Posts tagged: Birmingham

Silversmiths and FA Cups

By , 17th May 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.

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

By , 21st March 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.

Game, set and match… to Brum? – From BBC Radio 4’s Today Prog

By , 27th May 2011 23:59

Today, the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 ran a story on Birmingham’s role in the development of lawn tennis. The item marked the opening of an exhibition – “A GEM OF A GAME – The Roots of Lawn Tennis in the West Midlands” at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham in Edgebaston. The exhibition is open until 29 August 2011.

In Victorian times the growing middle class, unable to afford the construction of expensive real tennis courts, began to devise ball games which could be played outdoors by men and women together.
Early experiments in playing tennis on grass were hampered because leather balls, usually stuffed with cloth, did not bounce. The tide began to turn with the invention of the rubber ball and the development of mowing machines which made it much easier to prepare and maintain suitable lawns.

Harry Gem, a Birmingham solicitor, and Augurio Perera devised Pelota or Lawn Rackets in 1859. According to the Barber Institute, it was first played at 8 Ampton Road, Edgebaston.

View 8 Ampton Road, Edgebaston in a larger map

In 1872 the friends moved to Leamington Spa where they founded the Leamington Lawn Tennis Club which is recognised as the world’s first lawn tennis club.

Meanwhile Walter Clopton Wingfield (1833–1912) a retired major from Montgomeryshire, was working on his version of lawn tennis. In order to be able to fully exploit his idea commercially, Wingfield designed an hour-glass shaped court that was wider at the base-line than at the net. Tradition has it that he first demonstrated his game at a Christmas party at Nantclwyd, near Wrexham, in 1873. He secured a patent in February 1874. However, he is also understood to have demonstrate the game to Lord Lansdowne as early as the summer of 1869.

Despite the pioneering efforts of Gem and Perera, Wingfield is generally acknowledged to have played a critical role in promoting and popularizing lawn tennis. Originally marketed as Sphairistike or Lawn Tennis from the Greek for “ball-game”, French & Co produced five-guinea Sphairistike sets which included an eight-page instruction manual written by Wingfield which carried the legend “Dedicated to the party assembled at Nantclwyd in December 1873” on its cover. 1050 sets were sold within a year.

Sphairistike’s success prompted many imitations – all with slightly differing rules to avoid infringing Wingfield’s patent.  In 1875, a variant was adopted by a financially-distressed All England Croquet Club in Wimbledon as a means of attracting new members. “Lawn Tennis” was added to the Club’s official title in 1877.

The sporting newspaper The Field carried a long series of letters debating rules for the new game. In 1878, members of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and the Marylebone Cricket Club – which had a habit of involving itself in sports other than cricket, agreed a common set of rules which remain the basis of the modern game.

Britain’s sporting museums, galleries and collections

By , 21st November 2009 22:39

The map below shows the locations of sporting museums, galleries and collections in Britain.  It includes institutions involved in Our Sporting Life as well as other museums and collections mentioned in the June 2006 Sports Heritage Network Mapping Survey by Annie Hood.

Many are dedicated to a particular sport. Others are museums with a more general remit which include significant collections with a sporting connection.

There are currently 56 collections featured on this map. It’s probably no surprise that 11 of the museums – the biggest group – are dedicated to football. As one of the longest established organised sports, cricket accounts for seven establishments. Follow the link at the foot of the map to see a listing of the museums alongside a larger map.

Museums related to hunting have been included on the grounds that national hunt racing, equestrianism, and shooting sports have the pastime in their ancestries. Its also worth remembering that before Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, in Britain the word “sport” was most often associated with hunting and angling.

It’s interesting to see that sporting museums can be found the length and breadth of Britain. Let me know if you know of any I’ve missed.

PS: its a shame Google maps doesn’t offer icons for archery, motor sport, cricket, shinty, fencing, shooting, badminton, rugby or tennis!

View Britain’s sporting museums and galleries in a larger map

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