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Long-lost Villa medals up for auction


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Brett Gibbons @ Birmingham Mail"]Antique medals of Aston Villa captain Alex Leake up for auction

Prized medals of a former Aston Villa captain are going under the hammer – after being discovered buried in the rubble of a demolished Birmingham bank.

The football memorabilia belonged to Alex Leake, who captained the club from 1902 to 1907 and who once famously blew the whistle on a match-fixing scandal. The half-back, who won five England caps and also played for Birmingham City predecessors Small Heath during his career, died in 1938.

His family placed his treasured honours, including an FA Cup winner's medal, in a security vault at a branch of Barclays in Coventry Road, Sheldon. But when the building was demolished in the 1960s staff forgot to empty the vaults – and the prized medals were lost in the ruins.

Incredibly, they were unearthed years later by children playing at the site. They tried to use the medals to buy ice creams but the stunned ice-cream seller handed them over to police and they were reunited with the family. The medals are now being put up for auction in the Jewellery Quarter on Monday.

The footballer's great-grandson, also called Alex Leake, said: “The family always knew that the medals were in the bank vault and assumed they were safe and well.

"We just assumed the medals had been moved somewhere for safekeeping.

“Luckily, the ice cream man must have realised they were valuable and alerted the police who traced them back to my great-grandfather and returned them to the family.”

Birmingham-born Alex Leake amassed a collection of 200 football and Masonic medals during a career that saw him win the FA Cup with Villa in 1905. He had also finished runner-up with the club in the First Division in 1903. But before joining Villa, Leake played for arch rivals Small Heath, winning promotion from the Second Division in 1901.

It was during Villa’s FA Cup-winning season that the player blew the whistle on one of football’s biggest scandals of the day. Leake accused Manchester City star Billy Meredith of offering him a £10 bribe for Villa to lose a match, as City needed a victory to seal the First Division title. But Villa won the game 3-1 and Meredith was later found guilty of bribery by the Football Association and was fined and suspended from playing football for a year. Tom Maley, City manager, was suspended from the game for life and 17 other City players were also subsequently fined and suspended.

The Alex Leake collection will go on sale at Fellows auction house in the Jewellery Quarter and is estimated to fetch between £6,000 and £8,000. Yet just 26 of the 200 medals were unearthed in the rubble – meaning more may emerge some day.

Stephen Whittaker, managing director at Fellows, said: “The medals’ emergence begs the question: how many other pieces of fascinating sporting memorabilia are hidden away, waiting to be unearthed, and what stories accompany them?”

The auction takes place at Fellows on Monday, July 9. Details here.


Anyone who fancies having a peek at them can view the medals on the 6th from 10:00-16:00, the 7th from 11:00-16:00 and on the day of the auction between 8:30-11:00.
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I was going to make the joke that if any of the medals were from Leake's stint at Small Heath, they wouldn't have even bought 'em a mini-milk.

Then I realised my mistake. Medals? Small Heath? HA.

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Whilst on the subject of old Villa stuff, has anyone ever seen these cufflinks before?

They belonged to my uncle who passed in the 90's and then to my dad and now I have them.

They say exclusively made for Aston Villa and are gold plated but not sure if they are player issue or something you could have bought at the club shop





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The staff at the bank blew it up without bothering to empty the vault?
That was the bit that stood out for me too!


There is potentially a bigger story here than just Alex's medals (important though they are, obviously.)

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But when the building was demolished in the 1960s staff forgot to empty the vaults

Bankers proved as competent then as they are today then. :winkold:

Yet just 26 of the 200 medals were unearthed in the rubble – meaning more may emerge some day

I would trust the bank will do something about finding them now because otherwise those that have yet to be found will soon be gone forever having been found by metal detectors. I would also guess the family could now expect to get the money the bank owe them for those other medals due to their negligence.

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It was probably some sort of insurance scam and the truly valuable stuff is sitting in an ex bank manager's private safe.

Yes LL there are questions to be answered and you also have to wonder why the family have not checked over the past 50 odd years that the medals are still there or at the very least that the bank is. :detect:

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Sorry...and then "years later" the site apparently hadn't been touched and some kids playing on it unearthed some medals that were presumably buried deep in the rubble?

And then thought they could buy ice creams with them? :shock:

I mean,. I know this is Sheldon so you have to expect the unexpected, but when you start to subject this story to cool, Leveson-type, forensic scrutiny, there are a lot more questions that spring to mind. :suspect:

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