Back to listJul 1, 2012

SGI-UK's Olympic Exhibition: Lord Desborough's Sporting Legacy

Taplow CourtVisitors viewing the exhibition at Taplow Court

An exhibition celebrating the Olympic legacy of Lord Desborough, owner of SGI-UK's Taplow Court Culture Centre from 1899 to 1945, is on display at Taplow Court from April to September 2012.

Robert Samuels, General-Director of SGI-UK, comments, "As the present custodians of Taplow Court, we could not allow this Olympic Year to pass without remembering Lord Desborough's leadership of the 1908 Olympiad, which did much to shape the modern Games."


Lord DesboroughLord Desborough (2nd from right), taken when he won the silver medal for fencing at the 1906 Athens Intercalated Olympic Games

Britain had been asked to host the games at very short notice, as the previously decided location, Rome, had to be changed due to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1906. As President of the British Olympic Association, Lord Desborough was charged with envisioning, organizing, finding the funding, and putting together the biggest sporting event of the day in just over 18 months. Against all the odds, he delivered a spectacular Games. When the event closed to national acclaim, he was lauded by both the public and press for pulling off "the greatest athletic festival of the age."

The exhibition chronicles and celebrates Lord Desborough's life and achievements as a sportsman and a public servant, and throws light on his private life as well.  His belief was that sport fosters self-development and that the Olympic Games are a force for friendship and peace between nations.

arifacts, swordArtifacts belonging to Lord Desborough, including a bronze age sword dredged up from the Thames River

On display are trophies, medals and sporting artifacts owned by Lord Desborough himself, as well as many articles and objects connected to the 1908 games, including a video presentation bringing alive Lady Desborough’s diary. The exhibition also includes a detailed pictorial account of how the event came to London that year.

The tour begins in the room that Lord Desborough used as his study, a place where he spent hours writing letters and reports to galvanize support for the Games.  The exhibition extends throughout the ground floor of the Desborough home where the family entertained some of the key figures of the day, including Winston Churchill, Lord Asquith, Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling.

Asghar Majeed and Alan WaltersCouncillors Asghar Majeed (left) and Alan Walters at the exhibition reception

An official reception to launch the exhibition was held on May 10, attended by Councillor Asghar Majeed, Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead; Councillor Alan Walters, Chairman of the South Buckinghamshire District Council; and Councillor Sukhjit Kaur Dhaliwal, Mayor of Slough.

Among the many guests who have visited the exhibition have been Lord Desborough's grandchildren and great grandchildren. One guest remarked:  "I never knew that such a beautiful house existed right on my doorstep, or that such a wonderful and remarkable man lived here.  He seemed to achieve so much during his lifetime."

SGKI-UK has also created an educational outreach programme for primary school children to complement the Olympic exhibition.

School groups have been regularly visiting the exhibition, then taking part in both indoor and outdoor activities through which the schoolchildren can learn to:

  • Group different types of sports equipment and relate them to the different sports played in the 1908 Olympic Games
  • Physically take part in two or more Olympic sports--a "mini-Olympics"--in order to:
    understand the importance of team spirit - bonds of friendship which are formed through working together
    recognize how difficult it is to achieve Olympic standards as a sports man/woman
  • Identify similarities and differences between life in 1908 and now, in terms of clothing, transport and so on
  • Understand some of the political issues of the early 20th century including World War I and the Suffragette Movement

[Adapted from a report from SGI-UK; photos courtesy SGI-UK]