St Helen’s ArchivePreserving the past for the future



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City of Swansea: Swansea Museum Collection


The Sweet Collection, Swansea Museum




Photograph, B&W, Swansea First Fifteen 1879-80 season. South Wales Challenge Cup Winners. Dimensions: w10 1/2" x h8" (w26.5cm x h20.5cm).


Swansea RFC 1st XV 1879-1880. Winners of the South Wales Challenge Cup.
Back Row (L to R): Frank Carlyle, Charles Bath, Fred Meager, William Roberts, William Bancroft (senior).
2nd Row (L to R):James Doggett, Frederick Jones, Robert Brown, Arthur Richardson (captain), Dai Gwynn, Walter Walters, Eben Jones, Tom Clarke.
Front Row (L to R): W H Gwynn, E Clark, S Croot.This photograph is the oldest known image of any Swansea Rugby team. It represents the Swansea RFC First Fifteen at the end of the 1879-80 season and is part of the 'Sweet Collection' at Swansea Museum, who have kindly allowed a digital copy to be made for the St Helen's Archive. E F (Ernest Fair) Sweet played for the Swansea club between 1880 and 1885. This photograph is in the family collection. The significance of the image lies not only in its depicting the only known representations of some early players; but also it allows us an early close up view of the first properly constructed pavilion building, which stands behind the players. But perhaps the image's greatest story lies in the very centre of the photograph. A cursory glance tells the observer that the trophy was not in the original photograph. Indeed it was some 50 miles travel away in Newport. Twice South Wales Challenge Cup winners Newport, were beaten by Swansea in the first round of the competition for 1879-80. A dispute about the only try of the match spilled into the local newspapers. While Newport continued to dispute the result, Swansea went on to win the Cup Final, beating Lampeter College in March 1880. It was the clubs' first ever piece of silverware. But Newport refused to relinquish the trophy. So this image was taken with the players fully aware that the photographer Mr James Andrews would superimpose the trophy afterwards in his Victoria Road studio, having photographed it in Newport! A digitally restored version accompanies this archive entry, to facilitate a clearer view of the subject. A reprint of the photograph in a 1906 Swansea newspaper revealed the personnel in the image (see: NC009).



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