Scarce original photographs showing the British Polo & Cricket teams at Lake Conway (Orlando) in the 19th century.
One of the more prominent members shown in the photograph is Capt. Dudley G. Cary-Elwes. The English referred to their Orange Orchards as "Plantations". The great freeze of 1894-95 destroyed much of the orange groves and lead many Brits back to England.
The English settlers' love of polo led them to organize the Orlando Polo Club in 1890, wrote William F. Blackman in his 1927 History of Orange County, Florida. Led by J.S. Swindler, a retired colonel in the Dragoon Guards, members had started play two years earlier on a 900-by-450-foot field in Conway.
The team achieved great success over the years, joining the American Polo Association in 1906. After games against teams from Jacksonville and elsewhere, the ladies served tea on the grounds - as was the English tradition.
Members of the colony also organized a yacht club on Lake Conway and what they called the English Club where they hosted parties, dances and theatrical events.
In every English settlement in Central Florida, almost the first building to go up was an Episcopal Church, according to memoirs of Judge T. Picton Warlow, from which Bacon quoted. Such churches were built in Conway, Orlando, Narcoossee and at Fruitland Park in Lake County.
Despite their penchant for leisure, many of the English settlers entered business in the Orlando area and became successful.
But many of those who relied exclusively on citrus for a living were wiped out financially by back-to-back bitter freezes during the winter of 1894-95. More than half of them left their dead groves and went back to England. One man who had purchased a large grove for $40,000 reportedly sold it for the price of a ticket back to England.
Other hardier settlers stayed. Some replanted citrus. Others entered different lines of farming or went into business. Many descendants remain in Orlando, the Conway area and north Osceola County.
These two historical photographs that chronicle the above stated history came from the estate of silent film star Helen Gardner who was an early resident of Orlando.
The larger early c.1880's albumen photograph shows members of the Cricket teams. Interesting to note that Orlando was called Orlandor in the newspaper article that comes with this grouping.
Likely the only two known images of this storied page in Orlando & Florida history.
11'x 12 and 5' x 8 inches.
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