1902 trophy,
Lot 241
A 1901 highly important Arts & Crafts sterling silver Automobile Club 'Whitmonday Bexhill Speed Trials 1902' winner's trophy, by C R Ashbee, awarded to Leon Serpollet, The first ever automobile race to be held on British soil,
US$ 70,000 - 90,000
£57,000 - 73,000

Lot Details
A 1902 highly important Arts & Crafts sterling silver Automobile Club 'Whitmonday Bexhill Speed Trials' winner's trophy, by C R Ashbee, awarded to Leon Serpollet,  The first ever automobile race to be held on British soil, A 1902 highly important Arts & Crafts sterling silver Automobile Club 'Whitmonday Bexhill Speed Trials' winner's trophy, by C R Ashbee, awarded to Leon Serpollet,  The first ever automobile race to be held on British soil, A 1902 highly important Arts & Crafts sterling silver Automobile Club 'Whitmonday Bexhill Speed Trials' winner's trophy, by C R Ashbee, awarded to Leon Serpollet,  The first ever automobile race to be held on British soil, 1902 trophy, 1902 trophy, 1902 trophy, 1902 trophy, 1902 trophy, 1902 trophy,
A 1901 highly important Arts & Crafts sterling silver Automobile Club 'Whitmonday Bexhill Speed Trials 1902' winner's trophy, by C R Ashbee, awarded to Leon Serpollet, The first ever automobile race to be held on British soil,
hand-beaten fluted base attractively set with twelve ruby cabochons, with delicate flowing twist and ball decoration to the stem, leading up to cup of elegant ovoid form with simple flowing decoration, complete with lid with dramatic wide ruby-red enamel spread decoration surmouted with laurel-leaf finial holding a dark-ruby cabochon, the base deeply engraved around the perimeter 'THIS CUP WAS PRESENTED BY "THE COUNTY GENTLEMAN" TO THE WINNER OF THE SPEED TRIALS HELD BY THE AUTOMOBILE CLUB ON WHITMONDAY 1902', strongly impressed to side of cup and side of the lid base with sterling silver hallmarks for 'GofHLtd' (Guild of Handicrafts), London, 1901, created by highly acclaimed Arts & Crafts sculptor Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942) and produced by accomplished silversmiths Guild of Handicrafts, who held the Royal Warrant by Appointment to the Queen of England, the cup measuring 12 inches high, and 13¾ inches high including lid, and having a combined weight of 635 grammes.

A truly outstanding and highly impressive important piece of motoring history, this trophy is presented in it's original condition, with no discernable damage to enamel or cabochons. It is a remarkable survivor, and is believed not to have been seen publicly for 109 years.
It was awarded to the legendary racing driver and inventor Leon Serpollet for beating all other competitors at the very first International car race organised by the Royal Automobile Club ever held in England. He won his prize in a revolutionary and legendary steam vehicle, a 1902 'The Easter Egg', and beat C.S. Rolls to achieve his great honour.

This lot is offered for sale with full rights to the web domain of a dedicated website relating to the cup.

Please visit www.1902-bexhill-speed-trials-trophy.com


  • The 1902 Bexhill Race

    Whit Monday, May 19th 1902, saw the first motor race take place in Britain, staged on Bexhill's seafront and ever since, Bexhill has been regarded as the spiritual birthplace of British Motor Racing. During the Edwardian period Bexhill became the playground of the aristocracy.

    In May 1902, the 8th Earl De La Warr worked, in conjunction with the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, subsequently the Royal Automobile Club, to organise the very first automobile racing on British soil.

    Such was the occasion that thousands flocked to Bexhill to witness the unique spectacle. The very atmosphere reeked with the smell of paraffin with throbbing, puffing and snorting motors everywhere. Away up Galley Hill at the far end of the course one could see a puff of smoke and a fair-sized speck emerge from it. A few seconds later a monster dashes past, causing the very earth to tremble. Nothing could be seen of the drivers except a crouching figure with streaming hair, whose hands had a death-like grip of the steering wheel. Not only were straight sprint races run from east to west against the clock but cars raced side by side in the opposite direction, very much resembling the start of the Grand Prix races today. Distinguished names appeared on the entry list. There was Lord Northcliffe, the founder of the Daily Mail Newspaper in his Mercedes. Monsieur Leon Serpollet, the Frenchman, in his steam driven "Easter Egg" with the fastest speed of 54mph and the first French victory on British soil. The indefatigable Mr S F Edge, who ran his Napier against a large entry of French owned Darracqs, and many more well known personalities of the day.
    More than 200 entries competed in that inaugural meeting in 1902 and the local hotels and boarding houses were packed with the curious who had come to witness, for the first time on British soil, the spectacle of motor cars racing at speeds in excess of 50mph when the speed limit of the day was a mere 12 mph.

