Footballer’s tragic death from bug caught on pitch revealed by auction of century-old medal

Posted on 12/08/2019 in Press Coverage

A gold medal awarded to a Midlands footballer who lost his life a century ago after picking up a bug on the pitch is expected to sell for thousands at auction.

The medal, awarded to Harry Thorpe in 1908, commemorated Leicester Fosse’s (Leicester City) promotion to Division 1 for the first time in their history.

But Thorpe never lived to celebrate the success with his team mates after going down with flu following a match again Derbyshire team Glossop.

Fullback Thorpe was taken ill after the game in March 1908. He never recovered and died six months later in September aged only 28.

Now the medal the Derbyshire-born footballer received when Leicester were promoted is set to go under the hammers at Hansons Auctioneers’ Football in Focus Auction on August 22 with an estimate of £3,000-£5,000.

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

“The club was founded in 1884 as Leicester Fosse because they played on a field by the Fosse Road. They moved to Filbert Street in 1891. In 1908, the club finished as Second Division runners-up and reached the First Division.

“Thorpe 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.”

Thorpe was born in 1880 in the Derbyshire village of Barrow Hill, near Chesterfield. He made his Football League debut in the 1900-01 season with Chesterfield and made 64 league appearances for them 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 Thorpe’s medal will be sold on August 22 at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS. To find out more, email David Wilson-Turner: [email protected]