The first ever Olympic gold medal won by a British woman in an individual swimming event nearly a century ago has been bought by her home town for public display.
Blackpool Council stepped in to bid at auction for numerous items that once belonged to Lucy Moreton (later Heaton), who won the 200-metres breaststroke in the Paris Olympic Games in 1924.
Her Olympic gold medal, which sold for £8,400 at Hansons Auctioneers’ sports memorabilia sale, was one of 18 lots secured by Blackpool Council for a total hammer price of £12,255. Funding came from Blackpool Council and a grant from Blackpool Civic Trust.
The acquisition means a major part of the Lucy Morton collection will remain in the public domain. It will be displayed at the History Centre at Blackpool Central Library. The Blackpool Museum Project, which is developing Blackpool’s first museum, will also feature Lucy’ story.
The news has delighted Lucy Morton’s family. Lucy’s granddaughter Julia Routledge, 60, a retired civil servant from Evesham, Worcestershire, went along to watch the sale unfold at Hansons’ Derbyshire saleroom. Lucy and her sister Annette Judge, 56, from Farnham, Surrey, had decided the time had come to part with the collection.
Mrs Routledge said: “We’d always hoped a museum, sporting organisation or the town of Blackpool, where she lived for most of her life and which honoured her with a blue plaque, would buy the items for public display. The fact that this has happened is fantastic news.
“We’re extremely proud of our grandmother. She was a swimming pioneer who broke five world records in breaststroke and backstroke and held world records in 1913, 1916 and 1920.
“No-one expected her to win the Olympic gold in 1924 as the Americans had been winning everything – plus she was involved in a car accident shortly before the race.”
In total, Lucy’s rich archive of medals and memorabilia made in excess of £21,000 at Hansons’ saleroom near Derby and sparked interest far and wide.
David Wilson-Turner, head of the sports memorabilia department at Hansons, said: “We had bidders from all over the world including Germany.Out of 35 separate lots only one did not sell. There was particular interest in Lucy’s memorabilia. One set of sports-related autographs sold for £1,150 from a £150 estimate.”
The archive included 40 gold and silver medals won by Lucy in the early 1900s, her Olympic Victor’s Vase, which sold for £4,600, swimming photos, scrap books, autographs, swimming certificates, stop watches and her handwritten memoirs.
Lucy was born Knutsford in 1898 but spent 70-plus years in Blackpool until her death in 1980. She achieved so much success a ‘Pioneer Plaque’ honours her in The International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
After retiring from competitive swimming, she became a coach and supported others in pursuit of their sporting dreams. Among swimmers she worked with was Anita Lonsbrough who won an Olympic gold in 1960.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons auctioneers, said: “It’s magnificent news that the town of Blackpool has stepped in to buy Lucy’s sporting archive. She was one of Britain’s greatest but, perhaps, long forgotten and overlooked Olympians.”
Lucy started swimming in 1909 and by 1913 was breaking records. As well as her Olympic gold medal, won at the age of 26, she set world records for the150 yard backstroke, 200 yards breaststroke and won the Mersey Mile Championship.
She was a member of Blackpool Amateur Swimming Club and attended Christ Church School in the town. A blue plaque commemorating Lucy was unveiled by Blackpool Civic Trust in 2012 on Blackpool Town Hall. Lucy lived there when her father was a mayoral attendant.
Councillor Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are delighted to have secured part of the archive of this incredible Blackpool woman who achieved the highest award as a swimmer but is also fondly remembered for her work after the Olympics teaching local children to swim.”
The Lucy Morton medal and swimming archive was sold on August 22 at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS. Items are now invited for Hanson’s next sports auction. To find out more, or to arrange afree valuation, email [email protected].