    Race Details

    Serpollet had fastest speed over the flying kilometre in his 120Hp steam car (the 'Easter Egg') taking 41.2 seconds equating to 54.5mph.
    Second best speed was 53.5 mph by Charles Stewart Rolls in a 20Hp Darracq driven by the French driver Baras.
    Charles Jarrott also reached 53.5mph in his 40Hp Panhard.
    Also in the heavier racing class Rolls entered his 28Hp and 40Hp Mors and both reached about 50mph.
    The 40Hp Daimler-Mercedes of Alfred Harmsworth only reached 46mph.
    The huge success of the meeting encouraged Earl De La Warr to make Bexhill the motoring centre for British racing drivers of the day. By 1906 plans were drawn up for a circuit almost reaching Beachy Head, with garages, restaurants and hotel accommodation. The course unfortunately never saw the light of day, and the motoring set moved to the new Brooklands circuit in 1907. A few attempts were made to resurrect the races, and the last competition was held in 1925 after which the Royal Automobile Club withdrew permits on public highways.

    Details on the Sculptor

    Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942) and the Guild and School of Handicraft (1888-1907)
    The Arts and Crafts artist and designer C. R. Ashbee studied under the architect G. F. Bodley, and took his inspiration from Ruskin to found a workmen's movement to combine a workshop of applied art with a teaching faculty - the Guild and School of Handicraft. In 1888 Ashbee also set up the Guild and School of Handicraft, at first London-based, at Toynbee Hall, and by 1890 with workshops at Essex House, Mile End Road, East London, and a depot in Brook Street, Hanover Square. After the turn of the century the works moved to Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds.
    The Guild of Handicraft specialised in jewellery, also coppersmithing and ironwork, enamelling, furniture, and later, book making. The School taught across a very full range of crafts. Ashbee himself was willing to do complete house design, including interior furniture and decoration, as well as items such as fireplaces. The Guild operated as a co-operative, and its stated aim was to:
    "seek not only to set a higher standard of craftsmanship, but at the same time, and in so doing, to protect the status of the craftsman. To this end it endeavours to steer a mean between the independence of the artist - which is individualistic and often parasitical - and the trade-shop, where the workman is bound to purely commercial and antiquated traditions, and has, as a rule, neither stake in the business nor any interest beyond his weekly wage."

    During 1902 Ashbee relocated the Guild out of London to begin an experimental community in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds . The Guild's work is characterized by plain surfaces of hammered silver, flowing wirework and colored stones in simple settings. Ashbee also designed jewellery and silver commissions.

    Guild of Handicrafts were by Appointment to the Queen.

    The Winner

    Leon Serpollet (1858-1907)
    Of humble birth, Leon Serpollet gradually forced his way to the front until he became probably the leading authority in the world on the subject of steam automobiles. It was about the year 1887 that he first devoted his attention to the question, his initial production being the three-wheel machine of which we give an illustration. In this the boiler was placed at the back of the two hind driving-wheels, the front wheel being the steerer in the usual way. The machine had no movable pedals, but in their place two fixed foot-rests were provided. This little vehicle was found of great utility for carrying a single passenger at a considerable speed, as, for example, in sending messages or delivering small packages. It could attain a pace of twenty miles an hour, its principal feature being the flash generator, which he developed to a high degree of perfection.
    Continuing his experiments, M. Serpollet, later, constructed several superheated-steam carriages, which proved remarkably successful, with the result that works were established for their manufacture on a commercial scale.
    Coincident with the building of steam motor-cars, he paid considerable attention to the construction of steam tramcars and rail motors, large numbers of which were turned out. Year after year he was a constant exhibitor at the Paris Salon, and when the announcement was made about a year ago of the formation of the Darracq-Serpollet Company to build steam omnibuses
    In 1896, Leon Serpollet invented and perfected the flash boiler, which made steam a much more practical source of power for an automobile. The oil-fired flash boiler fed steam to a very advanced four-cylinder enclosed engine similar to the contemporary petrol engine design including poppet valves and an enclosed crankcase.
    The Square Leon Serpollet in Paris is named in honour of this truly legendary and remarkable motoring visionary and pioneer.
    The park is situated on the site of Serpollet's old workshop. It was here, on rue Cloÿs, that Leon Serpollet designed the steam powered generator system. It was first used to propel tricycles built by Armand Peugeot and the streets of Montmartre were the testing grounds.

    His winning car

    'The Easter Egg'
    Engine: 4 cylinder Steam
    Weight:: 1,800Kg
    Power: 106bhp at 1220rpm
    Bore x Stroke : 75 x 90mm
    Maximum speed 54mph

    There are 1901 and 1902 Gardener-Serpollets at the Schlumpf French Motor Museum.
    There is a 1903 Gardner-Serpollet on display at Larz Anderson Auto Museum, America's oldest privately owned collection of automobiles, in Brookline, Massachusetts.
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