piez, their crew-mate in the 1913 crew, was also killed in March 1917 while serving as a pilot.

In total, Mainzer lost 39 members to the conflict.

(Many thanks to Rolf Stephan, club archivist and Axel Lang curator of an exhibition on the 1913 European Championship crew for their help with information on Mainzer Ruder-Verein 1878.)



In this World Rowing article to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Martin Cross describes his own journey in a sculling boat down the Somme and how War and the Somme Campaign has touched the rowing communities of many countries.

For eye-witness accounts of the first day of the Somme, listen to this podcast from the Imperial War Museum


†The Imperial War Museum website includes a register of war memorials. All clubs which have memorials to members lost to war should check that their’s is included.

‡Beaumont was Jesuit public school in Old Windsor, sometimes known as “the Catholic Eton”. It closed in 1967.

In search of John Graham Chambers: sport’s serial law maker

By , February 10, 2016 09:30

On 10 February 1866, an article appeared on the front page of a new weekly newspaper welcoming the establishment of a new athletics club in London.

The Amateur Athletic Club wouldn’t be an athletic club as we would understand the term today.   It’s “object” was to establish “a ground at which numerous competitions in Amateur Athletic Sports and Foot Races may take place.”  It was also intended that as soon as funding allowed, club members would be able to enjoy the use of “a Club House, Gymnasium, Racquet Courts, Swimming Bath &c.”.

The AAC saw itself assuming the same role in athletics “that the Jockey Club holds toward racing or the Marylebone Club towards cricketers.”  One of its earliest resolutions was to organise “an Annual Champion Meeting for Athletic Sports on the day before the Boat race between Oxford and Cambridge”.


Appearing in just the third issue of Land and Water, the article represents something of a landmark in the history of organised sport.  The article’s author was John Graham Chambers, then 23 years of age and a recent graduate from Cambridge University. A double rowing blue and former president of Cambridge University Boat Club, Chambers had also been one of the instigators of the first Inter-Varsity athletics match in 1864.

Although his personal interest wasn’t declared in the article, Chambers – who would later become editor of Land and Water – was deeply involved in establishing the Amateur Athletic Club. He was appointed to the working committee and would become the general manager of the Club’s grounds, once they had been secured.


Chambers’ leading article from Vol I, No.3 of Land and Water, 10 February 1866

He was one of the first to write a rule-book for athletics.  A contemporary at Cambridge and close friend of the Marquess of Queensberry, he was the principle author of the eponymous rules of boxing.  He was part of a group that revised rowing’s rules of racing and also took an interest in the rules of billiards.  As a member of a sub-committee of Stewards, he devised a management structure for Henley Royal Regatta that was later adopted by de Coubertin for the International Olympic Committee.

As well as the first national championships in athletics, Chambers would also stage the first boxing tournaments under the Queensberry rules and some of the earliest track cycling races – when the only bikes were penny farthings.  He would also host the second F.A. Cup Final.

Chambers’ name crops up in all sorts of sporting histories of the 1860s and 1870s but the numerous strands of his own story don’t appear to have been pulled together.

His involvement in sport touches on a number of sporting and societal themes that resonate loudly 150 years later:

  • Governance of sport and governing bodies
  • Betting and its threat to the integrity of sport
  • The close relationship between sport and the media
  • Accessibility and inclusivity
  • Economics and sustainability of sporting venues
  • The influence of Old Etonians
  • Full beards being fashionable!

In his personal life, Chambers missed out on what would have been a substantial inheritance – due to the illegitimacy of his father.  As it happened, he only survived his father by a year: even by Victorian standards, his death at the age of just 40, must be considered premature.  If histories are written by the winners, perhaps Chambers’ story has not been told because he died too young to write it himself.

I’m already indebted to several historians – some professional and others enthusiastic amateurs like myself – who have provided leads, tips, advice and encouragement.  If any readers have come across any other references to Chambers, please share them with me by leaving a comment.


How the Welsh introduced national anthems to international sporting fixtures

By , October 11, 2015 22:31
Originally published on 3 February 2013. Updated 11 October 2015

The tradition of  singing national anthems before international sporting matches is believed to have originated at Cardiff Arms Park  on 16 December 1905.  The occasion was the first rugby match between Wales and New Zealand.

