Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Memorabilia From the past. > Bare-knuckle Boxing.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Bare Knuckle Boxing. Bob Brettle, Tom Sayers


In response to a question that was posed during the week, which was an enquiry about  a boxer called " The Wordsley Glassblower ", aka Bob Brettle.  Sorry to have to disappoint you John, but he didn't come from the area, and although there may very well be a print of him fighting found in Stourbridge, he never fought there. Robert Brettle, was born in January, 1832, at Portobello, Edinburgh, Scotland. By trade, he was indeed a Glassblower, but he worked, from at least 1849, in Ladywood, Birmingham. He was a very strong and well built young man, and took up boxing in the town. He became quite a favourite with the " Birmingham Fancy ", and aquired the title of " The Birmingham Pet ". The fight you mentioned, in September, 1858, took place at Medway in Kent, against a man fancied to become a champion, Jem Mace. Possible believing it would be an easy victory, Mace was heavily backed, and as is the way of things, it didn't work out as expected. In the second round, Mace struck Brettles a blow on the ear which burst a blood vessal, and Brettles backed away. Mace, sensing he had the upper hand, came forward only to find himself on the recieving end of a mighty punch from Brettles. Mace went down like a sack of wet spuds, and despite vigorous attempts by his corner, ( including biting his ear, which drew blood ) he couldn't be made to stand at the scratch line. His legs wobbled in all directions but the one required, and after just 3 minutes of the fight, Brettles was declared the winner. Mace was to say later on, that in all his long careeer, he never recieved another punch like it.


By way of a bit more information, the next year, following his defeat of Mace, Robert Brettles was given a shot at the championship, via a fight with another all time great, Tom Sayer. The fight lasted 6 rounds, with Brettles having to retire with a dislocated shoulder. Another fight was arranged, this time in Wallingford, Gravesend, only to be abandoned in round 6, when the Police arrived on the scene. Declared a draw, they continued the fight the next day over the county border at Yantlet Creek, in Essex. This time there was no mistake, and the skillful Sayer won in 5 rounds. Robert Brettles returned to Birmingham, where he became the landlord of the White Lion Inn, in Digbeth. He died suddenly, in 1868, and is buried in Saint Peters Churchyard, Harborne. the parish from which his wife came. Old stories John, sometimes have an ending that are a bit unexpected, sorry I couldn't confirm yours, it would have made a nice addition to Wordsley's history.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 12, 2011 at 3:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

William Perry, Joseph Goss, Jem Mace, Tom Allen, Mike McCoole, Paddy Ryan.

