A member’s recent house move and loft clearance has unearthed one of the more unusual items from Balham CC’s past. This is a 92-years-old impression die for Balham CC medals. Medals were given to internal and external competition winners and for achieving gold, silver and bronze standards at various distances.
Markings suggest the die was made on 31 March 1927 by the silver smith B. & E. (at the moment untraceable). We have medals in the same design from before 1927 so it must have been a replacement die.
As the name suggests an impression die is something you press a metal into to make impressions usually out of sterling, fine silver, gold brass, copper and bronze. The key is using metals that are weaker than the steal used to make the die. The impressions are usually made with an industrial vice.
As you can imagine, not too many companies use this approach to medal manufacture in 2019 but they do exist.
Silver medals and golden tears
The actual medal design is made up of two shields. The first has ‘BCC’ inscribed in silver on a red background, which can be assumed stand for Balham Cycling Club.
The second shield formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth coat of arms. The borough existed under the London County Council, from 1900 to 1965. The top section has chequered blue and gold squares which represent the arms of the first Earl of Surrey William de Warren. The gold squares bear teardrops that represent the tears of the French Huguenots, many of whom settled in Wandsworth from 1685. They’re not on the medal, probably due to the challenges of reproducing such intricate work on a small scale.
The five stars on the lower section on the medal and coat of arms represent the constituent former civil parishes – Clapham, Putney, Streatham, Tooting Graveney and Wandsworth (Balham was one of the 9 wards in the borough).
The divisional line between the two shield sections – which again has more detail on the actual coat of arms – represents the Rivers Wandle and Thames.
Below: Medals from around the same era: A 1929 NCU (London Centre) 25 mile Tandem-Paced Championship medal for Frank Southall and A Howard and a pacer medal for Howard from a year earlier; A medal for the Balham 100 in 1931; and the collection of Ken Figg also from 1931.
With thanks to Clayton Francis for emptying his loft and the donations to the BCC Archive.
Instructables.Com has a useful section on silver-smithing with impression dies.
Got a Balham Medal or other Balham memorabilia in the loft? We’d love to see it! Email us at Balhamcyclingclub@gmail.com