During that year’s home internationals, Wales had won the Triple Crown. (France didn’t play their first match in Britain until 1907 and didn’t officially become part of the Five Nations until 1910.)  By the time New Zealand’s inaugural northern hemisphere tour reached Cardiff for the test against Wales, they were undefeated after 27 matches, including victories against the other three home nations.  801 points had been scored, just 32 conceded.

With two undefeated sides coming face-to-face, the match was billed in the press as the “match of the century”.

The shirt worn by the All Blacks Captain in the 1905 Wales vs New Zealand match was put up for auction in October 2015.  It sold for £180,000 to set a new world record for a rugby shirt.

Their pre-match haka had added to the aura of All Black invincibility.  Having traveled to watch the visitors play at Gloucester, the Welsh Rugby Union decided to undertake their own experiment in psychological warfare at the Arms Park.  At the end of the haka, Teddy Morgan led the Welsh team in singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.  After a few seconds, the capacity crowd of 40,000 picked up the refrain.  The Lyttleton Times reported to its readers in New Zealand that “The effect was intensely thrilling, even awe-inspiring.”

For the record, Wales defeated the All Blacks by 3-0, although the result remains the subject of controversy to this day with allegations that a New Zealand try had not been awarded. The New Zealand Rugby Museum account of the tour can be found here.

Recognition of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau as the Welsh national anthem effectively dates from 1905.  Prior to the match in Cardiff, it had been a popular song, originally called Glan Rhondda, that had been written in 1856 by Evan James from Pontypridd and his son James.  So not only did the “match of the century” at Cardiff Arms Park start the tradition of singing anthems before international fixtures, it also effectively gave Wales its own anthem.

A history of The Welsh National Anthem by Sion Jobbins was published on the eve of the 2013 Six Nations prompting a strange debate on whether it should be sung by non-Welsh speakers on a number of BBC Radio stations on the first Saturday of the tournament.

The Seed Merchant, St Albans & The Ryder Cup

By , September 28, 2014 15:13

A few years ago, I started gathering video footage and other material with the intention of producing a short film on Sam Ryder’s association with St Albans and the origins of the Ryder Cup.

Unfortunately, the day-job and life kept getting in the way.

However, on the occasion of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, I’ve finally managed to pull something together and here it is:

Part of my day-job involves organising conference sessions for IBC, the leading international broadcast technology exhibition.  At IBC, I have the privilege of seeing some of the best TV and video material produced worldwide.  My first effort pales into insignificance by comparison but having been through the production process, my respect for the professionals has risen considerably.

Thanks to a number of individuals and organisations who have helped in producing the film, notably:

The Samuel Ryder Foundation’s fund-raising for a statue of Sam in St Peter’s Street, St Albans, is gathering pace.  Check out their website and if you’ve enjoyed the drama of the latest Ryder Cup, please consider making a donation!

And for the definitive Ryder biography do get hold of a copy Samuel Ryder – The Man Behind The Ryder Cup by Peter Fry.


Silversmiths and FA Cups

By , May 17, 2014 09:01

First published 17 May 2011, Updated: 5 November 2012 & 17 May 2014

The FA Cup celebrated a centenary in 2011.

The silver trophy familiar to football fans worldwide, was designed by Fattorini & Sons of 21 Kirkgate, Bradford and manufactured in Sheffield.

Tony Fattorini, a member of the Bradford branch of the Fattorini dynasty in the 1890s, was a major force in the Yorkshire city’s sporting life. He represented Manningham Rugby Club when it joined the 1895 breakaway from the Rugby Union that ultimately led to the formation of the Rugby League. In 1903, he was involved when Manningham changed codes again, dropping rugby in favour of association football to become Bradford City AFC. Also involved in athletics – he is listed as a timekeeper for athletics and gymnastics in the official report of the 1908 London Olympics – Tony emphasised the importance of fitness and stamina conditioning at the young football club. The team’s endurance played a significant role in the 1911 FA Cup run that made Bradford City the first winners of the Fattorini-designed Cup: City beat Newcastle United 1-0 in a replay at Old Trafford after a goalless draw at Crystal Palace. The Centenary of Bradford City’s FA Cup victory was celebrated with an exhibition in Bradford Museum.

