A Beddow replica?

A Beddow replica?

The story of the Champion Cup (or Beddow Cup, as the trophy is now generally known) is a familiar one to students of croquet history and was re-told in the Gazette of June 2007.

Presented by A E Beddow – a good but not renowned player – in 1901, for competition each year between the ten best selected players, it was won outright in 1933 by Miss D D Steel on her fourth victory and replaced by the President’s Cup.

It was then rediscovered in the 1970s in a Bedford jewellers, from whom it was purchased by the Wheelers and Andersons of the Wrest Park Croquet Club.

They later presented it to the CA as the trophy for the (AC) Inter-Club Championship.

The recent auction sale of an almost identical cup adds a new twist to the story.

It is much smaller – less than a third of the height and a twentieth of the weight – so it was perhaps a replica.

But why it was made and to whom it was presented, are as yet, unknown.

The Champion Cup itself was made by Mappin Bros in 1901.

But the copy is by their successors, Mappin & Webb, and was hallmarked in 1929, so it is not contemporary with it.

It is not engraved, but carries a similar embossed illustration of a croquet scene on the front.

Perhaps coincidentally, it was auctioned in Market Harborough, only 30 miles from Bedford, where the Champion Cup was re-discovered.

1929 is unique in Champion Cup history because it finished as a four-way tie.

Perhaps replicas were routinely awarded as consolation prizes to play-off losers, so more were required that year (previous ties had only involved two players);  or perhaps the winner, Capt. J B Morgan, commissioned it for himself to keep as a memento.

But the existence of replicas seems not to have been previously reported and, so far, no information about the provenance of this copy has been uncovered.

So we can only speculate about its possible links to the Champion Cup competition and about the possible existence of others like it.

The impression is sometimes given that it was Miss Steel’s determination to keep the trophy after her four wins (as she was entitled to do, under the terms of the original competition) which led Trevor Williams to present the President’s Cup in its stead.

In fact, it seems that she was pre-empted in her intention to return the trophy for future competition by the newly-appointed President’s eagerness to present a new one.

At the Council meeting immediately following Miss Steel’s fourth victory, his proposal – made spontaneously during the meeting, which he attended merely as an observer – is reported as having taken everyone by surprise.

Miss Steel’s willingness to return the Champion Cup was reported at the following Council meeting, but by then it was too late.

It is arguable that the CA did not benefit from the exchange, unless grandiosity is to be preferred over Art Nouveau elegance.

by Ian Bond

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