Friday, August 22 - Long-lost Olympic medals sought by Devon historians

PUBLISHED: 10:57 22 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:32 10 June 2010

WITH a thrilling Beijing Olympics nearly drawing to a close, Devon historians are looking for answers to a long-lost Olympic mystery - what has happened to the gold medals won by a Devon team of cricketers at the Olympics 108 years ago?

WITH a thrilling Beijing Olympics nearly drawing to a close, Devon historians are looking for answers to a long-lost Olympic mystery - what has happened to the gold medals won by a Devon team of cricketers at the Olympics 108 years ago?

During the 1900 Paris Olympics the Devon County Wanderers represented the UK in the cricket finals. In a two-day match on 19 and 20 August 1900, they beat a French team in a 12-a-side game which was, with echoes of 2008's miserable summer, affected by the weather.

And as cricket has never featured since as an Olympic sport, Devon and the UK can claim to still be reigning gold medal champions to this day.

Now staff at Devon County Council's westcountry studies library are keen to hear from anyone who has any old documents, photos or memorabilia relating to this unique event.

Councillor Sheila Hobden, the county council's executive member for culture, said: "The big mystery is - were the Devon County Wanderers presented with gold medals? And if so, what has happened to them? Perhaps one is lying un-noticed in a Devon attic or maybe someone has old photographs or family records to give us some clues.

"We would be delighted if anyone with any information would like to contact (01392) 384216 or westcountry.studies@devon.gov.uk."

The trail has been made clearer by the research of local historian, Keith Gregson. In his book A Great Day for England he has traced the story of the match and the lives of the players who came from Somerset as well as Devon. Several went to Blundell's' School at Tiverton. Copies of Mr Gregson's book are available for loan through Devon libraries.

Devon players included John Symes (from Crediton), captain Arthur Birkett (Exeter), William Cuming (Bradninch), Montagu Toller (Barnstaple), and Arthur Powlesland, who was born in Broadwoodkelly.

The two-day game saw the UK batting first and scoring 117. France were then bowled out for 78. The UK scored 145 for 5 in their second innings, setting France a target of 185. They were then bowled out for 26.

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