Previously unknown Sussex trophy revealed

Previously unknown Sussex trophy revealed

Sussex County Croquet Club has some old, historic even, trophies; the oldest currently in the club’s possession is the Moore Cup which started out as the Bryan Challenge Cup in 1904. We now have news of an older trophy dating to 1901. We were alerted to its existence by the gentleman in whose possession it is, asking for information about its background and history.

photos courtesy of the owner

This trophy, hallmarked 1901 in sterling silver, was presented by one William Henry Pugh. William Pugh was born in Waterford Ireland in 1843 and became an Inland Revenue officer working in various parts of the country before settling in Stamford Avenue Brighton with his family. His connection to croquet is completely unknown; his name does not appear in any of the tournaments of the period. We can only guess at his reasons for making this donation.

photos courtesy of the owner

In any case, the trophy was won by Mrs G W N Rogers (nee Florence Crichton Jenkins, 1855 - 1929) who was the wife of Col. George Williams Nesbitt Rogers (1847 – 1921) at a competition dated August 1901.

Her husband Col Rogers was in the Royal Irish Regiment and rose through the officer ranks whilst serving in India and Ireland, becoming Lt Colonel after taking an active part in the Egyptian Campaign in 1882. On his return to Britain he married Florence in 1883 and took a command at Aldershot before returning with Florence to India where he remained until 1893. They finished their service in Ireland where he was appointed full colonel as 2nd in command of the regiment. By 1900 they had returned to Sussex and finally settled in Albany Villas, Hove. They had (as far as we can find) no children.

Col and Mrs Rogers were very early members of the Club and of the Croquet Association and were clearly very involved in its development. Col Rogers held a debenture in the club for the purchase of the land and was on the organising committee of several of the early open tournaments. He was Club Chairman and Treasurer from 1911 – 1920.

Probably they learnt to play croquet in Ireland as Mrs Rogers was already a tournament player in 1900 when she played in West Worthing in June 1900, reaching the 4th round of the Ladies Singles and was noted in the Field report that she was “one of two new players of merit”. In any case, Mrs Rogers seems to have been much more the player than her husband. We find him playing in the doubles events in early tournaments but she features in the singles both at Sussex County and at tournaments held along the south coast in Worthing and Eastbourne, both of which held large open events. She seems to have been a reasonably successful player for, although never winning any of the published events, she was often found in the later round.

The most important Sussex County tournament in 1901 was the Autumn Tournament which ran from Sept 9th to 14th. Both played in this event, with the Colonel on the organising committee. He played in the B class singles (handicap 7 bisques reaching the 5th round; the Field magazine (a magazine of largely country pursuits, founded in 1853 and still published today) noted in its report on the event the he was “showing promise for the future”). Mrs Rogers (playing off 5 bisques) played in the Ladies Singles, where she reached the third round, and the Open Handicap Singles, reaching the 4th round. They played together in the Doubles Handicap but were beaten in the 2nd round.

As we can see, the Autumn Tournament was not the competition in which Mrs Rogers won this trophy, for that was in September and this cup is engraved August, and she does not appear in the published list of winners. What competition was it then? Sadly we don’t know. It seems most likely this was a monthly club competition, which the club had said they would run earlier the same year, rather than an open tournament and we no longer have records of these. It cannot have been intended as one (or the start) of a regular series as Mrs Rogers won the trophy outright. It remained with her as the only holder, which is unique among the trophies we have results of, but may of course have been common in the early years.

Mrs Rogers continued to play competitive croquet for a number of years. With a handicap of around 5 bisques.

As indicated earlier, Col and Mrs Rogers had no children; the present owner of the trophy believes the Rogers were friends of his family. However that may be, we can be happy the trophy remains something of interest nearly a century and a quarter later.

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