CRYSTAL PALACE MEDALS (1892/1893)

MUSEUMFACTFILE
ClassificationAwards
CategoryMedallion
ArtifactCrystal Palace Silver Medals: - Best Two Kittens - Mr. E. Hill
DateOctober 18 & 19, 1892; October 17 & 18, 1893
Connection24th & 25th Annual Crystal Palace Cat Shows, of 1892 and 1893
CollectionThe Harrison Weir Collection
DescriptionSilver Medals depicting the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, London
Brief HistoryAwarded to the Best Two Kittens, bred and owned by Mr. Elliot Hill, of Fairholme, Helen's Bay, County Down, Ireland.
AcquisitionPurchased by John Smithson for The Harrison Weir Collection, 2017.

The Crystal Palace Show Medal, awarded to Mr. E. Hill in 1893
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

The National Cat Shows, were held either annually or bi-annually from the date of the first Crystal Palace Show in July 1871, through to 1895, during which time, they were successively organised by and under the auspices of The Crystal Palace Company. With the formation of the National Cat Club in 1887, the Crystal Palace Company saw an opportunity for the responsibility and organisation of what was now in effect the country's premier Show, to be passed to the club formed to serve as the first and official National Registry.

The first show held under the rules and auspices of the National Cat Club, with its organisation and responsibility falling on the Committee, was that held in October 1896; but the fixture remained with the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham, which had by this time become an event of historic significance and International interest. The new numbering of the National Cat Club's great annual Championship Show thus began with this show in 1896.

THE FIRST SIAMESE CATS IN ENGLAND

Siamese cats had had a presence at Crystal Palace Shows from the beginning. But at the time of the first Crystal Palace show, they were extremely rare. It is known that Lady Dororthy Nevill owned Siamese, from circa 1868/69, and exhibited a female named 'Miss Poodles' that was a prize-wnner at the Crystal Palace in May 1872. But a Mr. Maxwell, is reported in the press of the day as the owner of the Siamese exhibits that featured at the first Crystal Palace Show in 1871 and indeed it is likely that his female 'Mymie', who was exhibited with her kittens at the 1875 Crystal Palace Show, was 5 years old at that time, so she may have even been one of the young Siamese shown by Mr. Maxwell in 1871.

Among the other importers in the very early years, would have been firstly Mrs. Cunliffe Lee, whose cats are known to have been exhibited during the mid to late 1870's and then Lady Vyvyan (formerly Miss Gould) and her sister Miss Forestier Walker, who, aided by their brother Mr. Owen Gould, imported Pho and Mia from Bangkok in 1884. Mrs. Cunliffe Lee, Lady Vyvyan and Mrs. Forestier-Walker were certainly responsible for popularising the breed, and their Siamese feature in the record of the breeds establishment written by Harrison Weir in 1889. Among other earlier breeders from this period, can also be counted Miss Moore, Mrs. Harrington, Mr. Brennand and Mr. Young.

By this time, other prominent fanciers had joined the ranks of those who were drawn to the unique qualities of what was now being recognised as the 'Royal Cat of Siam'. These included, Miss Bonney, Mrs. Louisa Herring, Mrs. McLaren Morrison, Lady Marcus Beresford, Lady H. Russell (soon to be Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford), Mrs. Vary Campbell, Mrs. Carew-Cox, and Mr. Elliot Hill, who was based in County Down, Ireland.

Winning cats from the 1891 Crystal Palace Cat Show, including Mr. Elliot Hill's imported Siamese queen, 'SIAMESE CHEETAH' (NCC:1271), seen at far right. This prolific breeding female was likely to have been the dam of the winning 'Pair of Kittens' class, for both 1892 and 1893
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

Mr. Elliot Hill

When the National Cat Club finally began registering cats and ultimately produced the first Stud Book in 1893, the first voume covered the registration period of July 31st 1890 to 1893, but the cats in it dated from as early as 1876. Among the earliest breeders of registered Siamese cats was Mr. Elliot Hill. At first, it appears that Mr. E. Hill may have been the sole breeder of Siamese in Ireland, but that was not the case, as in 1893, Mrs. Vyvyan's address is shown as The Barracks, Athlone, Ireland on the registration of Mrs. Carew-Cox's male, Champion Kitya Kara, who was bred by Mrs. Vyvyan. A third Irish based breeder of Siamese, recorded later that decade was Mrs. K.O.Chapman.

'SIAMESE CHEETAH', (NCC: 1271) Royal Siamese queen imported by Mr. Elliot Hill of County Down, Ireland
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

Mr. Hill, whose registered prefix was 'SIAMESE', competed regularly at the Crystal Palace National Show, and on two successive years in 1892 and 1893, won the Special for the 'Best Two Kittens'. Unfortunately the names of the first winning pair are not recorded, as they do not appear in the National Cat Club register, but it seems likely that they would have been older siblings to the pair which won in 1893. For that win, there are in fact four contenders, all showing in Volume Two of the National Cat Club Stud Book and Register, born in one litter on 16th August 1893. They were sired by Mrs. Hill's imported Siamese male 'SIAM I' and out of his imported Siamese queen 'SIAMESE CHEETAH'.

They were:

  • Siamese Mew (Male) NCC:1407
  • Siamese Prince (Male) NCC:1408
  • Siamese King (Male) NCC:1409
  • Siamese Queen (Female) NCC:1410

Above: Crystal Palace Silver Medal awarded to Mr. Elliot Hill for the BEST TWO KITTENS (Class 18), October 1892.
Below: Crystal Palace Silver Medal awarded to Mr. Elliot Hill for the BEST TWO KITTENS (Class 17), October 1893.

Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

IN SUMMARY

In an era when importing cats was a both a slow and expensive process, and exhibiting them was fraught with considerable risk to the animals, we can only admire the brave and audacious spirit of Mr. Elliot Hill; who, living so far from London, not only achieved success in breeding and rearing so many litters of Siamese kittens, but also in exhibiting them competitively and taking home two such fine wins. The result itself, commends his ability to consistently bench healthy exhibits of undoubtable quality, and proves beyond question, that the breeding of Siamese cats in the United Kingdom had an unmistakably bright future.

References:

  1. The National Cat Club Stud Book and Register, Vols.1-5
  2. Our Cats (1889), by Harrison Weir.
  3. The Book of The Cat (1903) by Frances Simpson.
  4. The Sketch, November, 1891.
  5. 5. Illustrations and Photos courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection.
  6. Text John Smithson, 2018


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