Fattorini had secured the commission to create a new FA Cup through a national competition after the Football Association decided to retire the previous trophy on the grounds that its design had been pirated: even a century ago, sporting authorities had an eye on protecting their commercial rights! Fattorini had already established credentials in sport having made Rugby League’s Challenge Cup in 1897. The present day business, Thomas Fattorini Ltd, now headquartered on Regent Street in Birmingham’s Jewelry Quarter, continues to maintain the Challenge Cup to this day. Fattorini’s have also produced Lonsdale Belts [pdf] for British boxing champions since they were instigated in 1909.

This advert shows Fattorini’s two Bradford premises in the late Victorian period. The properties occupying these sites today can be seen on StreetView:

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The Westgate/Goodwin Street building appears to be still standing.

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After 80 years of wear and tear at the hands of sometimes over exuberant Cup winners, the original Fattorini FA Cup was retired after the 1991 Final. The Cup presented to winners from the 1992 Final is an exact replica of the Fattorini trophy commissioned by the FA from Toye, Kenning & Spencer. Toye’s London showroom on Great Queen Street is opposite the Grand Connaught Rooms built on the site of the Freemasons’ Tavern where the FA was founded at a meeting on 26 October 1863.

On the eve of the 2014 Cup Final between Arsenal & Hull City, the FA announced that silversmiths Thomas Lyte of London had crafted a third edition of the Fattorini design.  Thanks to this FA video, we can learn something about the individual silversmiths – Kevin Williams, Chris Hurley and Colin Hines – and the silversmithing, chasing, polishing and plating crafts employed in creating this latest FA Cup.

The ThomasLyte website reveals that the company also cares for the Ryder Cup and the William Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup.

The original FA Cup

First presented to the Wanderers at the Oval in 1872, the original Football Association Challenge Cup measured 18 inches tall and was made at a cost of £20 by Martin, Hall & Co at the Shrewsbury Works, 53 Broad Street, Sheffield Park. Known as the ‘the little tin idol‘, it was famously stolen on 11 September 1895 from the premises of William Shillcock, a football outfitter at 73 Newtown Road in Birmingham. It had been on public display following Aston Villa’s victory in the tournament that year and was never recovered.

Fortunately, Wolverhampton Wanderers had commissioned Birmingham silversmith, and former Aston Villa player & England international Oliver Howard Vaughton to create miniatures of the original cup to celebrate their 1893 victory. From these Vaughton was able to manufacture a replacement which was used until 1910.

This second FA Cup was subsequently presented to Lord Kinnaird in recognition of long service as FA president. It was eventually sold at auction in 2005 to David Gold, currently one of the co-owners of West Ham United, for $478,400. Gold loaned the Cup to the National Football Museum where it is on permanent public display.

So the trophy presented at Wembley in 2014 becomes the fifth FA Cup presented to a winning finalist.

The complete list of FA Cup winners since 1872 can be found here.

George Hotel Huddersfield – Birthplace of the Rugby League

By , October 25, 2013 17:51

Saturday 26th October 2013 may mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern in London, but it is also the opening day of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

The sport of rugby league was effectively born on 29 August 1895 when representatives of twenty-two clubs met at the George Hotel, Huddersfield and formed the Northern Rugby Football Union.  The clubs, mostly from Yorkshire and Lancashire, wanted to have the option of compensating players for taking time off work to play in Saturday matches.  “Broken time” payments were outlawed by the then Rugby Football Union.

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The Rugby League World Cup dates back to an inaugural tournament in France in 1954 – predating its Rugby Union counterpart by some 33 years.

Oarsmen who were Founding Fathers of Football

By , October 19, 2013 11:31
3 Kings Bench Walk, FA, Morley

3 Kings Bench Walk – the office of Ebenezer Cobb Morley’s legal practice

UPDATED 21 October 2013

26 October 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen Street, London.

On 30 April 2013, the FA launched a campaign to trace the descendants of those who were present at that inaugural meeting – the Founding Father’s of football.  They published a list of eight men.  Seven had been elected as the original officers at that inaugural meeting. Charles Alcock rose to prominence shortly after.  On 21 October 2013, the eight were commemorated with a plaque at Wembley.  Three of the eight were oarsmen.

