Under Twickenham’s pitch…

World Rugby Museum: Article first published in 'From the Vaults'

This rusty old horseshoe might not look like much, but it potentially gives us an insight into several aspects of Twickenham's 100-year history. This is because nobody really knows for sure how it came to be here at Twickenham, but there are several theories.

The horseshoe was found approximately 14 inches (about 35.5cm) under the Twickenham pitch by the Clerk of Works, John Clark, in 1999, when the pitch was having new drainage works put in place in time for the Rugby World Cup. Upon its discovery, an expert was consulted and dated the shoe to between 1880 and 1920.

So, this leaves us with several possibilities:

1. The land upon which the Stadium was built was a market garden until it was purchased in 1906 by committee member, Billy Williams. This is where it gets its name, "Billy Williams' Cabbage Patch" from). The horseshoe may have been shed by one of the horses that would have been present in this agricultural area.

2. The construction of Twickenham Stadium between 1907 and 1909 would have involved horses in bringing building materials to the area. The shoe may have been shed by one of these horses.

3.Once Twickenham Stadium was up and running from the 1909-10 season onwards, the grass was mowed by horses, under the careful hand of the groundsman, Charles Hale. Perhaps this shoe fell from one of the horses that he used to keep the grass in good condition.

4. During the First World War, rugby union matches were suspended, and the Stadium was used as a place to station horses before they were sent into battle on the front. Perhaps the shoe was shed by one of these horses before he was sent away to serve at the front.

But there's one more option. Maybe the horseshoe was placed under the pitch during construction in order to bring the Stadium many years of good fortune.

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