Letter from Disraeli to William Penny Brookes to be sold at auction in Shropshire

A signed letter dated September 7, 1859 from Benjamin Disraeli, a prominent figure in the Conservative party who later became Prime Minister twice, to Dr William Penny Brookes of Much Wenlock is set to go under the auctioneer’s hammer in Shropshire next week.

The letter from Benjamin Disraeli to William Penny Brookes in Much Wenlock
The letter from Benjamin Disraeli to William Penny Brookes in Much Wenlock

Dr Brookes is best known as the founder of the Wenlock Olympic Games, forerunner to the modern Olympic Games but he also established the Agricultural Reading Society in 1841 for the better education of farm workers.

He wrote to authors seeking donations of books to the society and the letter from Disraeli is in reply to one such request.

Written on notepaper from Hughended Manor, Disraeli’s country house near High Wycombe, the politician and author stated that he regretted there were no library editions of his works to be obtained, adding: “I did not like to offer to your institution a railway edition of any of my books”.

The letter, which will be sold at Shrewsbury-based fine art auctioneers Halls’ country house auction on April 26 and 27, is valued at up to £300.

Dr Brookes (1809-‘95) was a surgeon, magistrate, botanist and educationalist who believed that sport and physical activity not only improved the health of young people but could also be used to unite and inspire communities.

He campaigned for physical education in schools, delivered the first Olympian Games in 1850 in Much Wenlock and inspired the formation of the National Olympian Association which later went on to host the first games at Crystal Palace in 1866 in front of 10,000 spectators.

In 1889, Dr Brookes met Baron de Coubertin who visited the UK to understand how sports education was practiced in schools. The Baron visited the Wenlock Olympian Games the following year and learned of Dr Brookes’ ambitions to host international Games to be held in Athens.

Sadly, Dr Brookes died just four months before the Baron brought his dream to life by helping to create an international Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Since his death, Much Wenlock has hosted an Olympian Games every year, except for wartime.