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Cup won by a March sharp shooter in the 1800s now on display in the town's museum



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A shooting cup awarded to a sharpshooter in the 5th Cambs Rifle Volunteers is now on display in a Fenland museum after being spotted for sale by an eagle-eyed volunteer.

The cup awarded to Private William Phillips in 1868 has been obtained, with the assistance of legacies from two March Museum volunteers, Daisy Murray and Verna Cowlan.

In 1860 a volunteer force was established in England to resist the perceived threat of invasion by France. A number of these forces were established in Cambridgeshire as the Cambridgeshire Rifle Volunteer Corps.

March Museum is now home to a shooting cup won by a member of the March Corps set up in case of a French invasion in the 1800s. (54454158)
March Museum is now home to a shooting cup won by a member of the March Corps set up in case of a French invasion in the 1800s. (54454158)

Components of this Corps were established in March,Wisbech, Cambridge and Cambridge University, Whittlesey, Ely, Upwell, Newmarket and Soham; the 5th Cambs Rifle Volunteers was the March Corps.

Members of the force came from all walks of life but trained regularly. Part of the training was a monthly shooting competition held at the rifle range which used to be between the river and Gaul Road, on a line approximately where the March By-pass is now.

The competition was held over two distances, No 1 for 300yards and No 2 for 200 yards. A cup was awarded to the winner of each of these matches. A report in the Cambridgeshire Independent Press, dated 8/8/1868 stated that Private W Phillips won the second prize. The next month it reported that Private Phillips had won No 2 prize and in October the report was that Private Phillips had won both the No 1 and No 2 prizes. It indicated that ‘he holds the No 1 for the month; No 2 he holds as his own’.

Recently the Museum Archivist, David Edwards, saw that this trophy was for sale and, with the approval of the Trustees, he purchased it and it is now on display in the Museum.

An interesting point to note is that this was not the end of William Phillips achievement as he won the No 1 cup outright in March 1969. Could this cup still be about, unknown as to its history, sometime to be united with its compatriot?

William Phillips’ father, F B Phillips, ran the brewery on the site of St Peter’s Church and he was the Uncle of F T Phillips, the aerated water and ginger beer manufacturer. William left March about 1875 and, after living in London for some time, died in Brighton in 1914.



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