Apart from William Perry, aka The Tipton Slasher, there have been many other boxers of note from the 19th century. One such, was the now well known Joseph Goss, who was born in  Northampton, in 1838, and whose father was a highly reputable Shoe Maker. Joseph of course followed his father into the trade, and needless to say, the fight game was not what he intended his son to get involved with. At Rowley Wake, in 1858, William Perry, who had retired from the ring, although he now ran a boxing booth, from which he offered " a Golden Guinea if any man could stay with him for 5 minutes". A young Joseph Gross, who had always fancied himself a bit of tough lad, took up the challange. and gave the slasher a really hard time. Never a bad loser, he handed Joe the money, who promptly joined the booth, learning a great deal in the process. The old slasher, notoriously fond of the drink, then got into a card game, lost the game, and the boxing booth as well. In his first fight, Goss, in 1859 at the Dell in Gornal, he beat Jack Rooke, a promising Birmingham fighter. Donkey Price, a Bilston man was next in 1860, and then later on that year, he beat Bodger Crutchley, the famous Lancashire fighter over 120 rounds. ( 3 hours and 20 minutes ) Next up came Bill Ryall, another 3 hour fight which he won, Ryall asking for a re-match, in 1862, which was even longer and declared a draw. In 1863, Joseph Goss got his big chance, and fought the legendary Jem Mace, for the all England Title. Mace knocked him out after 31  gruelling rounds. His next fight, the same year saw him demolish Big Ikey Baker, Brierley Hill, in 27 rounds. After taking on all-comers, he got another chance to fight Jem Mace, this time declared a draw after Mace twisted his ankle. Re-arranged, they fought again, and like the first meeting Mace knocked out Goss. Just 21 rounds this time. On the scene comes another famous midland fighter, Tom Allen, from Birmingham. Arranged for March,1867, it lasted for 34 hard rounds, and with Goss well on top, darkness fell and the contest was declared a draw. Allen then went to America, where in 1870 he lost to Jem Mace, who promptly retired. Allen then beat the American, Mike McCoole in 1873, and was declared World Champion. Scrapping together the money, Goss went to America in 1876. When they eventually met, the contest, in 1877,  lasted just 21 rounds, Allen being beaten so badly, he resorted to kicking Goss, who promptly claimed the world title. Joseph Goss was then 38 years old, a remarkable age at which to win the Title. Incredible, he held it for the next 4 years, losing to the big Irishman, Paddy Ryan, in late1880. The fight went to an astonishing 86 rounds, quite an achivement for a 42 year old. They made some tough old characters in Wolverhampton.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There was an even tougher fighter at the other end of the Black Country, for in Lye Waste, Worcestershire, in the year 1736, William Stevens, ( aka The Nailor ) was born. By the the time this powerful young man had reached 20, he had already started to dispose of the conciderable local talent, a feat he had accomplished by 1759. By doing so, he had attracted interest from the " London Fancy ", who were impressed with his ability to absorb a bit of punishment. In 1760, a match was arranged with Jacob Taplin, ( a title contender ) which took place in Marylebone, London, on February 19th. Stevens won in 13 rounds, a total of just 30 minutes. There was only one other contender for the title of Champion of England, who happened to be Jack Slack. Although not a great fighter, Slack went on to become a famous Trainer and backer of Champions. The fight was set up for 17th June, and it took the Lye Nailor, just 27 minutes, over 4 rounds, to win the title. When the news reached Lye, the little township celebrated, maybe because quite a few had bet everything they owned on the outcome. It was to be the highlight of Stevens boxing career, for the next year, 1761, he was matched in another title fight, this time with the notorious George Meggs. To the crowds astonishment, The Nailor went down after just 17 minutes, and, according to most who witnessed it, without receiving a heavy blow. There was uproar, and totally disgraced, William Stevens retired. George Meggs it should be said, was a very devious and crafty operator. He managed, in his brief career, to gain an almost unprecidented reputation for dishonest fighting, paying out large bribes and when that failed, cheating. Mind you, The Lye Nailor could always have said no thanks. After a break of 8 years, he made a comeback, beating John Mcguire, in 20 minutes, in Bloomsbury, London, on July 4th, 1769. Another contest was arranged, in August, again in London, against  William Turner, and which, after a gruelling 2 hours and 10 minutes, The Nailor lost. Now you would have thought, that Stevens would have given up for good at this stage, but no, 9 years later, at the age of 52, he once again fought for the Championship of England. His opponent, Harry Sellers, was half the Nailors age at 25, and it won't surprise anyone that the fight lasted just 10 minutes, Seller's walking away with the prize. I can only surmise that Stevens was short of money, or his brain was so addled, he couldn't think properly. Still, not seriously damaged, he did earn a few bob. It's thought he died in London, around 1804. Champion of England for a only a short time, but he certainly put Lye on the Map.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 27, 2012 at 3:36 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Tipton Slasher, Willim Perry, Ben Spilsbury, Jem Scunner, Tass Parker, Tom Paddock, Tom Sayers.



Born in 1819, ( some say 1820 ) William Perry, aka The Tipton Slasher, had a somewhat mixed career in the fight game. There is no doubt he was as tough as old boots, but he was more of a bruiser than a skilled boxer. Working on the Canal boats, and having to fight at times, to get a bit more quickly through the Locks, was fairly normal. Perry was tall for the time, six feet and half an inch, but with a twisted leg from a childhood bout of rickets. He first came to the notice of the fight games fans in London, in 1835, when he took on Barney Dogherty, at Mortlake. This fight was interupted by the Police, and was declared a draw. A few hours later, they resumed, this time at Lechmore Common, when Perry won in just 6 rounds which took an hour. Back home, in 1836, he agreed to fight Ben Spilsbury, a tough fighter from nearby Birmingham, and this took place in Oldbury, Worcestershire, which Perry, now with the famous nickname, won over 19 rounds, for a stake of £10 a side. Next on the list was a crafty individual called Jem Scunner, the pride of Sedgley, Staffordshire. Thats not to say that the Slasher wasn't averse to the odd little bit of cheating, as his record later on shows. Meeting at Gospel End,  on 22nd November, 1837, there was serious betting on the match, and fights broke out between rival factions. There were some dubious tactics in the fight as well, and the contest was called a draw after just 7 rounds. This caused a riot, and a great many injured rival fans.They repaired to Kingswinford the next day, when, in a more refined atmosphere, the Slasher won in 31 brutal rounds, this taking up an hour, and walked off with the prize of £50. Then came a gap of 5 years, although Perry continued to fight for money in the fair ground booths, supplementing this income with selling refreshments from his canvas stall. He was challenged in 1842 by James Burke, an up and coming young fighter, but being out of condition, the Slasher turned the fight down. After some serious training at his "  headquarters ", The Fountain Inn, Tipton, he accepted a contest against Charles Freeman, a giant of a man at six foot 10 inches tall, and weighing all of 276 lbs. On December 15th, 1842, a large crowd gathered on Taplow Heath, only to find the Authorities had called in the Police, and the fight was scratched. Some days later, on 20th December, this time at Cliffe Marshes, they met again to start the long awaited contest. After a hard battle, and in the 38th round, the Slasher went down without being hit by Freeman. Quite rightly, he was disqualified. Now this should have caused his popular appeal to wilt somewhat, but he seems, locally at least, to have overcome the charge of cheating, but not among the London fancy. During his early fights, he had in his corner, another famous local fighter, Tass Parker from West Bromwich, who now turned out to be the Slashers next opponant.


