“At night it invited the envy of a burglar”
The FA Cup is the most prestigious football English trophy. Wanderers first won it at Kennington Oval on Saturday 16 March 1872 before a crowd of 2,000, beating Royal Engineers 1-0. It was the first of their five victories and Morton Peto Betts, playing under the pseudonym A.H. Chequer, scored their solitary goal.
Twenty-three years later, on 20 April 1895, Aston Villa won the cup beating West Bromwich Albion at Crystal Palace in the first all-Midlands final. Villa won 1-0, with Bob Chatt scoring the fastest goal in FA Cup history, scored after just 30 seconds.
The Football Association (FA) chose the design for the cup on 13 February 1872 from a submission by Messrs Martin, Hall & Company. It cost £20 and became known as “the little tin idol”. Made of silver, it was inscribed with the legend, “The Football Association Challenge Cup”. The cup was put on display in the window of a local football outfitter. It was left on show overnight and at 9pm on 11 September 1895 the shop was locked up.
That night someone broke in through the roof, pushed back the sliding window and removed the cup, helping themselves to a few shillings from the till as well. The local paper reported, “It stood there in the day for the admiration of the crowd, and it stayed there at night to invite the envy of a burglar.”
William Shillcock Boot & Shoe Manufacturer, 73, Newton Row, Birmingham, England
Wednesday 11 September 1895
William Shillcock, from whose shop the cup was stolen, offered a reward of £10 for its return, no questions asked. The FA had insured the trophy for £200 and Mr Shillcock had also taken out insurance but the trophy was priceless in sentimental terms.
The police, under Inspector Dobbs, interviewed most of Birmingham’sunderworld but with no result. The FA fined Aston Villa £25 for negligence and used the money to buy a new cup from Messrs Vaughton’s of Birmingham. The mystery went unsolved until 1958, when 81-year-old Harry Burge confessed that he stolen the cup while two confederates took boots and the money from the till.
He said that they all retired to his home in Hospital Street where they melted down the cup and used the silver to make fake half-crowns. However, the police did not believe Burge, who had spent 46 of his 81 years behind bars and the case remains officially open.