The Contest for Doggett's Coat & Badge A Prize rowed for every 1sy Augst.
Engraving 160 x 125mm 5 x 6ľ".
View of the River Thames looking towards the north bank near Blackfriars Bridge, with St Paulís Cathedral to the far right. Spectators on shore and in boats are watching watermen. Thomas Doggett, an Irish comedian and joint manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, provided in his will dated 10th September 1721, for a prize of a coat and silver badge to be rowed for annually by six watermen within a year of completing their apprenticeships. Doggett was no innovator in founding a race, as it was common custom for rowing wagers to take place on the river. Being a Whig, he was passionately devoted to the House of Hanover and laid down that the race was to be held each '1st day of August forever' to commemorate the accession of George I, and he even adopted upon his silver badge the White Horse of Hanover with 'Liberty' for the motto. Doggett organised the race himself from 1715 until his death in 1721, when he left instructions for the event to be managed by Mr Edward Burt of the Admiralty Office. However, as this proved too much of a burden, it was arranged that the executors of his will paid over to the Fishmongers' Company £300 and that the company, who also added £50 to the fund, should carry out Doggett's instructions. The course was originally four and half miles long from 'The Swan' at London Bridge to 'The Swan' at Chelsea. The Barge Master of the Fishmongers' Company would start the race and the Clerk of the Watermen and Lightermen's Hall would receive a fee of thirty shillings from each competitor (indicating that at one time the whole event was arranged by that company). As a real test of stay and endurance, the race used to be rowed in heavy old wherries which had to be pulled up against the ebb tide - sometimes it took contestants nearly two hours to row the distance! By 1769 all vessels had to be 'common Scullers Boats' and examined by the Fishmonger's Company. Originally, the six watermen were drawn by lots which meant that not all contestants had a fair chance of winning. Later in the 19th century a trial heat system at Putney was introduced to select the final best six men for the race. The winner was paraded every year at a banquet at Fishmongers' Hall wearing a bright crimson coat with the silver badge on his right arm. At first the Coat and Badge formed the only prize, although later it was decided that the Fishmongers' Company should add ten pounds for the first prize and smaller sums of money for the runners up. A famous winner in 1730 was John Broughton, a champion pugilist. Another famous name was William Giles East, the Sculling Championship of England. Doggett's Coat & Badge race is the oldest annually contested event in the British sporting calendar.
[Ref: 12160] £95.00