Design for Blue Riband Trophy
James Dixon & Sons
, founded 1806
Material and Medium: gouache, watercolour and ink on paper
Dimensions: Frame: 580 x 430 x 19mm (22 13/16 x 16 15/16 x 3/4in.)
Image size: 364 x 235mm (14 5/16 x 9 1/4in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2007.106
The Hales Trophy was commissioned in 1935 by Harold Hales, MP for Hanely, North Staffordshire. The trophy was presented to for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a merchant ship. The title awarded to the winning vessel was called the Blue Riband. The Hales Trophy became more commonly known by this name. The trophy was made from silver gilt and enamel with an onyx base. It stood almost five feet high.
The trophy was manufactured by the Sheffield firm James Dixon & Sons. Commissioned pieces were an important staple for Dixon's, including items for civic collections, sporting associations and individual customers.
"Charlie Holliday modelled it. He drew it, he made the first drawing. Beautiful" (Richard Axelby, quote from oral history interview, Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information).
Charles Holliday joined James Dixon & Sons in 1927 having studied design and silversmithing at Sheffield College of Art. He was initially placed under the wing of the head designer, who sadly died just one month later leaving the young Charles to work alone. His first commissioned design was a trophy incorporating miniature totem poles for a Canadian client. Charles went on to become Dixon's chief designer and worked at the firm for fifty years, enjoying a highly successful career.
During his working life, Charles designed many significant sporting trophies. These included the Masters Golf Tournament trophy, Eisenhower golf trophy and sixteen Grand National winning owner trophies.
Richard Axelby began work as a chaser at Dixon's in 1929 and remained with the firm for 52 years. Chasing is a method of decorating metal using a hammer and tools of varying size and shape to indent the surface. During his career, he was involved in the production of many significant pieces, including the Grand National trophies designed by Charles Holliday.
Richard worked on the Hales Trophy when he was a relatively new apprentice. He described his experience of working on the trophy in an article published in the Sheffield Weekly Gazette, April 25th 1991:
"When I worked on the Hales Trophy I was only an apprentice…They let me try my hand on the waves that went round the stand. I suppose they thought it wouldn't show if I made a mistake, but I didn't".
This print was presented to Gladys Saville, who worked in Dixon's London showroom at Holborn Circus. She wrote her memories of working for Dixon's and of the Hales Trophy:
"I left school at 14 years - I tried several jobs - one in a factory - waitressing - corn chandlers shop - James Dixons [sic] - Silversmiths in their showroom at 14 St Andrews Street - Holborn Circus - I liked this job - my job was cleaning the silver and generally cleaning up and helping Mr Straton the manager when he was serving his very important customers. I enjoyed this work - mostly because I was meeting rich titled people - Mr Stratton died very suddenly - When his customers called I was there to serve them. - This enabled me to earn more money - as I got commission on my sales. When I left Dixons I was earning £2 per week which was good for those days. I should mention that James Dixons made the trophy 'The Blue Ribbon [sic] of the Atlantic'. It was a beautiful trophy and I had to clean it. We showed it at the B. I. F. fair [British Industries Fair] at the Olympic once a year and I sometimes went there. One time Queen Mary visited our stand - she actually talked to Mr Lyons and I was standing next to him. I worked for Dixons until I left for Africa in 1939."