Further research by Scottish sports historian Andy Mitchell reveals that five of the fifteen men known to have been present in October 1863 had a rowing connection.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on 16 August 1831, the son of another Ebenezer Morley, a Congregationalist minister. He was baptised at his

father’s Holborn Street Chapel.  Local press reports suggest Morley Senior was a leading figure in the British Schools movement in the Hull area.

Little is known about the younger Morley’s education but he isn’t believed to have attended public school.  He trained in Hull as a solicitor, qualifying in 1854 and at some point, he moved to London where he took chambers at 3 King’s Bench Walk, Temple.

Where and when Ebenezer took up rowing isn’t clear.  Perhaps it was when he moved to Barnes in 1858 where he lived at 26 The Terrace overlooking Barnes Bridge and what is now Thames   Tradesman Rowing Club. He joined London Rowing Club and threw himself whole-heartedly into the club and the sport.

Various episodes of his rowing career are captured in Chris Dodd’s 2006 history of London Rowing Club Water boiling aft.  He joined the committee at London in 1860.  He founded Barnes & Mortlake Regatta in 1862 and served as Regatta Secretary until 1880.  He became Hon Solicitor of London in 1862 and appears to have provided legal advice to the club for the rest of his life.

According to Water Boiling Aft, in May 1863 just six months before the founding of the FA, he rowed to his home town of Hull from London with three other London members, The journey, which traversed the canal network to the Trent, Ouse & Humber, totalled 300 Miles and 148 locks.  In 1864 he rowed at 2 for London in a heat of the Grand at Henley.

In 1865, Morley was elected to the 12-strong London’s Badge Committee which oversaw training, coaching and crew preparation.

He acted as starter for the London Rowing Club Athletic Sports held at Lord Ranelagh’s Beaufort House on 17 February 1866. Sporting Life reported a crowd of more than 1000.   He would also officiate at varsity athletics meetings held on Boat Race day.

London Rowing Club

London Rowing Club HQ – owned by the London Boat House Company Ltd

In 1870, he presumably handled the incorporation of the London Boat House Company which protects the ownership of London’s HQ to this day.  He certainly witnessed the signatures of the original directors of the company.

So with all of this going on, the question arises, how did he get involved in creating the world’s most popular sport?

Local forms of football had been played in villages and towns across the country for centuries, often on holy days such as Shrove Tuesday or Good Friday. A handful are still played today.

Pupils at many public schools developed their own versions of football adapted to their local environments.   For many schoolboys, football was an expression of their rejection of the authority of their schools. Progressive head masters recognised that organised sport opened up opportunities to counter reshape this culture.  It also chimed with growing emphasis on the fully rounded individual and the concept of “muscular Christianity”.

As pupils from this period started to move on to university they discovered that differences in rules meant games were largely restricted to groups of old-boys from a particular school.

At Cambridge in 1848, there was an early attempt at devising a compromise set of rules by which old-boys from all schools could play. These “Cambridge Rules” were updated in 1856 by a group of undergraduates that included old-boys from Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby and the University including the Old Etonian H. Snow – who had raced at 7 in that year’s victorious Boat Race Crew.  The Cambridge Rules were updated again in October 1863 shortly before the meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern.

Ebenezer Morley’s recorded football history starts when he founded Barnes Football Club in 1862.  The club was based at Lime Fields, a short walk from his riverside home.

The correspondence pages of the burgeoning sporting press had been debating the rules of football for some years.  In 1863, Morley himself wrote to Bell’s Life to propose a meeting with the objective of “…bringing about a definite code of laws for the regulation and adoption of the various clubs which indulge in this exciting and health promising winter pastime.”

A meeting was convened at Freemason’s Tavern on 26 October 1863.  13 clubs from the London area were represented but Charterhouse was the only major public school to attend. 11 of the clubs joined the Football Association formed at the meeting.

Morley was elected as the first secretary, a position he held for three years until 1866.

The FA’s first rule book was developed over the course of five meetings up to the end of 1863.  There were protracted discussions over the extent to which the ball could be handled and whether hacking should be permitted.   Morley was firmly in the camp that wished to limit handling and outlaw hacking.  His view was that, “If we have hacking, no one who has arrived at the age of discretion will play at football, and it will be left entirely to the school boys.”

