Thomas Lyte are honoured to be the Official Silverware Supplier to the British & Irish Lions and the designers and makers of the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup. The new perpetual rugby trophy will be contested for in a warm up test match ahead of each future Lions Tour, one of the most anticipated events in the international rugby calendar, the trophy for which was also crafted by Thomas Lyte.
As luxury silversmiths and elite sports trophy makers, we were commissioned by the Lions to design and create the silver plated trophy in time for the 2021 Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup test match against Japan on the 26th of June 2021 at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, the first time a home fixture has been played since 2005.
The name given to the test match is of great significance, as the Lions have become part of rugby folklore since the first tour in 1888. Every four years, The Lions have taken on national teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
“Selection for a tour is the pinnacle of any player’s career and an endorsement that you are amongst the very best in your position. We feel much the same, having been named as the Official Silverware Supplier to The British & Irish Lions,” said Kevin Baker, CEO and Founder of the world-class trophy manufacturer Thomas Lyte.
“It is an honour for the Thomas Lyte team to design and craft this bespoke trophy to commemorate the historic 1888 tour of Australia and New Zealand by the ‘English Footballers’, the British rugby union team that paved the way for the British & Irish Lions.”
Thomas Lyte’s trophy designers worked with the Lions, creating many custom trophy designs to create an iconic symbol of celebration that bears a resemblance to its sister trophy, the Lions Series Trophy. Once the design had been agreed, Thomas Lyte’s highly skilled team of master craftsmen and -women set to work using traditional silversmithing skills, many of which can be dated back thousands of years to the roman empire, combined with the latest methods in modern engineering.
The bespoke trophy was handcrafted in Thomas Lyte’s London-based silver workshops, taking more than 150 hours to complete. Standing at 50cm tall and weighing 4.5kg, the chalice of the trophy was handspun from a single sheet of brass before being silver plated in a chemical reaction called electroplating, while the base is handmade from sapele hardwood.
Hot forging was used to bend the three handles at over 700 degrees Celsius. Before being soldered together, all the individual pieces of the sports trophy were polished separately with motorised polishing lathes spinning at over 3000 rpm.
Once the The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup logo was engraved onto the chalice, it was assembled, cleaned and passed to Thomas Lyte’s quality control team for the final check. Having many of the world’s most iconic sporting trophies crafted or repaired in our workshops, including the Guinness Six Nations Trophy, The Rugby World Cup and The Emirates FA Cup to name a few, quality control is one of the most important stages in the process. The 1888 Trophy is no exception, with a QC team thoroughly checking it over before the, now finished, brand-new engraved trophy was finally presented to the Lions.
The Lions began their touring tradition way back in 1888 when captain Robert Seddon led a party of 22 for a tour of Australia and New Zealand that was almost 250 days long.
After making the 46-day, 16,000-mile voyage to New Zealand by sea, the team played their very first match in Otago, winning 8-3, with 10,000 spectators watching the encounter. There were a further 18 games in New Zealand and 16 in Australia. 19 Victorian Rules (later known as Aussie Rules) matches were also arranged to help pay for the trip.
Despite the tragic death of captain Seddon halfway through the tour, in a boating accident on the Hunter River, the tour was deemed a success and set in motion over 130 years of Lions history.
The announcement of this new one-of-a-kind rugby trophy meant that more than just bragging rights were up for grabs upon the conclusion of the eagerly awaited warm-up test match against Japan. The 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series curtain-raiser was the first-ever clash between the Lions and the “Brave Blossoms”, making Japan the eighth different test nation to face the Lions. In the perfect tour warm-up, the Lions beat Japan 28-10.
The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup cements the recent tradition of a warm-up match before the Lions start their tours, with 2021’s match preceding the eagerly awaited Tour to South Africa, which culminated in a three-Test series against Rugby World Cup champions, the Springboks. The series was the third consecutive tour to South Africa in which the Lions faced the reigning world champions, a tough task that they ultimately weren’t able to overcome.
In addition to creating the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup, Thomas Lyte was commissioned to design and make it’s sister trophy, the Lions Series trophy, the first perpetual trophy in the over-120 year history of the British & Irish Lions Tour, and the medals for the series. The 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series began on the 3rd of July in Johannesburg with the first of three test matches against the Springboks kicking off on the 24th. South Africa won the thrilling series 2-1 and became the first test side to lift the trophy.
“We are incredibly proud to be able to present a custom trophy, designed and made in Britain, that truly reflects the momentous achievement of winning a Lions Series,” continued Kevin Baker, Thomas Lyte CEO.
“It was wonderful to see our creativity and craftsmanship on show to a global audience at the climax of one of rugby’s greatest competitions.”