Tass Parker, had already beaten most of the best fighters around, and so, in 1843, it was agreed that the two should meet, with the main prize being, The Championship of England. It was bleak place chosen for the contest, Dartford Marshes, and they had been at it for an hour and 34 minutes, when the Police, in force, turned up and stopped proceedings. Declared a draw, they had fought for 67 rounds. In 1844, they met again, this time in Horley, Surrey, and after an incredible 133 rounds, over 2 hours and 32 minutes, it was Parkers turn to be disqualified. Maybe it's a co-incidence, but he did the same thing that the Slasher had done the year before, gone down without a blow being struck. The Slasher claimed the Championship, but was ignored, and two years later, they fought for the title again. Lindridge Common, Worcestershire, was the spot this time, to avoid interference from the Police. This time the Slasher made no mistakes, beating Parker over 23 rounds in just 27 minutes of fighting, and again he claimed the Championship, and again met the same response. Now this may seem at first glance, to be a bit unfair, but at a time when there was very little boxing going on, there were many others who had made the same claim. William Perry did not fight again for 3 years, until challenged by Con Parker. ( no relation to Tass )  A week before the contest, Parker was taken ill, or so he said, and was forced to forfeit his deposit. We now come to the year 1850, when the Slasher claimed the title for the third time. Tom Paddock, another famous midland fighter, ( The Redditch Needle Grinder ) arranged a fight which failed to materialise, and then another, on December 17th, 1850, which did. It took place on Woking Common, lasted 42 minutes over 27 rounds, Paddock being disqualified for hitting the Slasher in the neck while he was going to his corner at the end of the round. Once again the Slasher was denied the title, the emblem for which was a large and elaborate Belt, held by William Thompson, who, like many others, had not fought for some time. Despite challenging him, he refused to hand it over. The record books, quite rightly, gave The Slasher, for this year, the title he had fought so hard to win. But only for this year, as a new Champion, Harry Broome, a tough and altogether more skilfil fighter, had wrested it from Thompson.


In 1851, the Slasher at last managed to get the crafty London eastender in the ring, at Mildenhall, Sussex, and promptly threw away the chance. After just 15 rounds, Perry struck Broome as he was in a kneeling position, and once again, was disqualified. The London man kept the title of Champion of England, so the Slashers claim that he was Champion from 1850 to 1857 is false. The pair arranged a re-match in 1853, but Broome, having had a better offer, called off the fight, thus forfieting his deposit, and yet again, Perry claimed the Title. There's a saying, that you can't have, what you havn't earned, and in this case, it was perfectly true. Another 3 years passed, and the Slasher made some moves to re-establish himself for a shot at the Championship. He arranged a match with Aaron Jones, in 1856, which failed to take place, Jones forfieting the deposit, and then another with the man from Redditch, Paddock, which also failed, and again, Perry collected the forfeited deposit. Wearily, he again claimed the Championship, and again, was refused, there were by now, a lot more fighters about, and Perry was about to meet one of the greatest of them all, and this time, there would be no dispute about who was Champion.