Influenced by the 1863 Cambridge Rules, the game defined by the first set of FA rules was still something of a hybrid that retained more handling of the ball than allowed today.  It was the solicitor Morley who minuted the meetings and drafted the first FA rules.  The minute book, in Morley’s long hand, is on public display at the British Library until 17 December 2013.

The first “official” match played under FA rules was between a President’s Side (selected by Arthur Pember, an investigative journalist) and a Secretary’s Side selected by Morley.  The match was played in Battersea Park on 9 January 1864.  The Presidents team won 2-0.

1866 saw the first match involving a representative FA team – against Sheffield FC. Morley scored the first goal.  Sheffield is recognised by FIFA as being the oldest surviving football club in the world having been founded in 1857.

This match was significant for a number of reasons. The FA wore white shirts – setting the precedent for later England sides and the match was played under FA rules. The match duration was fixed for 90 minutes and the ball chosen was Lillywhite’s No 5 – the first recorded instance of either duration or ball size being specified. Both became football fundamentals.

At the 1867 AGM, Morley stood down as Secretary and became President of the FA. He was succeeded as secretary by Charles Alcock who has generally usurped Morley as “the father of football” in most football histories.

As president, it was Morley who presented the Cup to the victorious Wanderers side after the first FA Cup final in 1872.

Morley remained president of the FA until 1874 when the oarsman fades out of the history of football.  However, he remained involved with London RC for the rest of his life.  He died at his home in Barnes on 20 November 1924 at the age of 93.

The second oarsman at the inaugural meeting of the FA was Herbert Thomas Steward.  His involvement in the FA appears to have been short-lived but he was unconsciously involved in creating another structure that has enormous influence in world sport today.

Steward was born on 9 November 1838 in Westminster.  He was the son of Thomas Francis Steward, a maths teacher at Westminster School. Census returns suggest he lived in Deans Yard, within the school grounds, in 1841, 51, 61 and 1871 by which time he was 32 and his mother was widowed. Steward attended Westminster School as a pupil.

Growing up in Deans Yard, he would probably have witnessed games of Westminster’s version of football which has been described as “A particularly rough dribbling game” and allowed players to catch the ball and then kick it out of their hands. Running with the ball, however, was outlawed. The 150th anniversary football match between Westminster and Charterhouse was played on 18 September 2013.

Steward first comes to prominence in 1863.  At the Freemason’s Tavern, Steward represented Crusaders FC.  Like most of the founding members of the FA, it was a club that drew together old boys from a number of public schools.  The Club quickly resigned from the FA because other schools weren’t participating – many commentators at the time were convinced the FA would fail without the support of the major public schools and their old-boy clubs. Crusaders would re-join some years later.

Earlier the same year he had been elected as the first Captain of Leander, the exclusive rowing club, serving until 1865.  He was Honorary Secretary of the Club between 1866 and 1879 and both Captain & Secretary of Leander in 1868. He became a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 1879.

In 1881 he was a member of a sub-committee of the Henley Stewards that was asked to consider new governance and financial structures to secure the long-term future of Henley Royal.  It was this sub-committee that proposed the creation of the Committee of Management.  The proposal was endorsed by the Stewards but only fully implemented in 1885.

Steward was elected President of Leander in 1892, Chairman of Henley Royal in 1894, and achieved a triple crown in 1897 by becoming Chairman of the ARA (which had been founded in 1882).

In 1888, three years after the implementation of the Henley Royal constitution that Steward had helped to formulate, Baron Pierre De Coubertin attended the regatta.

De Coubertin described the structure of the self-selecting group of Stewards, the smaller Committee of Management and its Chairman as “three concentric circles” made up of “those who were deeply committed, those who could be educated to the cause, and those whose position and influence could be useful.” This model was adopted as the basis of the IOC constitution at its foundation on 23 June 1894.  (Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell, the Second Baron Ampthill  was one of the original members of the IOC.  He had been a member of the 1890 and 1891 Oxford blue boats, won the 1891 Grand and was a Henley Steward between 1894 and 1935.)

Leander Henley

Leander Club, Henley – designed by HT Steward

Professionally, Steward was an architect and surveyor.  In 1904, he would be President of the Surveyor’s Institution.  He designed Leander’s Henley clubhouse that opened in 1897.

