William Kerr 
Australian 1839–1896

The Sydney silversmith William Kerr was responsible for some of the largest and most fantastic silver trophies made in colonial Australia. His Cricketing Trophy of c.1876 features a cricket match with numerous players; his Intercolonial Bowling Trophy of 1882 shows a bowling match in progress under a giant fern tree; and, on a smaller scale, his Sydney Bicycle Club Trophy of 1885 is in the form of an emu-egg carriage, drawn by an emu and supported by a pair of cyclists on penny farthing bicycles. 

For The Mayor’s Cup, made to be presented at the December 1879 meeting of the Australian Jockey Club, Kerr devised a trophy in the form of a tree-fern epergne. Epergnes of this kind were made by a number of makers, but this one is unusually large and is enriched with allegorical figures and an extraordinary miniature racecourse. Five carousel-like horses and their riders are engaged in what seems to be an eternal circuit of the base of the epergne. The detail is remarkable and includes a marquee, a judge’s booth and a grandstand full of spectators. The Mayor’s Cup was exhibited on Kerr’s stand at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, where it attracted a great deal of attention. 

William Kerr was born in Northern Ireland in 1839 and is thought to have migrated to Australia in the early 1860s. He took premises in George Street, Sydney, close by the Sydney Town Hall. His convenient location and the quality of his work brought him to the notice of the Mayor, C. J. Roberts, JP, from whom Kerr received a number of substantial orders. Roberts’s successor, Mayor Harris, was also an important patron. 

Terence Lane