Cobbett's objective was to revive the old form of the Fancy, in particular the more sectional type that was popular during the early seventeenth century, and clothe it in a modern guise. At the same time, he hoped
to call the attention of native composers to the trend of the British mind towards emotional reticence, and to the value of such a mentality in the composition of chamber music, in which the absence of exaggeration is counted a great merit.12
He stipulated that the Phantasy
was to be performed without a break, and to consist of sections varying in tempo and rhythm; in short to be (like the Fancies) in one-movement form and not to last more than twelve minutes. The parts were to be of equal importance.13
The first competition, arranged jointly by Cobbett and the Worshipful Company of Musicians, was for a Phantasy String Quartet. The adjudicators, among whom were Cobbett himself and Sir Alexander Mackenzie, then director of the Royal Academy of Music, awarded the first prize to Hurlstone, with Bridge second and Haydn Wood third, and the first six phantasies were performed at the Bechstein Hall on 22 June 1906 with the Saunders Quartet.
The second competition was announced in 1907, this time for a Phantasy Trio (for piano trio), and from amongst 67 competitors - the same number as in the initial competition - Bridge won the first prize. The second and third prizes were awarded to Ireland and Friskin respectively, with the result that all five prize-winners in the first two Cobbett competitions were young College composers and indeed pupils of Stanford.