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Wimbledon in 13 Objects: 1. The Field Cup

Field Cup
by Sarah Edworthy
Monday 23 June 2014

What symbolises The Championships for you?

Inspired by the British Museum’s iconic series on the ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’, Honor Godfrey – who retires this year as the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s museum curator – nominates her 13 Objects (one per day of play) that define The Championships.

No.1 – The Field Cup (1877 – 1883)

It all starts here. This is the original Gentlemen’s Singles trophy presented by The Field newspaper “for competition by amateurs”. Made of sterling silver, it is engraved with the names and dates of the champions from 1877 to 1883.

Who said tennis would never be popular? Spencer Gore, the first champion, a Rackets player and cricketer who didn’t think lawn tennis would catch on, but was himself decreed to be “much the best player of the year” in the inaugural year of competition in 1877.

What was Victorian Wimbledon like? Umpires wore top hats, the tournament was only the Gentlemen’s Singles and a champion who won the Cup three times in succession was allowed to go home with it as his possession. The Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles started in 1884.

Who kept taking the Cup home for keeps? William Renshaw who won in 1881, 1882 and 1883. The AELTC bought a replacement but, after three successive victories from 1884-1886, the powerful right-handed Renshaw took that home too. In total, he collected seven singles titles, setting a standard only Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have matched.

The Solution. In 1887, the Club purchased a new Challenge Cup – the trophy that is presented today. The Committee decided it would never become the property of the winner. The winner could hold it until July 1 in the following year “on or before which day he must return it to the Secretary of the All England Club; but it shall not be taken out of the United Kingdom”.

“There is an absolutely delightful quote about the rules for the new Challenge Cup written in the Club Committee minutes in May 1887,” says Honor. “It reads, ‘If won by a foreign amateur, it shall be deposited (on his leaving the United Kingdom) at a Bank in London, or elsewhere, at the choice of the Committee'."

 

No.1 –  The Field Cup (1877 – 1883)

No. 2 – Letterpress poster for the Wimbledon Championships 1893 

No.3 – Art Deco figure 1920s 

No.4  –  Billie Jean King’s Wilson T2000 steel racket

No. 5 – Box of Slazenger Tennis Balls 1922

No. 6 – Tennis Apron 1880s 

No. 7 – Bjorn Borg’s shirt 1980 

No. 8 – Roger Federer’s Shoes 2012 

No. 9 – Bethanie Mattek-Sands’s football socks 

No. 10 – Home-made banner for Andy Murray

No. 11 – Rufus the Hawk’s Hood and Championships Pass

No. 12 – Andy Murray’s ankle braces

No. 13 – Queue Card Day 9

Gallery

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