Extremely rare medal awarded to tragic Chesterfield footballer set to go under hammer

Alistair Lofley holds Harry Thorpe's medal. Picture: Hansons Auctioneers.
Alistair Lofley holds Harry Thorpe's medal. Picture: Hansons Auctioneers.

An extremely rare gold medal awarded to a Derbyshire-born footballer who died after catching flu during a match is expected to sell for thousands of pounds at auction.

Fullback Harry Thorpe was handed the medal in 1908 for helping Leicester Fosse - which later became Leicester City - gain promotion to Division One for the first time in their history.

Harry Thorpe's medal. Picture: Hansons Auctioneers.

Harry Thorpe's medal. Picture: Hansons Auctioneers.

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But tragically, Harry - who was born in Barrow Hill and also played for Chesterfield FC - never lived to celebrate the success with his teammates.

He went down with flu after a match against Glossop in March 1908 and died six months later aged just 28.

Now the medal the young man received when Leicester were promoted is expected to fetch up to £5,000 when it goes under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers' Football in Focus Auction on August 22.

Alistair Lofley, sports valuer at Hansons, said: "This medal is extremely rare and an important part of Leicester City's heritage.

"Harry played a key role in that promotion season but sadly never got to celebrate with his team mates.

"It makes you wonder what the conditions must have been like and how cold it was when he played that match against Glossop in March 1908.

"He was a fit young man but antibiotics weren’t available back then to save his life."

Harry was born in 1880 and made his Football League debut with Chesterfield in the 1900-01 season, making 64 league appearances with the Spireites over the next few seasons.

He later moved to Woolwich Arsenal and played for Fulham in the Southern League before returning to the Football League in 1907 with Leicester Fosse.

He took part in their giant-killing FA Cup victory over Blackburn Rovers on January 11, 1908.

Leicester's directors' minutes book reveal that all players wore black armbands when Fosse played Preston on September 19, 1908 - three days after Harry's death.

The owner of the medal, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "The medal was given to Harry's brother, Reginald, after his passing in 1908.

"It was then handed down through generations of my family.

"I'm proud to think one of my ancestors was a talented footballer.

"I'd like to think Leicester City or a Leicester fan will buy this medal to honour Harry Thorpe's contribution to the club's history."

Harry's medal will be sold on at Hansons on Heage Lane, Etwall, on August 22.

For more information, email David Wilson-Turner via dwilsonturner@hansonsauctioneers.co.uk

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