The Richmond Gold Cup was one of the great Georgian flat races. Four miles, eight of the finest thoroughbreds of the day, and an ancient course set in the rolling Capability Brown parklands of Aske Hall.
Such a contest merited a rich prize and in 1763, when Aske Hall
was sold for £45,000, the new owner Sir Lawrence Dundas (1712-1781)
suggested his architect Robert Adam might design the winner's
prize. He arranged for its execution in silver gilt by the London
goldsmiths Daniel Smith and Robert Sharp.
Adam's original sketch for A Vase for Thomas Dundas Esq., for a
Prize survives in the John Soanes Museum. Executed c.1763 in a
newly fashionable style, it is perhaps the first directly
attributable neoclassical design for a piece of silver.
It seems that the design was favoured as the annual prize up until
1770, so perhaps half a dozen of the deluxe 300 guinea cups were
made. The first is hallmarked 1764 and - following its sale at
auction in 1987 for £66,000 - now resides in the Museum of Fine
In 1767, the winner was Chatsworth, a pacy and durable runner (he
placed second in 1768 and again in 1769). Chatsworth was a direct
descendent of Gadolphin Arabian, one of the four bloodline
stallions from which all thoroughbred racehorses descend.
The cup awarded to Peregrine Wentworth (1722-1809) of Toulston
Lodge who co-owned the horse with Sir Lawrence Dundas. In his will,
dated February 9, 1809, Wentworth wrote: To the Duke of Leeds my
cup won many years ago at Richmond Races by my horse Chatsworth. It
was the only item in his trophy cabinet he bequeathed by
This magnificent piece of George III silver gilt was the highlight
of the silver sale conducted by Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury
on October 19. It stands 183/4in (48cm) high and its combination of
superb cast, engraved and chased decoration weighs in at
It is inscribed around the rim Richmond 1767, Sir Henry Lawson
Bart, Tennison Shafto Esq (stewards) and around the foot Won by
Chatsworth, the property of Peregrine Wentworth Esq, beating
Fortune Hemp, Mewburn, Beaufremont and Silvo.
As part of the so-called Fauconberg and Conyers heirlooms, it was
making its first appearance on the market. This cache of family
silver (the engraved crests and armorials were primarily those of
the Dukes of Leeds and their relations) had been stored in banks
and - judging by the copies of the Yorkshire Post of 1929 and the
Morning Post of 1928 that provided wrapping - appeared to have last
been examined at the time of the Depression.
It was the copy of the Yorkshire Post that sparked interest in the
trophy in its native north. The Post, currently celebrating its
250th anniversary, was keen to carry the story about a masterpiece
'discovered' wrapped in its pages and one of its readers felt
sufficiently passionate about the tale as to catch a train to
Salisbury on the morning of sale day and attempt an act of
Richmond in North Yorkshire has one of the earliest documented
racecourses in England and played an important role in the rapid
expansion in horseracing promoted by the monarchy between 1680 and
The Gold Cup almost made its way back to Richmond. The gentleman
bid strongly above the £50,000-60,000 estimate but proved the
underbidder against some smoke and mirrors bidding from the
opposition at £90,000 (plus 15 per cent buyer's premium).