This splendid solid silver cup belongs to the Cornwall Rugby Football Union but originated with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI) whose home was in Victoria barracks, now the site of Bodmin Keep. It is awarded to the winners of the ‘Junior Club Knockout Competition’ each season which brings together teams in the second tier of adult rugby in the county. Engraved around the base of the trophy is the winner of the competition for each year who decorate the cup with ribbons in their club colours. The photograph shows the cup decorated in the colours of Bodmin Rugby Football Club who won the cup last season for only the second time in the club’s history. As is tradition, following the presentation of the cup to the club, the players took to celebrating their victory with filling the cup with a selection of alcoholic beverages.
During its much needed clean, the true quality of the cup was recognised. It was made in 1889 in London from solid silver and stamped with the markings A.B. H.H.W. These reveal the manufacturer to be Alfred Benson and Henry Hugh Webb. Despite being of excellent quality, with years of high jinks and celebration it is now showing its age with the handle starting to separate from the body.
Originally the cup was a gift from Colonel Edward St Aubyn to the Officers of the Royal Cornwall Rangers Militia who became the 3rd Battalion of the DCLI. The Colonel was a member of the Militia from 1855 and commanded it from 1884 to 1889. The Militia have a history going back hundreds of years. During the nineteenth century it relied upon volunteers. Members were trained for 56 days upon enlistment and carried out further training for 21-28 days per year. They were paid at regular soldier’s rates whilst training and paid a retainer each year. The Keep in Bodmin was originally built as a depot (store and HQ) of the Cornish Militia and Volunteers before housing the DCLI.
Silver cups such as this, often become part of the Regimental silver which is proudly displayed during Officers mess dinners and functions. As the militia reduced and merged into the DCLI, eventually disbanding in 1953, this piece of regimental silver no longer had a use. It was likely gifted to the Cornwall Rugby Football Union following the end of the Militia. The full history of Cornwall Militia and other Cornish military units can be found at the Bodmin Keep.
It was decided to return the Cup to the safekeeping of Bodmin Keep Museum to be awarded each year to the winners of the Junior Rugby Knockout Cup. And so, by accident, the cup returned home to Bodmin in more ways than one.