'Oldest cricket artefact from outside the British Isles' auctions in Chester, UK

Cricket collectibles are as varied as they are coveted. The latest rare memorabilia piece to appear for sale on the markets is the oldest-known cricket artefact from outside the British Isles.

This belt buckle features an Afro-European slave playing cricket in Barbados, and will auction on 30 May in Chester, UK. The buckle has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £100,000-150,000 ($229,640).

The buckle is the latest in a long line of valuable collectibles to have been discovered with a metal detector. The lucky finder was Clive Williams, a retired advertising consultant from London.

The metal detector had been given to Clive by his wife while on holiday near the River Tweed in the Scottish borders in 1979.

After unearthing the buckle, he cleaned it to discover the figure of a mixed race slave playing cricket. The slave is holding a cricket bat and is in the act of being bowled out.

Purely by chance, Clive was a cricket fanatic and had worked in the West Indies, prompting him to further-research his unique find.


Afro-European slave playing cricket in Barbados
The buckle depicts an slave playing cricket in Barbados, circa 1780 

With the help of such institutions as the M.C.C. at Lord's, The British Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the buckle is now understood to feature an Afro-European slave playing cricket in Barbados circa 1780.

This is therefore the earliest known sportsman depicted in the Americas.

Research also links this piece to the noted Hotham family, of which Admiral Sir Alan Hotham (1876-1975) was a cricket devotee and lived upstream from where the rare buckle was found. The family has centuries-old connections to the West Indies, the Royal Navy and cricket.

The buckle has since attracted the awe of cricket collectibles experts around the world.

Said the late C L R James, the celebrated Afro-Trinidadian historian, journalist, theorist and writer on cricket, who orchestrated the research programme: "The little buckle and its fascinating story enrich cricket and must go on enriching the whole world..."

Expect the enrichment to begin when this buckle appears at auction for the first time, in a sale held by Bonhams, in Chester this May.

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