Triumph and Tragedy

1st October 2021

Sport and silverware have gone hand in hand for generations and two key lots from our Silver sale on 5th & 6th October come from the trophy-laden world of horse racing.

One, the Warwick Cup of 1874, has not been outside the family since it was given to the trainer of the winning horse by its grateful owner. William Gilbert trained 5 year old Lilian for Henry Savile (although the horse was owned by his daughter), who won the Warwick Cup on 9th September 1874. The half metre long elaborate trophy is modelled as a chariot pulled by four horses. Among the descendants to own the trophy was Gilbert’s grandson, William Ducker Gilbert, who owned a saddlery on Newmarket High Street until the 1960s.

From triumph to tragedy - also passed down from the Gilbert family are a pair of silver-mounted ox bone candlesticks, which were one of two pairs made to commemorate the wedding of flat jockey, Fred Archer. Archer’s celebrity status rose from an incredible 2,748 wins during his nine year career, which included five Derbys, four Oaks and six St Legers. Such was the level of public affection for him that a huge celebration occurred in Newmarket when he married Helen Rose Dawson. A whole ox was roasted on the Several (a large public space in the town) and a ball was held at the Rutland Arms. The femur bones of the ox’s fore and hind legs were saved and turned into two pairs of silver-mounted candlesticks to commemorate the celebration, with local trainer, William Gilbert, buying one of the pairs. The whereabouts of the other pair are unknown.

Sadly, happiness for Fred and Helen was shortlived. A son born in 1884 died shortly after and in 1885 Helen died giving birth to a daughter at the age of just 23. As he struggled to recover from such devastating blows, Fred rode St Mirin at Cambridgeshire in 1886 for the Duchess of Montrose. Clad in flimsy silks on a cold November day, he caught a chill and developed typhoid fever. Driven mad with illness and grief, on 8th November 1886 he picked up a revolver and shot himself. His ghost is said to ride a light grey horse over Newmarket Heath.

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