The Birkett Rugby Union Archive
One of the most rewarding facets of auctioneering is being entrusted with family heirlooms that tell a remarkable story, while being given the opportunity to expose such stories to the wider public. This often happens when we are privileged to auction a family’s military medals, but it also happens in a sporting context too.
The Birkett Family is one such remarkable story, and those of you who follow football and rugby may well be asking yourself how you did not know this story already.
We start with Reginald Halsey Birkett or Reg, who was born in 1849. Reg’s stature in Victorian sport is immense; he played for the famous Clapham Rovers sporting club, where he alternated between association football and rugby football. He played in the first International rugby match 150 years ago, in 1871, in which he scored the first ever try in an International rugby match. He was also a committee member of the first Rugby Football Union which commenced 150 years ago.
In association football the same Reg was in the side that scored the first goal in the history of the FA Cup in 1871. He played football in two back-to-back FA Cup finals in 1879 and 1880, winning the cup in 1880.
He also sat on the Football Association sub-committee that was created to lay down the rules for the FA Cup. And in the 1870s was a selector for the England football team.
Reg’s brother’s, Louis and Percival also played rugby and Louis played for England four times, twice in tandem with Reg.
It is certainly a lot to take in! So, remembering that he scored the first try in the first International rugby match and winning the FA Cup is a good start!
John Guy Giberne Birkett was Reg’s son and born in 1884. He played rugby for England a record 21 times, including when they won the inaugural Five Nations Championship in 1910. Echoing the feat of his father, he was the first try scorer at Twickenham Stadium, while representing Harlequins against Richmond. John GG Birkett served on the RFU for more than a decade.
John’s son, also John - John Brian Birkett, played rugby for Harlequins, Headingly, and the Army. It was a true rugby dynasty.
Lots # to # include an incredible pocketbook belonging to Victorian Reg Birkett which logged Clapham Rovers’ football and rugby season in 1870-1871 while he and his fellow players flitted from association to rugby rules while on the cusp of the commencement of the Rugby Football Union.
There is also an England jersey from John Birkett and one of the most immaculate rugby caps from the Edwardian period, we have ever offered for sale. Between these superb artefacts is an astonishing array of detailed scrapbooks, ephemera and match-worn jerseys and caps which have never been seen before outside of the family.
The collection has been entered for sale by Reg’s great-great grandsons, who have made an enormous decision to auction such historic items. One of the reasons they took the decision to sell, was that the artefacts and the stories within, were stored away, concealed to the public. They felt that it was time for the story of Reg, John GG Birkett and (John) Brian Birkett who formed an incredible sporting dynasty to be told.