The Hemel Hempstead Local History & Museum Society, together with the Friends of Dacorum Museum and the Dacorum Heritage Trust, are delighted to report the purchase of a rare and genuine historical half-pint tankard, dated 1850 which once belonged to Mr C. H. Hawkins of the Salmon public house in Apsley.
The story begins in the 19th century, when the pub was established next to St Mary’s Church, Apsley.
The derivation of its name leads to some conjecture today. It could have been named after the nearby Salmon Meadow, or the possible presence at one time of salmon in the River Gade.
It might even have been named from the de-railing of a truck load of fish from the LNWR railway, which resulted in a feast for local residents!
Whatever its origin, the pub became a regular stop for John Dickinson’s employees and a strong bond was formed between the pub and the firm’s football teams.
In 1886, Christopher Henry Hawkins took over the licence, which he maintained until at least 1902.
During his time at the Salmon, he became so popular he was nick-named ‘Uncle’ and when he presented a football trophy to John Dickinson & Co Ltd for their inter-departmental competitions, played annually on Salmon Meadow, the Uncle’s Cup was born.
In the first-ever cup final game in 1898, the Card Department from Apsley Mills were the winners. By 1923, the importance of the event had grown so much that more than 1,000 people watched the final between teams from Boxmoor Station (LMS) and Kings Langley.
The last final held at Salmon Meadow was in 1928, between Wards of Bourne End and Ovaltine, when the Bourne End side were the victors with a score of 2-0.
The competition raised money for the local hospital, in the days before the National Health Service, and sums of between £20 and £30 were provided, no mean amount in days before the Second World War.
There was even a hospital bed named after the Uncle’s Cup.
After the war, the West Herts Hospital came under state control and the proceeds from the game were given to local charities and clubs for the elderly.
Mr Hawkins was one of the instrumental figures in the formation of the Apsley End Football Club in 1885. They went on to become founder members of the West Herts Football Association, changing their name simply to Apsley FC in the early 1890s.
Over the first 50 years, teams from Apsley Mill won the Uncle’s Cup no fewer than 31 times.
The location changed over the years, from Salmon Meadow to Bourne End, then Crabtree Lane and finally to the Hemel Hempstead FC’s ground in Vauxhall Road.
The last game played at Crabtree Lane was in May 1972, when Dickinson’s beat Kodak 4 -3.
Did you or any of your relatives play for the Uncle’s Cup?
If so, the Dacorum Heritage Trust DHT would like to hear from you. You can contact us through the website at www.dacorumheritage.org.uk.
(Acknowledgements to A Football History of Apsley & Kings Langley by A. J. Taylor.)