Royal Navy - A Gibraltar Steeplechase Prize Cup, 1794 & 1892
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Height: 17cm (6.75in)
Silver. A George III goblet with plain circular foot sweeping to a stem, supporting a gadrooned bowl with plain border, engraved ‘Calpe Hunt Naval Officers / Steeplechases / Gibraltar / Feb 10th 1892 / Won by Mr Midshipman Pontifex / HMS Howe’. Maker’s mark of Robert Sharp. Hallmarked London 1794.
The Calpe Hunt was established in British Crown Colony in 1814 and became a predominantly military affair with many garrison officers becoming members. The hunting took place across the border in Spain, resulting in tensions between the Hunt and local farmers over crop damage. In 1891 this was mitigated with the appointment as Master of the Marquis of Marzales who owned extensive estates in the Campo de Gibraltar and who commanded the loyalty of the farmers. In 1906, King Edward VII and King Alfonso XIII of Spain became joint Patrons, after which it was known as the Royal Calpe Hunt. In the 1928 the Governor of Gibraltar General Sir Alexander Godley began a campaign to reclaim the mastership from the Spanish nobleman resulting in rift. Supporters of the Governor became the ‘Godlies' while their opponents were known as ‘Ungodlies’. On the explicit instructions of George V, the next Governor found a compromise by appointing his wife and the Marquis’s heir, a fighter pilot serving in Franco’s Nationalist forces, as Joint Masters. The pack continued until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Midshipman William Pontifex (1873-1908) was the son of a clergyman and entered the Royal Navy as a Britannia Cadet in 1886. He was appointed Midshipman in 1889 and served in the ironclad battleship H.M.S. Howe and the cruiser H.M.S. Pioneer in the Mediterranean. He passed for Lieutenant in 1893 and was appointed to the command of the torpedo boat destroyer Chamois on 14 October 1903. A talented artist, all-round sportsman and promising officer, he was commanding the torpedo boat Exe at the time of his death from pneumonia in 1908.