AUCTIONEER’S CALL TO SAVE THE MEDWAY BARGE RACING TROPHIES

Fifteen cups dating from 1904 to 1963 in sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries

It is already too late to save many of the iconic Medway barges but thanks to a sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries later this month, it will be possible to rescue a collection of barge racing trophies from at best being sold abroad or at worst, being melted down by their purchasers for their silver content.

The 15 imposing prize cups were won by barges Scotia, Cambria, Sara and Veronica owned by F.T.Everard and Sons Ltd., who during the inter war years maintained one of the largest fleets of sailing barges, coasters and ships on the East Coast and Thames Estuary.

The trophies will be sold in The Canterbury Auction Galleries’ two-day sale on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 29-30.

They cover the period from the first Thames Coasting Class Sailing Barge Match in June 1905, in which the Everard vessel Scotia came third, to 1963, the centenary year of the Thames Sailing Barge Match, when Veronica came in first.

In the same year, with the demise of sailing barges deemed to be inevitable, Everards and their great rivals, Maurice Gillʼs, London & Rochester Trading Company, decided to cease racing. Having fought so hard to win at any expense, the two companies sadly dispersed the vessels in which they had taken such pride.

Sara was broken up at Greenhithe, while Veronica was sold off as a houseboat, never to race or sail again. A few years later she was hulked at Bedlams Bottom on the Medway together with her main rival, Gill’s, Sirdar, the remains of both of which are now all but gone.

Fortunately, enthusiast bargemen have since kept the traditions alive and in 1965, barge racing started again on the Medway and continues today.

Cambria, built and launched from Everard’s yard at Greenhithe, was restored with Heritage Lottery funding by the Cambria Trust and powered by wind and tide alone, she has competed in most matches on the East Coast in every year since her relaunch, adding to her success of cups awarded in 1928, 1936 and 1938 on the River Medway,

Similarly the trophies they battled so hard to win live on. A two-handled cup engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match – 16th June 1936 – Second Prize – Coasting Sailing Barges – Won by Cambria” is estimated at £400-600, while another engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match, 23rd June 1938 – Coasting Class – First Prize – Won by Cambria, (owners F.T Everard & Sons – Captain Finch)” is estimated at £500-700.

Most valuable trophy in the collection is a George V silver three-handled tyg engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match – 5th June 1937 – Coasting Class – First Prize – Won by Veronica“. It was made by silversmith Henry Atkin, and assayed (tested for silver quality) in Sheffield in 1935. At 68 ounces, the trophy is the heaviest in the collection and consequently estimated at £700-900 (auction estimates are based on weight of silver). The other 14 are lighter, each weighing an average of around 40 ozs, but it is the historical importance of the trophies where their true value really lies. Quantifying that is difficult, if not impossible.

The collection includes four other trophies awarded to Veronica respectively in 1934, 1935, 1957 and 1963, with estimates ranging from £275 to £700.

The collection’s earliest trophy is a three-handled cup engraved “First Thames Coasting Class Sailing Barge Match, June 1905 – Third Prize – Won by Scotia F.T Everard Owner & Builder – F.W. Fuller, Captain”, assayed in Birmingham in 1904. The only one won by the barge in the collection, it is estimated at £450-600.

Victories by Sara are recalled by a two-handled cup engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match – 21st June 1930 – River (Bowsprit) Class – First Prize – Won by Sara” (estimate £450-600); a cup with cover engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match – 5th June 1937 – Champion Bowsprit Class – First prize – Won by Sara” (£650-800); a late Victorian  cup and cover engraved “Grand Coronation Thames & Medway Barge Sailing Match, 1953 – A Champion Bowsprit Class – First Prize – Presented by The Joint Committee –  Won by Sara” (£500-700) and from the following year, a two-handled cup engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match – 26th June 1954 – Champion Bowsprit Class – 1st Prize – Won by Sara” (£450-600).

Auctioneer Tony Pratt said he hoped the various trophies would be saved. “The Medway was once thick with barges, delivering bricks and cement to London and returning laden with the capital’s waste that was used to fire the brick kilns,” he said.

“Captains soon began challenging each other to see who had the fastest barges and official racing started on the Thames in 1863. The first official race on the Medway was in 1880 with Everard and Gill becoming fierce competitors to the point where barges like Veronica were refitted to make them faster.

“It would be a tragedy if these trophies go the same way as the barges that won them.”

The trophies will be sold on the first of the two-day sale.

Free public viewing is as follows: Saturday November 26, from 10am-4pm, Sunday November 27, 12 noon-4pm, Monday November 28, 10am-7pm and on the morning of the sales from 8:30. For further information, please contact the auctioneer, telephone 01227 763337 or general@tcag.co.uk.

Picture shows the most valuable trophy, engraved “Medway Barge Sailing Match – 5th June 1937 – Coasting Class – First Prize – Won by Veronica“.

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