Victorian padlock opens up a world of Olympic history

A rare piece of Victorian memorabilia from the forerunner to the modern Olympic Games is attracting interest from sports historians and collectors across the globe ahead of its starring role in an auction of sporting trophies later this month. 

The presentation wrought iron padlock and key is believed to be a winning entry for the industrial element of the Wenlock Olympian Games, which was established in 1850 by Dr William Penny Brookes in the small Shropshire village of Much Wenlock.  

The unusual lot will be the star attraction in the Moments of Glory: Sporting Medals & Trophies auction on Friday 29 April, with our experts estimating the padlock could fetch up to £5,000.



Launched to ‘promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Wenlock’, the Games inspired multiple sporting organisations across Europe to host their own events.  As a direct result, Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited the Wenlock Games in 1890 and four years later founded the International Olympic Committee, citing Penny Brookes as the inspiration for the establishment of the modern Olympic movement. 

Commenting on the auction, our specialist James Spiridion, said: “This is undoubtedly one of the most unusual sporting trophies to appear at McTear’s, but also one of the most important.  The Wenlock Games played an integral part in the establishment of the modern Olympic Games and anything associated with the Games’ formative years is hugely sought after. 

“Although the Wenlock Games featured many traditional Olympic sporting activities such as archery, athletics and cycling - albeit on a penny farthing – they also had a series of industrial activities too.  The padlock is believed to be one of the winning entries in this category and was later presented to William Penny Brookes.”

The 15.5cm high padlock is inscribed 'Presented to W. P. Brookes Esqr. by a Member of the Wenlock Olympian Class May 18th 1869'.  The slide catch encloses a keyhole also engraved 'WEN'. 

In addition to the padlock the auction will include a number of other rare and unusual sporting items including signed match worn football jerseys, historic medals, curling stones and a boxing trophy, amongst other items. 


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