HT Steward had four children. Both his sons would be elected Stewards of Henley Royal: Herbert Arthur was born 1878, elected Steward in 1913 and died 1948; Clifford Thomas was born 1881, elected Steward 1909, died 1943.  Herbert Arthur’s son, & HT’s grandson, CTS Steward was also elected a Steward and served 1971-1981.

The FA published a profile of HT, as one of the Founding Fathers, on its website in August 2013 which appeared to have overlooked CTS Steward. It concluded that HT had no direct descendants beyond a daughter of Herbert Arthur who died having had no children in 1861.

The other oarsmen present at the birth of the FA were Thomas Dyson Gregory (London RC & Treasurer of Barnes & Mortlake Regatta), George Twizell Wawn (London) and Theodore Bell (Kingston RC).

(Based on notes prepared for a presentation to the Rowing History Forum, at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames, 11 October 2013)

Sporting sesquicentenaries

By , July 3, 2013 06:59

The (English) Football Association celebrated its 150th anniversary – and its pioneering role as the oldest national governing body in the sport of (association) football –  in 2013.

Henley Royal Regatta, which had a massive influence on the early development of rowing as an amateur sport, celebrated its 150th anniversary, in 1989. As only he could, Peter Coni, the then Chairman applied the adjective “sesquicentenary” to the celebrations.

With a light stream and strong tail wind, especially on finals day, the regatta was notable for new course and intermediate records in several events. In winning the Grand Challenge Cup, one of the two events staged at the first Henley in 1839, Hansa Dortmund became the first crew to cover the Henley course in less than six minutes.

However, for those who were in the Stewards Enclosure on Sunday July 2nd, it was the final of the Ladies Plate, the second most senior event for eights, which created the drama and the abiding memories.

As one of those witnesses, it proved very difficult to concentrate on my return to work the following day.  I can confess that my productivity on that Monday morning was woeful as I felt compelled to commit my recollections to paper.

It’s interesting that the observations about the reserve of British spectators is now out-dated. Perhaps the “Dorney Roar” of London 2012 owes something to the passion that can be generated by the active rowing enthusiasts who make up the overwhelming majority of the spectators in the Stewards Enclosure.  Re-reading the text on the eve of Henley 2013, it dawned on me that the  man “waving the gnarled piece of wood” was the legendary Harvard coach, Harry Parker who sadly passed away on 25 June 2013, aged 77.

This is what I wrote 24 years ago.



Jim and I extracted ourselves from the Bridge Bar half an hour before the end of the tea interval in order to ensure we had a good view of what the programme told us were the last five races of the day. Leaning over the rail of the upper deck of the floating grandstand, we chatted about the races to come and the records that had tumbled earlier.

Less than five feet away, the legendary Steward and commentator Angus Robertson was quietly practicing: it was probably “R Floryn and N Rienks of Die Leythe and Okeanos, Holland on the Bucks station and P Luzek and I Gruza of Dukla Praha, Czechoslovakia on the Berkshire station” for the final of the Double Sculls Challenge Cup was due off at 5.25. Just before tea he had finally seen-off K Broniewski of AZS-AWF Warszawa, Poland, in the final of the Diamonds to yet another round of applause, and had coped admirably with the surprise breaking of the AZS Szczecin & AZS Wroclaw 1987 Fawley record in the Prince Philip.

The Ladies Plate between Harvard, reputed to be the fastest crew in America, and Notts County Rowing Association was the first race after tea at 5.15. This was the one Jim was most interested in: apparently C Bates (10 st 11 lb), the Notts County bowman was a friend of his. Jim was telling me about some selection wrangle which was bubbling in the background as the race started.

Henley Royal Regatta 1989 Ladies Plate final Notts County vs Harvard

The first final

From behind me, Mr Robertson reported the progress of the crews to the massed crowds. Notts came hurtling down the course, leading to the barrier in a record equaling 1.48, lengthening out to Fawley in a record breaking 3.01 and shattering both Harvard and their semi-final full course record with a five length verdict in 6.13.

For a crew that gave away 2st 2lb per man and maintained a rate in the 40s and high 30s for most of the course, the Notts crews still had enough breath to make an incredible din as they crossed the line!