Tom Sayers, one of the first breed of the new boxers, was a skilful and agile man. Where the Slasher was undoubtedly brave, and unafraid to take punishment, Sayers was a man who could dish it out in buckets full. They met at the Isle Of Grain, London, in 1857, and although the Slasher lasted 1 hour and 42 minutes over 10 rounds, the skill and power of Sayers was too much. Sayers so badly battered the Slasher, that his backer, Owen Swift, stepped into the ring, held up the sponge, and stopped the fight. It was the last time, the brave William Perry was ever to appear in the prize ring. He did of course return to the Black Country, feted as a hero, he went on to be the Landlord of several Public House's, but not, according to some records, The Fountain. A gambling man all his life, ( he was a keen follower of  Dog and Cock-Fighting, acting as referee in many  ) and a heavy drinker, his favourite Pub appears to have been The Four Ways Tavern, Kates Hill, Dudley.  On it's opening night, in 1852, it had a " Benefit " night for him, when a great deal of money was raised, so his attachment is understandable. He died in 1881, and is buried not far from the site of the old Pub, in Kates Hill Churchyard, his grave marked by a stone, that was placed there, paid for from a public subscription in the 1920s. Not the best, but like his fellow Blackcountry men, hard as nails.


William Perry, at the end of his life, was a shadow of his former self. The mighty muscular frame had gone, and he seemed to have shrunk from his imposing 6 foot height. He barely recognised the few former friends when they visited him in his little house in Bilston, for his sight was beginning to fail. Shunned by most of his previous ardent fans, he could barely afford the price of a refill for his clay pipe, but somehow managed to obtain enough beer to satisfy his thirst.  His favourite drink, Gin, was sometimes supplied by those who wished to interview the old man, about his long ring career. On the 18th August, 1881, he suffered a severe stroke, and was dead within minutes, an end, which can be said, that overtook a great many of the fighting legends of the era. It wasn't only an opponent in the ring that had to be overcome, there were the injuries, the gambling, the drink, and the desolute lifestlye of the time. Few managed to survive them all, William Perry was no exception.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 8, 2012 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Tom Hickman, Nat Sedgley, John Miller, Jack Hollis, Luke Walker, Bill Neate,



Now before the Tipton Slasher, ( and who knows, he may have based his career on the man.) came a man from not far away, in fact, just up the road.  Born in Ken Lane, Dudley, on 28th January, 1795, Thomas Hickman was the son of a local Blacksmith. The area was at the time, undergoing a vast change. The Canals had arrived, Iron working in all it's forms was on the increase, and Coal was King. Hickmans father was a fairly good fighter in his time, so the young Tom would have been well aware of the chances to make a name and money. As well as starting life helping his father around the forge, he showed great promise as a " Spring Jumper ", the same sport that Joseph Darby would later excel at. But it was as a steam boiler maker, that he built his muscles and stamina, and which caught the eye of Dudley Sutton. Never one to miss a chance to make money, Sutton had gained a conciderable fortune from his " Nail Fogging and Chainshop " enterprises. Hickmans first recorded contest was in 1814, it's believed, when he took on, at Wednesbury Field, during the towns Wakes Week, another local hero, Nat Sedgeley. The event, which last just five minutes, was a disaster for Sedgeley, who had bet heavily on himself to win, and had ended with him being carried home. Another local fighter was the next victim, a big powerful man called John Miller, who bore the nickname, The Milling Coppersmith. A native of Bilston, he was to prove a tougher opponent than Sedgeley, and Hickman had to work hard for 90 minutes to earn the purse of 2 guinea's. It took sometime for the young man to get over the injuries sustained, and as soon as he did, another local Champion stepped up, Jack Hollis, The Stourbridge Glassblower. The aptly named, Battle Meadow, at Russells Hall, was the venue for this bout, and again, after taking a bit of punishment, Hickman won after 25 minutes of fighting. In January,1818, Hickman took on the last of the local fighters, this time it was the ageing Luke Walker, The Netherton Collier. On the Netherton side of Dudley, was a place called Peacocks Field, and on the day, a vast crowd turned up to watch. It's a good job there was a bit of entertaiment from the many stalls and side shows, the fight last just short of 20 minutes, Walker being badly battered and cut up. So at just 23, the young man was taken in hand by Dudley Sutton, and Hickman was ready to take on anybody.


It's at this stage, that he aquired the nickname that would follow him to the grave, Tom ( The Gas ) Hickman. If Hickman could be faulted for anything, and he had a few, it was that he could never resist bragging and sometimes insulting his opponents. ( In modern times, Cassius Clay got away with it, but back then, it was concidered very bad form in London ) He quickly took on Peter Crawley in Mousley Hurst, in 1819, and won after 13 brutal rounds, picking up a prize of £100. George Cooper was next, a young and very clever boxer, but he could not withstand the ferocious attacks of Hickman, although he gamely fought on for 16 rounds. Cooper challenged Hickman to a re-match, and they met again on 11th April, 1821, on Harpenden Common, this time the prize was £200. In front of a truely enormous crowd, Hickman, the gas knocked out of him, was floored in the first round, and staggered back to feet bleeding heavily from a bad cut, sensing victory, Cooper rushed in, only to be felled with a mighty blow, which sent him flying out of the ring. The fight had lasted barely 3 minutes, and the crowd were astonised at the power of the blow. So was Cooper, who took almost 10 minutes to come round. Just 2 months later, on June 21st, Hickman was matched with Tom Oliver, six years older, and a valiant fighter. Oliver lasted just 12 minutes, and again, Hickman drew much anger with an insult about how easy the win had been. Providence now turned it's back on " The Gas ", and from here on in. it would be all downhill.


