Ipswich Free Handicap Cup 1866 1865
Silver and parcel gilt, 28.6 x 27.2 x 14.9 cm
Ipswich Art Gallery Collection. Acquired with funds donated by the Ipswich CEO Network through the Ipswich Arts Foundation, 2004

The Ipswich Free Handicap Cup was awarded to the winner of the fifth race in the Ipswich Christmas Races held on 26 and 27 December 1866. The Free Handicap Race was open to all horses and run over a distance of two miles. The winner of the event ‘by a length’ had their name engraved on the cup: ‘Won by Jibboom, Owner: Mr A Nicoll’. Valued at 40 Guineas in 1866, the raised shield-shaped sterling silver cup is flanked by two cast silver scrolled handles, has a parcel gilt interior and is richly decorated in repousse with garlands of English oak, riding boots, crops, stirrups and a horseracing scene. It is of English manufacture and was presumably acquired for the Ipswich Turf Club and engraved locally. The maker’s mark, the initials ‘RMEH’ in a quatrefoil, is struck into the cup’s outside upper rim and reveals the manufacturer to be Martin Hall & Co. Sheffield, England. Other marks include, in order: a lion passant, the assay mark for sterling silver; the letter ‘W’ in a square, indicating the year of manufacture to be 1864/65; a crown, the town mark for Sheffield; and a duty mark, the erased head of a young Queen Victoria. It is not surprising that an English firm made the cup because locally-made silver was unobtainable in Queensland at the time; the State’s first working silversmith, Charles Allen Brown, did not establish his business in Brisbane until the early 1870s. The cup’s substantial proportions amply illustrate the wealth and prosperity of the township of early Ipswich, which at one stage rivalled Brisbane to become the state’s capital. Thanks to their extraordinary generosity of the Ipswich CEO’s network and the Ipswich Arts Foundation, the cup is now proudly on display at the Ipswich Art Gallery where it stands as an eloquent testimony to the City’s proud sporting past.