River Thames Doggett Coat and Badge Winner
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Mid 20th Century
Overall: 34cm (13.4in)
A Sitzendorf porcelain figure of a Thames Waterman (Doggett’s Coat and Badge Winner), made for Thomas Goode & Co., Mayfair, London, circa 1950.
Doggett's Coat and Badge is the prize and name for the rowing race for apprentice Watermen held every year since 1715. The 4 miles 5 furlongs (7,400 m) race is held on the River Thames between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier, Chelsea. Originally, it was raced in the boats used by watermen to ferry passengers across the Thames. Today it is raced at a date and time in late July that coincides with the incoming (rising or flood) tide, in contemporary single sculling boats.
The winner's prize is a traditional Watermen's red coat with a silver sleeve badge displaying the white horse of the House of Hanover and the word ‘Liberty’, in honour of the accession of George I to the throne in 1714. Monetary prizes are also made by the City of London livery company, the Fishmongers'. The Fishmongers’ Company crest can be seen on the blade of the single sculling oar held by the figure. In addition to the prizes received, winning Doggett's Coat and Badge in the 18th and 19th centuries meant more trade to the talented Waterman. While this is no longer the case, winning the Doggett's Coat and Badge is still seen as very prestigious.
Thomas Doggett was an Irish actor and comedian who became joint manager of Drury Lane Theatre. He relied heavily upon the Watermen of the Thames, who were then the equivalent of the contemporary Uber driver, to convey him between the various plying stairs near his workplaces in the City of London and his residence in Chelsea. In 1715, Doggett was rescued by a Watermen after falling overboard whilst crossing the Thames near Embankment. In gratitude for his rescue, he offered a rowing wager to the fastest of six young Waterman in their first year of freedom, over the course between The Swan pub at London Bridge and The Swan pub at Chelsea.