On 11th December, 1821, Hickman took on a man 2 stone heavier than himself, and of formidable reputation. Bill Neate, The Bristol Butcher, took no notice of the taunts from Hickman, as the prepared to fight at the famous Castle Tavern in London. Round after round, the 25,000 strong crowd could only gawp in amazement as the two went at it hammer and tongs. Hickman, under tremendous punishment was badly cut and battered, and in the 8th round, received a blow that stopped him in his tracks. By some means, he came out for another 10 brutal rounds, by which time his face was unrecognisable. In the end, it took the gentlest of blows from Neat to end the fight. Hickman was discribed as the Bravest Man in the World, and with a lions heart to match. At one stage during the next few days he was reported to have died from his injuries, but he was merely on the way home to Dudley to recover. Now the other side of his character came out, the side that got drunk, and the side that showed him up as a bully. True, he bore resentment over losing to Bill Neat, but his behaviour from now on would not endear him to many locals. He took on the role of the landlord, at the " Adam and Eve " in Dudley, and from which he roamed the district in his chaise, driving like a madman, and most certainly drunk as a skunk. It was only a matter of time then, before fate caught up with him, and it did, on 10th December,1822. Driving like a madman, he tried to overtake a slow and heavily laden coal waggon. The wheel mounted the bank on the narrow track, overtuning the chaise, and throwin Hickman under the heavy wheels. His skull, which had taken many hard knocks, couldn't manage this one, and it was crushed like an egg. Not a very good ending really, for a man who had undoubted talent in the ring, but sadly, lacked any judgement out of it. He left behind a wife and two children, although when he had ever had the time for them, remains a mystery.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 24, 2012 at 6:03 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Tass Parker.


I've already mentioned the next famous midland fighter. Tass Parker, who hailed from West Bromwich. He had the misfortune to arrive on the scene, at almost the end of a golden period in prize fighting. The records say he was born in a squalid little house, at the top end of Spon Lane, West Bromwich, on 10th April,1811. The son of an iron puddler, it was no surprise that he went into the same employment. Unlike some of his contemporaries though, he did learn to read and write, his father keeping him at school until he was12 years old. His proper name was Hazard, this being his mothers maiden name, but because of a slight lisp when young, the nearest he got to it was Tass. His father, John/Joseph Parker, ( some debate about this ) possibly worn out by the hard graft of supporting a large family, died aged 40, around 1834. Deciding he could earn better money in the prize ring, ( he was a powerfully built young man ) by the time he was 18, he was already getting well known among the regions fight fans. Now some modern folk express a certain degree of disgust about the sport, but it has to be borne in mind, that mass entertainment at the time, was in very short supply. True, that they had a few Hangings, Dog, and Cock fights, also a few fairs, wakes, and Church events to occupy the mind, but very rarely enough to satisfy a growing population. Besides, if you bet on the right man, you could come away, uninjured, with a tidy sum of money. At 5 foot 10 and a half inches, and weighing almost 12 stones, Parker was a good bet. It seems his first properly recorded bout, in 1835, was against the celebrated Birmingham man, Hammer Lane. Now lane was reaching the end of a successful prize ring career, but he was still no pushover. Dispite being a better boxer, Parker was battered to defeat by Lane. Two years later, they were at it again in a re-match, this time at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, on 7th Mrach, 1837, and with the same result, but over 96 rounds. Parker had developed a tactic of dropping to the ground after throwing a heavy punch, bringing the round to an end. Most crowds didn't like this, prefering to see a lot more action. ( and I should add, a bit more blood ) In 1838, Parker took on another up and coming Birmingham fighter, Harry Preston, who was both taller, and a stone heavier. In what was discribed as a brilliant style, Parker beat him, and realising that he would never be able to defeat the West Bromwich man, Preston quit, and became a ring second, and a very good referee. Always with an eye on a title chance, Tass Parkers next contest was against a rough, tough Liverpool man, Tom Britton, for a purse of £100 per side. Parkers tactic of dropping, caused a great deal of confusion with the umpires, and after a grueling 33 rounds, they declared the fight a draw. There was almost a riot. Never the less, in June 1840, they met again, which Parker won after 77 rounds, consuming 1 hour and 50 minutes of boxing. The reigning Champion, Big Ben Caunt, was away in America, so Parkers backers issued an all England challenge. First up was John Leechman, also known as " Brassey of Bradford ", a man of really ugly features, even before several years of being hit in the face. Brunt Lays, Worksop, was the chosen site for the fight, on 13 August,1841, and Leechman appeared, shaven headed, and having grown a huge beard. This was in stark contrast to Parker, who looked positively angelic, prompting one reporter to compare the contest to the battle between George and the Dragon, with all the money being on the Dragon. It was an epic battle, Parker sustaining among other injuries, damage to his ear which swelled up to an alarming size. Brassey was still favourite to win, when in round 129, Parker hammered him with a mighty blow, which broke his nose, and knocked him senseless. Unable to come to scratch, Tass Parker was declared the winner, and then came the most disgraceful episode of the era. When Brassey recovered, and before Parker could get away, the call went up that Brassey was now ready to come to scratch. Fearing a lynching, Parker was bundled back into the ring to re-start a fight he had just won. His opponent  was far from ready, he had taken a fearful hammering and was in no fit state to continue. Parker, had no option, but determind to finish it quickly, knocking Brassey from one side of the ring to the other, and when that wasn't enough, gave him another mighty blow, which was. John Leechman never fought again, and took up the Licence of a public house, where 4 years later, he died in some agoney, blaming the injuriies sustained following the fight with Parker. One other man now stood in the way of the Championship, The Bold Bendigo, (no. I'am not making up these names ) a Nottingham man, who had fought for the title before. The fight was set for 28 June,1842, but Bendigo's brother, who had been at the fight with Brassey, and fearful for his siblings safety, had the Bold one arrested before the contest for a " Breach of the peace ". That little scheme cost them the £70 deposit, but at least the the Bold one didn't get a severe battering.

