#FromTheVaults – Twickenham Stadium Deed of Conveyance, 1907

Many years ago on a long gone version of our website, we hosted an ‘Object of the Month’ feature, delving into our archives to explore some of our hidden treasures. As it’s the start of a new year and a new decade, it seems the perfect time to revive this project. Out of our 40,000 objects, only 1.4% are on display so there is plenty of unseen collection for you, our readers, to discover!

So we’re going to kick off this series with the Deed of Conveyance for Twickenham Stadium. This four-page document, bound by a green ribbon, states that the land on which Twickenham Stadium stands today was purchased by the RFU on 9th August 1907 for the price of £5,572.12s 6d.

Yellowed paper with calligraphy style writing and a map of the land that was bought for Twickenham Stadium

Continue reading

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On This Day 100 Years Ago…

On this day 100 years ago, one of England’s most iconic captains donned an England jersey for the first time.

William Wavell Wakefield

Born in Beckenham in 1898, William Wavell Wakefield grew up on the shores of Lake Windermere in Cumbria before attending Craig School then Sedburgh.

There he developed as a combative running forward, with a distinctive head down hand-off that sent his opponents flying. Away from rugby, he was an amateur aeronaut. His uncle had built one of the first ever aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water and the juvenile Wakefield became one of its first pilots. Continue reading

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Historic Rugby Internationals: New Zealand v Australia, 1991

The semi-finals of the second Rugby World Cup held in Britain and France in the autumn of 1991 featured two clashes between historic rivals.  On Saturday October 26th England beat Scotland narrowly by 9-6 at Murrayfield through a drop goal from their fly half Rob Andrew with seven minutes of the match remaining.  It was the 108th clash between the two old adversaries and, as so often in these matches, the power of the English pack secured the day for England and ensured their position in the Final a week later.

The other semi-final between New Zealand and Australia took place a day later at Lansdowne Road in Dublin and was no less steeped in history.  It was the 93rd match between the All Blacks and the Wallabies and in recent years these fixtures had become very close contests.  Both sides had fought hard to reach the semi-finals and Australia had needed a last minute try by their fly half Michael Lynagh to beat Ireland in a thrilling quarter-final at Lansdowne Road a week earlier. Continue reading

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Australia’s Golden Touch

Rugby and the Olympics exhibition at the World Rugby Museum. Image of exhibition room with display cases.

One of the prized objects in our new Rugby and the Olympics exhibition is the 1908 Gold Olympic medal, awarded to a member of the Australian rugby team. One of 110 gold medals awarded during the London Games, this medal was Australia’s only gold of the championships.

The designer of the 1908 medal, Bertram Mackennal, was an Australian sculptor and medallist, making Australia’s victory even more fitting. On the obverse side of the medal, two female figures are pictured placing a laurel crown on the head of a young, victorious athlete. The inscription “Olympic Games London 1908” dominates the bottom half. On the reverse, there is figure of St George, patron saint of England—the host nation for the 1908 Games. Continue reading

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Spotlight on Dan Carroll

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Dan Carroll was born in Australia in 1887 and holds the honour of being the only rugby player to be a dual Olympic gold medalist for different qualifying nations.

Carroll was selected to play for Australia as part of their 1908/1909 rugby tour to Great Britain and France. At 20 years old, he was the youngest member of the tour squad but was still selected to play in the first test match against Wales in Cardiff – the first test match Australia would ever play on British soil. The tour coincided with the 1908 London Olympics and so Carroll had the opportunity to take part, earning his first gold medal.

In 1912 Carroll was again selected to play for the Australia team that would tour Canada and the USA. At the end of the tour, Carroll decided to remain in America and went on to play and coach rugby at Stanford University. He played his first rugby test match for the USA in 1913 and played for the USA side that beat France in the 1920 Belgium Olympic Games.

This secured him his 2nd Olympic gold medal and ensured his place in the history books.

Carroll played his last game of rugby in 1921 before embarking on a career with Standard Oil. He remained in America until his death in 1956.

Our latest Special Exhibition ‘Rugby and the Olympics’ is running until Summer 2020.


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Lions on the High Veldt

The following is an adapted extract from Peter Jones’ book, Newport Rugby Greats.

The Lions forwards of the 1938 party were widely admired for their refusal to give up despite the first two Test defeats. One local correspondent praised the fact that they “gamely and unstintingly stood up to a tremendous task”.

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British Isles tour party, 1938

Having learned his rugby in the hard school of Pill RFC from the age of 15, Bunner Travers was never going to be a pushover. The son of one of the key Welsh forwards in THAT match in 1905, the tour turned into something of a personal triumph for Bunner. Conditions in South Africa suited him – hard, fast grounds allowed him to show his speed around the park, and he relished the physicality of Springbok forward play. By the end of the tour he was widely touted as the best hooker seen in any touring side. Quite an accolade from a nation of rugby purists. In one tour match his hosts marvelled at his ability to hook clean ball from a Lions scrum that was down to just five men.

The Lions played some dazzling open rugby to win the Third Test, but the fact that they carried their prop forward skipper Sam Walker off the field on their shoulders showed the old rugby truism – that the game is won and lost in the contact zone. Continue reading

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War Games: Rugby in 1939

Late summer 1939: it was time for Australia’s rugby men, the Wallabies, to return to the shores of what many still saw as the Mother Country. Sadly the invitation was as well timed as the worst of hospital passes. International tensions had risen in the late ’30s, with Germany’s flouting of the Versailles terms and her moves into Austria and Czechoslovakia, Italy’s expansionist moves in Africa, the Spanish Civil War, for which more than one Welsh rugby man volunteered, and Japan’s aggression in the Pacific.

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Scotland v England Programme 1939

Appeasement in Europe gave an impression of bringing breathing – and recruitment – space after 1938. Rugby proceeded as normal, with a three way tie in the Championship, Scotland the unlucky wooden-spooners. France had been promised a provisional return to the fold for 1940.

England’s 9-6 Calcutta Cup win in Scotland on 18th March was to prove the last international game before the Second World War. Although seven would return to international rugby after it, six players who took part in the game, four of them airmen, would lose their lives on active service.

Both fullbacks were to fall, Scotland’s George Roberts as a Japanese PoW in 1943 and England’s Ernest Parsons from NZ, whose only test was that Murrayfield clash. He was a bomber pilot who won the DFC but was to die over Italy in 1940, just one day before England prop and airman Derek Teden. From the back rows, Scotland’s Donald Mackenzie, RAF, and England’s Robert Marshall, Navy, DSC and bar, were to perish in 1940 and 1945 respectively, while Scotland scrum-half Tommy Dorward was to prove another RAF fatality in 1941.

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‘Vay’ Wilson at sea

For as September 1939 dawned, Germany had invaded Poland and appeasement was at an end. After a long sea voyage (with some training), the Australian tourists under skipper ‘Vay’ Wilson arrived in Penzance on September 2nd, due to play 28 matches in ten months: the next day, war was declared. Continue reading

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