Bonhams to Auction Oldest Cricket Artefact Sporting Memorabilia Sale on 30 May

Bonhams to be sell the oldest known cricket artefact outside the British Isles, a belt buckle featuring an Afro-European slave playing cricket in Barbados, in its Sporting Memorabilia sale on 30 May 2012 in Chester.

The buckle, which has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £100,000 – 150,000, was discovered by Clive Williams, a retired advertising consultant from London, with a metal detector that had been given to him by his wife while on holiday near the River Tweed in the Scottish borders in 1979. He cleaned it to discover the figure of a mixed race slave playing cricket, holding a cricket bat and in the act of being bowled out. By chance, Williams was a cricket fanatic and had worked in the West Indies and so he began to research his find.

With the help of institutions such as the M.C.C. at Lord’s, The British Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, it has been concluded that the buckle features an Afro-European slave playing cricket in Barbados circa 1780. This makes it the earliest known secular sportsman depicted in the Americas.

It is believed to connect to the Hotham family who have centuries old connections to the West Indies, the Royal Navy and cricket. The Admiral Sir Alan Hotham (1876-1975) was a cricket devotee and lived upstream from where the Buckle was found. In the 1780s his ancestor, the 1st Baron Admiral William Hotham (1736-1813), served in the West Indies, notably Barbados, during the American War of Independence.

As a result of its depiction and provenance, it has been described by the Pulitzer-winning author, James A Michener as “a valued piece of social history”, while the late C L R James, the celebrated Afro-Trinidadian historian, journalist, theorist and writer on cricket, who orchestrated the research programme, said: “The little buckle and its fascinating story enrich cricket and must go on enriching the whole world…”

Since its discovery, the buckle has featured on postage stamps of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago; gold and silver Royal Mint coins for the Central Bank of Barbados, International Cricket trophies and Man of the Match awards; and has appeared in publications including Muscular Learning: Cricket and Education in the Making of the British West Indies by Professor Clem Seecheran and Afro-Creole by Professor R D E Burton.
This is the first time that the buckle has appeared at auction.

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