Remembering history through sport at the Deer Park Country House

Mark Godfrey sits on theThe Wembley Bench at the Deer Park Country House.

Mark Godfrey sits on theThe Wembley Bench at the Deer Park Country House. - Credit: Archant

Sporting memorabilia appeals to many and the Deer Park Country House has plenty on display.

A 2012 Olympic torch.

A 2012 Olympic torch. - Credit: Archant

Among the quintessential interior of Honiton’s Deer Park Country House a treasure trove of sporting history, sitting in plain sight.

A vast array of sporting memorabilia is scattered around the hotel, merging seamlessly into its array of eclectic furnishings.

They belong to Nigel Wray, the majority shareholder of the Deer Park, who has amassed one of the world’s most valuable collections of sports memorabilia.

We have put the spotlight on three sporting oddities that call the Deer Park their home – and will no doubt continue to enrapture sporting fans in generations to come…

The 1948 Olympic torch.

The 1948 Olympic torch. - Credit: Archant


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The Wembley Bench

Among the plush sofas and leather chairs that fill the cosy rooms of the Deer Park is a set of rather uncomfortable-looking blue-sprayed chairs.

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Anyone who guessed they were ripped out of a football stadium is correct!

But these aren’t just any seats – these are a rare memento from London’s then-new Wembley Stadium – original seats that existed when the first FA Cup final was staged in the iconic venue nearly a century ago.

Mark Godfrey sits on the Wembley Bench at the Deer Park Country House.

Mark Godfrey sits on the Wembley Bench at the Deer Park Country House. - Credit: Archant

Nigel says: “It’s amazing this bench has survived – it’s almost 100 years old!

“This was here when the first FA Cup final was held in the then-new Wembley in 1923.

“It saw that game, known as the White Horse final, because the capacity of the crowd was 100,000, but they think 300,000 people might have got into the ground.

“A policeman with a white horse patrolled the touchline to keep the crowd off the pitch.

Diego Maradonna's jersey.

Diego Maradonna's jersey. - Credit: Archant

“It also saw the 1948 Olympics after World War Two and the great Hungarian side of 1953, who beat England 6-3 when England were meant to be invincible at Wembley.

“Then, of course, it saw the 1966 World Cup Final and now it sees us all here.

“You can see the discomfort in which people had to sit in those days – it’s all here!”

The Wembley Bench at the Deer Park Country House.

The Wembley Bench at the Deer Park Country House. - Credit: Archant

The Olympic torches

It would be easy to walk past these two Olympic torches when wandering around the Deer Park Country House, without even realising they were there.

But those who have a sharp eye have probably clocked the two ceremonial torches, which are pinned on walls adjacent to each other at one of the house’s bars.

Beckoning to the torch on the left-hand wall, Nigel says: “This is an original 1948 Olympic torch from one of London’s two Olympic Games for which there are torches – the other being 2012.

Diego Maradonna's jersey.

Diego Maradonna's jersey. - Credit: Archant

“The Olympic torch was tradition begun by a man called Hitler in 1936 and, of course, in 1948 the world was just recovering from an appalling Second World War.

“The 1948 Olympics was very much a celebration of freedom. This is a very important torch.”

Moving to the 1948 torch’s counterpart, Nigel says: “This is a 2012 Olympic torch. It is completely different style to the ’48 because nowadays the Olympic movement for each country tends to have a new torch and new design.

“There was an original torch carried in the relay and it is one of the great moments this country has had in recent years.

Deer Park Country House Hotel. Picture: Venetia Norrington

Deer Park Country House Hotel. Picture: Venetia Norrington - Credit: Archant

“The 1948 and 2012 Olympics were the only two London Olympics where there were torches involved because, at the 1908 Olympics, the torch had not yet been invented.”

Diego Maradona’s shirt

Regarded as one of the best football players of all time, a shirt worn by Diego Maradona hangs proudly at the Deer Park.

The famous Argentine, whose vision, passing, ball control, dribbling skills, speed, and reflexes mesmerised football fans around the globe, was a precocious talent who earned the nickname “El Pibe de Oro” – or The Golden Boy – a name that stuck with him throughout his career.

Nigel says: “Somewhat different, this is Diego Maradona’s shirt from Argentina vs Australia in 1993.

“This was a game they had to win to qualify for the 1994 World Cup Finals in the USA, which they duly did.

“He wore it, and the significance of that is there are thousands of shirts around these days which are signed but have not been not worn, and are replica shirts.

“They are worth nothing in my eyes. Real memorabilia means you had to have worn the shirt in a major game.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the ‘Hand of God’ shirt we all remember so well but is a Diego Maradona shirt and he must be one of the greatest footballers that has ever lived.”

Mark Godfrey, managing director at the Deer Park, said: “Nigel needs somewhere to store his collection and we are delighted that we are able to showcase such historically important sporting mementos from years gone by within our hotel.

“It is truly humbling to have such a vast array of items such as Nigel’s here at the Deer Park.

“We never know what items are heading our way, which is just as exciting for us as it is for our guests.”

Deer Park Country House, Buckerell Village, Weston, Honiton, Devon, England, EX14 3PG

www.deerpark.co.uk | 01404 41266 | hello@deerpark.co.uk

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