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Newall, Sybil Fenton [Queenie]free

(1854–1929)
  • James W. Bancroft

Sybil Fenton Newall (1854–1929)

by unknown photographer, 1908 [at the Olympic games in London]

Newall, Sybil Fenton [Queenie] (1854–1929), archer, was born at Hare Hill, Littleborough, near Rochdale, on 17 October 1854, the eldest daughter of the ten children of Henry Newall (1815–1886), merchant, and his wife, Maria Fenton (1832–1901). The Newall family traced an unbroken succession from the reign of Henry IV. Her father owned a large estate at Hare Hill, where all ten children were born. Her maternal grandfather, John Fenton (1792–1863), was elected Liberal member of parliament for Rochdale in 1832 and represented the constituency as a ‘radical reformer’ and friend of Bright and Cobden for two periods until his retirement in 1841.

Queenie Newall, who had independent financial means, never married, and lived in Cheltenham with her younger sister Margaret Fenton Newall. In 1905 they joined the fashionable Cheltenham archers club. Queenie won four of the five regional archery meetings held in 1907, and soon began to make a name for herself in the sport. Lady archers shot the national round, which was 48 arrows from 60 yards, and 24 arrows from 50 yards on each day of the two-day event.

The 1908 Olympic games took place in London, and the archery contest was held in the White City stadium on 20 and 21 July. Alice Legh, the finest woman archer of the era, had chosen not to compete, and Queenie's main rival was expected to be Lottie Dod, still considered by many to be the greatest all-rounder in the history of British women's sport. Conditions were dreadful on the first day as wind and driving rain swept across the stadium, affecting the flight of the arrows to such an extent that officials had to stop the contest at one stage. Miss Newall trailed Miss Dod by ten points, but on the second day the weather improved and Queenie soon took the lead and won the gold medal by a clear 43 points, with a total of 688. At the age of 53 years 275 days Queenie Newall was still, by the end of the twentieth century, the oldest woman to have won an Olympic medal.

At the national championships held soon after the Olympics, Alice Legh beat her by 151 points, but Queenie Newall won the championship in 1911, and retained the title in 1912, when it was held in her home town. She continued competing after the First World War, her last recorded score being with the Cheltenham archers in September 1928. She died at her home, Ellingham House, Pittville Lawn, Cheltenham, on 24 June 1929.

Sources

  • J. W. Bancroft, Olympic champions in Manchester (1993)
  • T. A. Cook, The fourth Olympiad: the official report of the Olympic games of 1908 (1909)
  • H. Fishwick, The history of the parish of Rochdale in the county of Lancaster (1889)
  • Gloucestershire Echo (24 June 1929)
  • I. Buchanan, British Olympians: a hundred years of gold medallists (1991)
  • census returns for Littleborough, 1851
  • P. Cant, History of Cheltenham archers, 1857–1975 (1976)
  • b. cert.
  • d. cert.

Likenesses

  • photograph, 1908, Hult. Arch. [see illus.]
  • photograph, repro. in Cook, Fourth Olympiad
  • photograph, repro. in Buchanan, British Olympians, 13
  • photograph, repro. in Bancroft, Olympic champions, 11

Wealth at Death

£3081 18s. 4d.: probate, 19 Oct 1929, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

J. Burke, , 4 vols. (1833–8); new edn as , 3 vols. [1843–9] [many later edns]