The trophy cabinet

Trophies are symbolic objects, intended for display as evidence of achievement, especially of victory in a contest of some kind.

Many of the trophies in the collection of the Justice & Police Museum of are rewards for sporting prowess: cups presented to members of the police force for winning athletics events, for cycling, rowing, tennis and wrestling. The Caroline Simpson Library has a cup presented to a woman named Dora Walford for taking second prize in the Ladies Bending Race at a Sydney Polo Club Gymkhana in the 1920s. Rouse Hill Estate also has trophies related to horses, including an embroidered silk purse won by a horse named Hercules at the Hawkesbury Races in 1838. The earliest trophy in the collection is a fine silver gilt cup presented by the Duke of Northumberland in 1815 to former military officer George Johnston, the man who arrested Governor William Bligh in 1808.

Dora Walford’s polo trophy

This small cup, just over 10cm tall, is the trophy presented to Dora Walford, nee Alexander (1895-1972), for winning second prize in the Ladies Bending Race at the Sydney Polo Club Gymkhana in June 1923. Dora was a fashionable figure in Sydney society in the 1920s. According to one society columnist she was ‘the most dashing woman on horseback’, one of Sydney’s best-dressed women, who ‘sat her horse like a professional’. She was an active fundraiser for charity, taking an executive role on countless committees to organise gala balls and dinners, or theatrical matinees in aid of the Children’s Hospital, or the Crown Street Women’s Hospital or the Sydney Industrial Blind Institution. Dora’s individual identity is obscured in the inscription “Mrs Leslie Walford” on the trophy. Leslie Walford was her first husband. He died in December 1928 and Dora next became Mrs Eric Sheller, then Mrs Ben Knowles Davies and, finally, Mrs Lawrence Byrne. But Dora was never anything less than her own woman, ambitious, energetic and resilient.

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