That, we thought, was that for the Ladies Plate and we turned our attention to the Visitors which was already approaching the Barrier. (Why did the Stewards revert to five-minute intervals more normally associated with Wednesday racing for the first three finals after tea? In the third race, Floryn and Rienks in the Doubles had reached the mile signal before commentators could catch up with them.)

At some point during the remaining races, probably between races 16 and 17, a man appeared behind me, and entered into deep discussion with Messrs Robertson and colleagues. In his right hand he was waving a gnarled piece of wood 6-8 inches long and about an inch and a half thick. I remember thinking it was an odd thing to carry around the Stewards Enclosure. I was about to make a wise crack about the fact that our visitor was not wearing either a jacket or a tie but thought better of it!

The visitor departed and Mr Robertson issued an urgent instruction to his radio operator to find ‘the Chairman’. Officials were dispatched in all directions. At this point, I was all-ears but I had missed out on all the intrigue. The Chairman arrived and another sotto voce discussion took place before the Chairman left decreeing that whatever it was he had ordered had better be done ‘fast!’

The result of the Special Race for Schools had hardly been announced when Mr Robertson scurried away.

Jim and I departed for the Fawley stand and the prize giving. I told Jim what had been happening behind me: he had been engrossed in a conversation with somebody else.

When the announcement was made that the prize giving would be delayed by fifteen minutes, the Holmes instinct in me (Sherlock rather than Andy) now told me that something was definitely up.

But what? Jim and I walked around the back of the Fawley stand and saw an empty space: there was no Nottingham green between the German Grand winners and the purple blazers of UL who had vanquished Ridley in the Thames.

Then Mr Robertson made another announcement. A piece of wood had become lodged in the fin of the Harvard boat and the race Umpire, who was co-incidentally the Chairman, had ordered a re-row at 8.00 pm. The crowd waiting for prize giving audibly gasped.

The prize giving came and went, and a surprisingly large crowd waited for eight o’clock and the second final of the Ladies’ Challenge Plate.

Somehow I managed to lose Jim, so I returned to the floating grandstand. He reappeared a little later with a young lady who also appeared to know the 10 st 11 lb Notts bowman. (She wasn’t a member of Stewards, but nobody seemed to notice, or care.)

Mr Robertson was already in his place at the microphone and there was chatter about esoteric subjects such as rule 30M. The Steward recounted to an enquirer that he had seen the Harvard cox reach under the boat and pull out the offending branch as the boat had crossed the line. He was totally confident that the rules had been applied fairly. Henley was all about fair play, and justice “must be seen to be done”. I asked what would happen if they dead-heated the re-row. Without hesitation he said: “That’s easy, they turn around, go back and do it again!”.

From Jim’s friend I heard how the Notts crew had had a bevy or two to celebrate already, had showered, changed into blazers for the prize giving, and de-rigged their boat.

Margaret Marshall, well-known Notts County ‘groupie’ came upstairs to the floating stand as well. She couldn’t keep still for nerves. It was one of those incredibly tense sporting moments. Nobody was certain whether the lightweights could pull off a second victory and the fairly stiff tail wind that had helped them down the course the first time had virtually disappeared.

Henley Royal Regatta 1989 - Ladies Plate Final re-row Notts County vs Harvard. Photo: Ian Volans

Approaching the finish line in the re-row

Eight o’clock eventually arrived and the race started. Notts again left the stake boat at a heart-stopping rate and Mr Robertson announced that the Barrier record they had equaled earlier had now been reduced to 1.47. Fawley was reached in 3.01, the same time as in the first final and as the crews, still overlapping, passed the mile signal the enclosure opened its collective throat.

The British have often been accused of being too reserved and not getting behind its sportsmen and women. I am coming to the conclusion that this is not an accusation that can be leveled at the Stewards’ Enclosure. I also suspect that the nine Australians who went down by one foot to Leander in the 1988 Grand Final would agree. Harvard are probably revising their opinions too. A friend who had been standing on the river bank said that he did hear a man shout for Harvard, “but only once.”

Coming past the progress board, Harvard were still too close for the comfort of those on the bank, but at least a couple of the Notts oarsmen seemed to be unconcerned as they started punching the air.

