6 May 2021

A Closer Look At The World’s Oldest Sporting Trophy

A trophy is a symbol of victory and something that all different types of athletes strive to claim. Although just a material object, for many people a trophy is the manifestation of their dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. It becomes something to strive for as they focus on their skill.

When most people think of trophies, they think of the types of awards you’ll find at nettrophy.com. Cups, statues, and other products represent modern and traditional ideas of how to recognize a victor. These types of trophies have roots far into the past. Modern-day cup trophies are reminiscent of cups and chalices that were awarded at sporting events as far back as the 1600s, but if you go even further into history, you’ll find that sporting trophies looked quite different from what we think of today.

The oldest known sporting trophy isn’t something most of us would easily recognize as a trophy or award. The trophy is known as The Carlisle Bells and they date back to 1559. Aptly named, they are two small spherical bells that were meant to be awarded to the winner of the Carlisle Bell race at Carlisle, Cumbria in the United Kingdom.

Image result for horse race Carlisle

Both of the bells are inscribed to denote their significance, the larger one stating “The sweftes horse thes bel to tak for mi lade Deker sake” or “The swiftest horse this bell to take for my lady Dacre’s sake” as we might say in modern English. The smaller of the pair is inscribed “1599 H.B.M.C”, which historians believe stands for “Henry Baines, Mayor of Carlisle”.

The Carlisle Bell is a flat horse race that was first run in 1599 and still continues today. The Carlisle Bells may have started out as a trophy, but today the delicate antiques are now kept at the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Newmarket, Suffolk, England–after being lost for many years and were later rediscovered in the late 1800s.

The bells are understandably quite fragile and cherished for their historical significance. Despite this, they are being carefully packed up to make a 550-mile round trip for the modern-day Carlisle Bell. Their showing is slated to become an annual affair with the race and will give enthusiasts a chance to fully appreciate how this specific sporting event has survived and thrived through centuries—all through the embodiment of a very unique type of trophy.