The Chester Race Trophy
The Chester Race Trophy


The Chester Race Trophy

1779 London

Offered by Koopman Rare Art

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Listing Information
A Large Presentation Punch Bowl

London 1779
Maker's mark "WC" for William Cattell

Weight: 2,411g, 77oz 10dwt
Height: 24.7cm, 9.75in
Diameter: 34.9cm, 13.75in

The raised round body with flared lip and double bottom on a round molded foot, hand engraved with a coat-of-arms featuring three bunches of wheat and a sword and inscribed "Gabriel Smith Esq. Mayor 1780". Smith was Mayor of the City of Chester from 1779-80

Gabriel Smith was only Mayor for one term, and there was only one corporation plate each year. The catalogue of silver in the Grosvenor Museum cites a bowl (no 94), which is virtually identical to ours, but five years later. The Grosvenor Museum's is hallmarked for Hester Bateman.

The City Plate

Adjacent to Chester's western city wall, and bounded by the broad curve of the river Dee is an expanse of low-lying land called the Roodee. The name means rood island, and it seems probable that there was a Cross (or ‘rood') on an island in the Dee which once flowed beside the city wall. By the 16th century the Roodee had become common grazing land and a place of recreation

In January 1540 the city assembly replaced the annual Shrove Tuesday football match on the Roodee by an archery contest and races on foot and on horseback. This order is usually taken to mark the beginning of the Roodee's use for officially organised horse racing, and thus Chester has a longer continuous history than any other racecourse in the British Isles. Most British horse racing trophies before the Civil War took the form of silver bells, copied from the bell customarily worn by the lead pack horse, which could be hung from the winning horse's tack. The trophy for Chester's Shrove Tuesday race was originally 'a bell of sylver' worth 3s.4d. provided by the Sadlers' Company, but no Chester bells are known to survive.

The Shrove Tuesday race continued until 16oo when the date was changed to St George's Day, 23 April with three cups as the prizes. This is a very early example of the 17th-century move from bell trophies to cups, a change probably due to the custom of toasting the winner. In 1624 the three silver cups were replaced by one ‘faire silver cup’ worth £8 The Chester races fell into abeyance during the Civil War and Commonwealth, but the St George's Day race was revived soon after the Restoration of 1660, although its date subsequently varied.

The race course originally stretched from the Water Tower to the Castle, but the present oval course has remained little changed since the early 18th century In the 18th century each race took up a whole day," and consisted of eliminating heats 7 which were normally four miles long. This form of racing continued at Chester well into the 19th century," and placed emphasis on the stamina rather than the speed of the horse.

The races became a major social event for the local aristocracy and gentry, as well as for the citizens of Chester. In addition to horse races, there were cock fighting contests assemblies, balls, dinners and theatrical performances The trophy for the St George's Day race, still referred to as the St George's Plate in 1785, was also known as the City Plate from at least 1743 Held during Easter Week in 1728, the races took place around St George's Day from 1729, and during the first week of May from 1756. The number of race days grew from three in 1728 to five in 1758, and additional meetings were held in the summer of 1744 and 1754 and in the autumn of 1739, 1755 and 1774-81. The City Plate was jointly funded by the mayor, the city assembly and the 26 trade companies. Worth £30 from at least 1728, it was worth £5o from at least 1768 until 1807 and from at least 1777 comprised a trophy worth £30 with a ‘purse’ (cash prize)of £20.

Punch bowls were a favourite race prize in England. From at least 1723 up to 1803, and in 1805, the trophy for the City Plate at Chester was a large silver punch bowl, but silver cups were awarded in 18o4 and 1806-7. Nine examples survive, all engraved with the city arms, the name of the mayor and the date of presentation.
Apollo, January 1951, page vii., (advertisement for Bracher & Sydenham)
Peter Waldron, The Price Guide to Antique Silver. Woodbridge: Antique Collector's Club Ltd., 1982. Page 20, Fig. 4.
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Koopman Rare Art

Koopman Rare Art
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