Tass Parkers next three contests are detailed in the history of The Tipton Slasher, the last of which Parker fought with three broken ribs, a testament to his dogged courage. He retired from the ring, but not from a bit of fighting every now and then. In May.1844, he was with his brother James, also a fighter, who went by the name of Handsome Jem Parker, ( Honestly, I'm not making them up ) when he was accosted by an idiot in the Hotel bar, after the fight. He was then struck a blow, and swinging his famous left hand, he laid the man flat out. A doctor was called, and many will be familiar with his name, Doctor Palmer, ( for the place  was Rugeley. ) later to be hanged for numerous poisonous murders. Dispite his attentions, and without administering any medicine, the man died 15 minutes later. It was a very reluctant Coroner, who issued a verdict of Manslaughter, given that Parker had been clearly  attacked, resulting in Tass ( Hazard ) Parker, standing trial at Stafford Assizes. The Grand jury returned a " No Bill " against the charge, and Tass Parker was free to go home. In the 1850s, he moved from West Bromwich with his family,, and went to live at New Market, where he had a long. if somewhat quieter life. The odd episode, of a few lively nights out in the bright lights of London, only added to his reputation, and like another of his ilk. he always dressed very much like a Vicar. Long Black Coat and white cravat. He didn't find time to marry though, until 1863, when he wed a Dudley girl, and never had the urge to gamble, preferring to invest his money in Property. ( He was reported to own at least two Pubs in West Bromwich.) He certainly got about a bit as well, working for one of his backers, the Ironmaster, James Merry, as a " Minder ". Merry owned a string of Race Horses, hence the move to New Market, then in the1860s, Lambourn, Berkshire, and finally,in the 1870s, Bishopstone, near Swindon, Wiltshire. He again married, after the first one died, this time back in West Bromwich in 1880. He must have really liked Wiltshire, for it was at Highwood, in the county, that he died in 1884. The only black mark on his record, is being fined £10, with surities, in 1842, at Chester, for being involved in a Riot. The blame for that being fairly laid at the door of the brother of Bold Bendigo, for welshing on the fight. Illustrations in the " Images from the Forums Album " in the Gallery.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 5, 2012 at 4:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now I have been asked a few times about deaths in this sport. You may be surprised to learn, that they are few and far between. The very fact that gloves were not worn, reduced the risk of death conciderably. If a fighter hit someone too hard, he stood the chance of damaging his hand or fingers, and so would have been unable to properly defend himself, and would have lost the fight. Since the introduction of gloves, and in modern times, boxing deaths have averaged one a year. I am not of course championing the return of bare-knuckle boxing, just stating that which is in the records. Way back in June,1791, several fights were planned at Kings Standing, which today is in Birmingham. Knowing that large crowds would turn up, the gentleman of the district made efforts to stop it going ahead as planned. They failed. Due to fight that day, was a certain Mr Hicks, who came from Walsall, and may well have been the father of the famous Thomas Hicks. ( see above ) The other fighter was a Mr Brook, who hailed from West Bromwich, and the prize on offer was 40 guineas a side. A tidy sum of money at the time, although Brook never saw any of it, as he was carried insensible from the ring after a battering from Hickman, and lay dangerously ill for several days. He eventually recovered, and it was the second fight of the day that produced the shock. Henry Smith, certainly local, and likely to be from Birmingham, recieved a terrific blow to the head about round 10, and sank to ground like a sack of spuds. The blow had ruptured an Artery, and in the few seconds it took to reach him, he had died. The crowd, and his opponent, melted away before the Parish Constable could get there, thus avoiding a charge of Manslaughter. There's no doubt that many died years later, from injuries of past fights, but as I said, very few actually in the ring.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 12, 2012 at 3:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

