A gold medal awarded to a tragic footballer who lost his life to influenza in 1908 has sold for thousands in a Derbyshire auction.
Harry Thorpe was awarded the medal in March 1908 to commemorate Leicester Fosse’s (the former Leicester City) promotion to Division One for the first time in the club’s history after their victory over Derbyshire team Glossop.
However, immediately following the game, the fullback was struck down with flu from which he never recovered and eventually died aged 28 in September.
The medal, and the sad story of Harry Thorpe, attracted much interest at Hansons Auctioneers’ recent Football in Focus Auction, and a private UK bidder paid £4,000 to secure the object.
Alistair Lofley, sports valuer at Hansons, said: “It was a great result for an important piece of Leicester City history.”
Leicester City was founded in 1884 as Leicester Fosse because they played on a field by the Fosse Road. They moved to Filbert Street in 1891. In 1908, the club finished as Second Division runners-up and reached the First Division.
Mr Lofley said: “Harry Thorpe played a key role in that promotion season but sadly never got to celebrate with his team mates. It makes you wonder what the conditions must have been like and how cold it was when he played that match against Glossop in 1908. He was a fit young man but antibiotics weren’t available back then to save his life.”
History of Harry Thorpe
Harry Thorpe was born in 1880 in the Derbyshire village of Barrow Hill, near Chesterfield. He made his Football League debut in the 1900-01 season with Chesterfield and made 64 league appearances for them over the next few seasons.
He later moved to Woolwich Arsenal and played for Fulham in the Southern League before returning to the Football League in 1907 with Leicester Fosse.
Leicester’s directors’ minutes book reveal that all players wore black armbands when Fosse played Preston on September 19, 1908 – three days after Harry’s death.
The owner of the medal, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The medal was given to Harry’s brother, Reginald, after his passing in 1908. It was then handed down through family descent. I’m proud to think that someone connected to my family was a talented footballer.”