Boxers belt, London, c.1904. That’s all the information we had recorded about this boxer’s belt and I wanted to find out more.
We are currently running a project around Leeds Sporting Heritage aimed at more fully representing the diversity of sport in our City. Part of this involves deepening our understanding of Leeds Museums and Galleries existing collections, which is how I came to be looking at this belt.
So where do you start? Fortunately, the plates on this belt have a hallmark and there is a lot you can find out about an item from its hallmark.
The date letter on a hallmark tells you the year it was made. Here, the I written in this format, confirms it was made in 1904.
The assay office mark tells you which town or City the item was made in. The lion here confirms it was made in London.
The maker’s mark. For this belt, the maker’s mark was the biggest clue as it opened up information we didn’t previously know about the object.
Using an index for London makers marks I found out the mark belonged to a firm called Brothers & Co. As well as telling me who made the plate, this index also narrowed down the date for when belt was made. This particular makers mark was registered in August 1904 means the belt must have been made between August – December 1904.
Brothers & Co. went through a variety of name changes, but existed in some capacity from the late 1870s to the mid 1900s. They were engravers and manufacturers of small silver items, such as jewellery boxes, inkwells, perfume bottles and – it seems – boxing belts. When the belt was made the company was based in number 27-29 Northampton Square in Islington, London. At this time, the square was home to a variety of makers and trades including printing and stationary, jewellery, silver and dress and fur.
So why was this belt made? Without access to the account books of Corke Brothers & Co. (which would tell us who purchased either the belt or plates) this bit is harder to be sure about. But we can make some educated guesses.
It seems likely that if the belt was made in London, it was made for a boxing match in London. Whilst boxing matches were held at a variety of venues relatively frequently, what was less common were fights which offered significant prizes such as money, or a belt.
Judging from newspaper articles and advertisements, a large proportion of championship belt matches at this time seem to have been held at Wonderland on Whitechapel Road in the East End of London. Matches such as the 9st 2lbs Championship Belt Competition that went ahead on Saturday 7 January 1905 advertised for contestants and spectators to these events.
This is not enough evidence to say for certain that this belt was made for a match at Wonderland, but it is certainly a strong avenue for more research in the future. The nature of history is that we often can’t tie up all the loose ends, but that’s also what makes it interesting and keeps us coming back because there is always more that can be found out.
Through the Sporting Heritage project we are trying to do more of this and we even have a team of volunteers researching items of the collection. If you’d like to get involved with this we’re always open to more people joining in, so please email Catherine Robins.
By Catherine Robins, Projects Curator