As we all know, boundry changes have happened many times over the years. This makes it a little harder to discover the exact location of some births, as in the case of the Wednesbury bare-knuckle fighter, George Rowley. Born in April, 1821, he was actually christened in Saint Leonards Church, Bilston, on 29th of the same month. His father, John Rowley, was a tough Iron Puddler by trade, and it was said, that like all Blackcountry children of the time, that as soon as young George was out of his nappies, he was put to work. The work in question, being to fetch and carry the vast quantities of beer, ( in buckets ) consumed by the puddlers. When he was old enough, he also became a puddler. By coincidence, in the same Ironworks, was the younger brother of Tass Parker, nicknamed " Handsome Jem Parker " . The two of them did not get on well, having already matched fisticuffs in the local rings and booths. An offer was made, £5 a side, and acepted, for a contest between them, to be held at Bickenhill, Solihull, in December 1843. ( not all the locals, especially those concerned with the Law, were happy about fighting.) The proceedings lasted for over 2 hours, both men giving and taking heavy punishment, and it came to an end after 50 hard fought rounds, when Rowley, now called The Wednesbury Novice, failed to come to scratch. Rowley, then found the money to go to America, where he spent the next 18 months winning a few fights while working in the Philadelphia Iron Mills. Returning home, he at once challenged Jem Parker to a return, this time for £100 a side, the venue being once again, Bickenhill. This 1845 contest, was even harder fought than two years previously, and both of them were in conciderable pain from the repeated punching. Parker had lost the use of his right hand, and Rowley face was so badly damaged and swollen he could barely see. The crowd was calling for Rowley to be taken away, so piitable a sight was he, but he would have non of it. After two and a half hours of brutal battle, Rowleys second, Benjamin Terry, threw the sponge into the ring, and the fight ended. Rowley, and his backers, were furious, and accused Terry of selling the fight. It's debatable, that if the contest had gone on, who would have won. Jem Parker, had to be bodily carried, exhausted,  from the ring by his brother Tass. Shortly before Christmas,1854, George Rowley and a backer, Joseph Dickens, ( A weathy Wednesbury Cattle dealer ) walked into Terry's Public house, The Glebe Inn, Holt Street, Birmingham, and accused Terry of  being " a thief and a swindler ". Instead of getting into a pointless fight, Terry was advised to sue for slander. It cost Dickens £225, and Rowley £210. The scene was now set for another fight, and this was arranged at " The Golden Cup," Wednesbury. The Landlord, Josiah Griffiths, drew up the contract for £100 a side, for the fight on th 4th August,1846.