After taking a couple of seconds to compose himself, a very relieved-looking Angus Robertson allowed himself a smile before announcing the result of the Ladies Challenge Plate: Notts County had won by two-thirds of a length in yet another new record time of 6.11.


HRR 1989 Ladies Plate Final

HRR conventions used to note record breaking times in the programme.


Hundreds of spectators waited to applaud Notts as they completed a quick lap of honour past the stands and a sizeable crowd gathered to see the crew come into the landing stage to be congratulated first by Chairman Coni handing out medals and then by the Harvard crew who almost managed to capsize the pontoon. The applause only stopped when the boat was in the boat-tent.

Henley Royal Regatta - After the rerow of the Ladies Plate final. Photo: Ian Volans

HRR Chairman Peter Coni and Harvard congratulate Notts County after the re-row

This is the stuff that legends are made out off and like all legends some aspects will be embellished in the retelling. In years to come it may be told that the Notts crew drank the Bridge Bar dry between the two races, or that the Harvard crew had one of the course booms lodged in its fin. Whatever the myths of the future, the truth on the first Sunday in July, 1989 was that Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association ‘A’ crew gave away over two stone per man and still beat the ‘fastest crew in America’ twice in a period of 2 hours 51 minutes and 11 seconds, setting record times on both occasions.

Driving home, my thoughts returned to the final of the Grand. The achievement of Hansa Dortmund in becoming the first crew to race down the Henley track in less than six minutes would have been the abiding memory of any normal Henley Finals Day. However, Finals Day of Henley’s 150th birthday regatta was far from normal.


The Football League: conceived in Fleet Street, born in Manchester

By , March 21, 2013 11:11

Andertons_Hotel_site_01022011As well as the 150th anniversary of the Football Association, 2013 also marks the 125th anniversary of the world’s first league football competition.  The Football League was the brainchild of William McGregor, a committee member of Aston Villa FC.

The prohibition on professionalism had been lifted by the Football Association in 1885.  Drawing the biggest crowds, the FA Cup, and to a lesser extent local and regional cup competitions, were the principle sources of revenue for those clubs that started to pay players. However the knock-out nature of cup football made managing club finances difficult.

On 2 March 1888, McGregor wrote to five prominent clubs proposing a meeting to discuss his idea of establishing a programme of competitive home and away fixtures to give clubs more stable and predictable revenue streams. He also canvased suggestions of other clubs who should be invited to participate.

Representatives from Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion met at Anderton’s Hotel, Fleet Street, in London on 23 March – the eve of the 1888 FA Cup Final.  (The final was to be contested by West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End at the Oval.)

Anderton’s Hotel stood at 165 Fleet Street.  The Victorian building was demolished in 1939 and the site is now part-occupied by a branch of HSBC.

2013-02-06 13.38.18Although the modern building’s connection with the origins of league football is not commemorated, the British Institute of Professional Photography did erect a plaque on the occasion of the centenary of its inaugural meeting which was held at Anderton’s Hotel on 28 March 1901.

The Football League was officially born at a meeting at the Royal Hotel in central Manchester on 17 April 1888.    The 12 founding members included six clubs from the Midlands and six from Lancashire: Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City, West Brom, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton and Preston.

In marked contrast, the clubs which had attended the inaugural meeting of the Football Association at the Freemasons Tavern 25 years previously had all been from the London area.  It is perhaps a reflection of the commercial nous of the League’s founder members that all bar Accrington survive today. By contrast, of the 11 founder members of the FA – Barnes, Blackheath, Blackheath Proprietary School, Civil Service, Crusaders, Crystal Palace, Forest of Leytonstone (who later became the Wanderers), Kensington School, No Names Club from Kilburn, Perceval House (Blackheath), and Surbiton – only Palace has maintained a place in the upper tiers of the sport in England.

As for Manchester’s Royal Hotel, it stood on the corner of Market Street and Mosley Street overlooking what is now Piccadilly Gardens.   The hotel itself was demolished in 1908 and the site was incorporated into Lewis’s Emporium which was already occupying an adjacent block.  The Emporium was replaced in 1915 and the site is now occupied by the Royal Buildings.  The site’s role in the creation of league football is commemorated by  a plaque erected by Manchester City Council in 1996.

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