The Wrightson Cup
In 1884, Downton hit the national headlines when there was a dramatic train crash just south of the current site of Trafalgar School. The South West railway line at that time, ran from Salisbury into Dorset and, on a June day, whilst crossing the River Avon through Downton (at what was described as “a great speed of over 40 mph”) a coupling broke and all the carriages of the train were derailed. A contemporary report described “the heart rending” scene as carriages turned “pell mell over the embankment”.... and were “smashed to pieces” . 5 people died and over 40 were seriously injured.
Staff and students from the nearby Agricultural College at North Charford rushed to the scene and helped throughout the long and difficult rescue operation. As a gesture of appreciation the London South West Rail company presented a magnificent silver cup to the College, and it was named after its principal and founder, Professor Wrightson.
The college eventually closed, and the cup was stored for a while in Salisbury Museum. In 2006, it was gifted, by the Wrightson family to Downton – and the Downton Society. The Society gave the cup to Trafalgar School (on semi-permanent loan) – to be awarded each year to a student who has displayed some of the resilience and personal qualities shown by those students of over 135 years ago. The cup is presented annually by the Society.
In 2014, we discovered that Professor Wrightson was the great grand-father of Lord Julian Fellowes, the creator of the Downton Abbey TV series. We invited him to present the cup at the school in 2014, which he was delighted to do. He told us that the series had been named partially in memory of Downton ( his great grandparents had lived at The Warren in the High Street) and partially for Ramsey Abbey in Hertfordshire. A useful little snippet to know when you are chatting to visitors.