Fred Archer pencil end

Photo: North Lincolnshire Museum CC By SA2.0
Object type: Pencil
Period: Modern
Primary material: Lead alloy
Date found: 11/07/2023
Location: Walcot, North Lincolnshire


A lead alloy Victorian pencil end, dating to about 1870-1890. On the PAS record Gary Crace identifies it as being “modelled on Fred Archer a champion jockey of 1870/80s“. Possibly not that an unusual find as there are six more recorded on the PAS database but Fred Archer is certainly an unusual character.

Fred Archer

I have a wonderful boy here who will do marvellous things” – Matthew Dawson, trainer at Fred’s first stables.

Fred Archer

The pencil end looks like a generic jockey to me; it’s not a good likeness for Fred, the hat is divided in eighths when all other images of Fred see him in a single colour hat and even the hairstyle doesn’t seem quite right.

But he was a global sporting superstar who is said to have “captured the public imagination as no other jockey had ever done“, with his image everywhere, and so it is certainly intended to be him.

His life was legendary but also tragic. In 1870, at the age of 12, he won his first race under Jockey House rules. Two years later he had his first big win in the Cesarewitch. He would go on to have 2,748 wins including 5 Derbys and was champion jockey 13 times.

Three things led to his demise: his weight, his gambling and the loss of his wife. He was a tall lad and was constantly battling to achieve his racing weight. His doctor prepared an unusually strong purgative, known as Archer’s Mixture, to assists with his continual periods of wasting.

He gained the nickname “The Tin Man” because of his liking for money. However, although earning a considerable amount he was burdened with money problems due to his gambling.

Fred Archer’s wedding

On 31 January 1883, he married Rose Nellie Dawson. In November of the following year she died during childbirth.

Poor Nellie! She was my glory, my pride, my life, my all,” Fred told a friend.

Burdened with debts, delirious from wasting and grieving for his wife, only two years later, at the age of 29, Fred committed suicide,