George Rowley went into training, with the Broome brothers from Birmingham, retiring to Shoreham-on-Sea. Another well known Birmingham trainer, Redmond Jones, selected the quiet village of Audley, on the county border with Shropshire, to prepare for the battle which would be fought on Denby Common, Derbyshire. The referee for this contest, would be yet another famous blackcountry fighter, George Holden, from Walsall. On the day, the large crowd beheld a contest, that lasted two hours and nine minutes. Hard hitting, stand up, toe to toe fighting, with no quarter asked, and non given. Non of your scientific stuff here, just raw power of swinging fists. Torn, bleeding, and exhausted by round 32, Rowley looked finished, but astonishingly, he staggered on for another 45 rounds. Finally, in round 79, he fell, and was still unconscious when time was called for round 80. Benjamin Terry had proved his point. Like a good many of the oldtime fighters, they were not enemies for long, although Rowley never fought again, The Wednesbury Novice had done enough, to go down in Midlands boxing history, as one of the gamest men in the ring. He went back to Wednesbury, where he ended his days, as mine host at The Golden Cup, much admired by many in the Town.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 20, 2012 at 4:29 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now if you or your family have connections in Tipton, and the family name is Baker, you may want to read this story. The oldest son, one of at least 12 children, William Baker, born in 1811, was a well noted local fighter. Just out of interest though, his younger brother Thomas Baker was also a useful man with his fists, although two other brothers choose different careers. Job Baker went on to be an engineer, and James Baker became a well known Pit Sinker. Their sisters went into domestic service, and although not many of them went to school, they concidered themselves a bit above the normal. William Baker started his working life around 7, when he went to work on the Canals. It was a very tough life on the boats, and he learned, at an early age, that someone useful with his fists, was an asset when it came to using the locks. Encouraged by the other boatmen, he had his prize ring debut at the tender age of 17. On 1st May,1830, the 6 foot 12 stone Baker, took on the local champion Joe Brumwood, at Penwood, near Wolverhampton, and inflicted so much damage that Brumwood never fought again. The big prizes of the London Fight Ring now beckoned, but there were a couple of obstacles in the way. One was the formidable Tass Parker, and the other was his cousin, William Perry. Realising he could defeat neither of them, he settled for fighting local Champions, teaching boxing, and acting as second to whoever needed one. It was a fight with one of the local champions, that he will be best remembered for.


Joe Burton, was called " The Pride of Bilston ", and I'm sure, somewhere out there, the reason for the name lies in a dusty old book. He was 2 inches shorter than Baker, and a stone lighter, but it was he who pushed for the contest, and set the purse at £25. He did of course, scrape together every penny he could lay his hands on, and bet on himself winning. They met on the 7th December,1830, at the common, near Wyrley, Cannock. Now while Burton was a skilful fighter, and landed more blows on Baker than he got back, he must have realised early on, that he had misjudged his opponant. Baker punished Burton with some very heavy body blows, and after 29 rounds, ( 1 hour and 15 minutes ) Burton collapsed unconscious. Failing to even hear the call to come to scratch, his second was preparing to throw in the sponge, when Burton managed to crawl the distance to the line. Using Bakers legs, he got himself upright with the referee now not knowing what to do. " You must finish him. He is on his feet and has not surrendered ". were the words Baker heard, but unable to punch a man clearly in trouble, he turned to guide Burton back to his corner. Burton quickly spun round and dealt Baker a tremendous blow to the solar plexus, and he went down like a poleaxed bull. Somehow, both of them managed to come to scratch, and once again Baker was told he had to finish it or it would be declared a draw. Drawing on his last ounce of strength, Baker struck Burton a violent blow, not to his face, but to his shoulder and Burton dropped to the ground. Round 31, and Burton had collapsed before he could reach the scratch line, and it was at this point that his second realised he was now blind. He threw in the sponge. Joe Burton wept tears at this, not because he had lost a fortune and was now a pauper, and blind as well, but because he had lost on a surrender. As I have said before, they don't come any harder than some of the men of the Blackcountry. There was a collection for Burton, which raised £30, and Baker gave £5 from the purse money.  Although his sight came back, he was never the same. Despite beating a much smaller man in 1832, ( Anthony Noon ) his strength finally gave out and he died in 1833. Noon died following a fight with Owen Swift in 1834. Bakers last recorded fight was against  Timer Hill, in 1837 at Gospel End, and it ended when Hill, also realising he had made a mistake, surrended the fight after 40 minutes, and 22 rounds of being battered.  William Baker, and his young family, emigrated, with other Family members, to Philadelphia in the early 1840s. His brother James came back, but William stayed on, the family now firmly rooted in the New World. Unless of course someone knows better.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 1, 2012 at 4:29 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There were of course, for every succesful bare knuckle fighter, several dozen more who never made the grade. The Prize Ring began to fade out of fashion after the 1840s, and the authorities clamped down hard on those determind to carry on. Ebenezer Hickin, born at 18, Bell Street, Wolverhampton, about 1843 was just one of the latter. His father, Charles, was in the Lock Trade, as a Latch Maker, and Ebenzer was one of at least 10 children. There is some confusion over his Mothers name, variously named as Appelinian, Appelousia, Appolonia, ( which is probably the correct one ) or in one case, Happylosia. Her maiden name for those interested was either Hodge, or Hidge, take your pick. In 1860, he was an Iron Brazier, or more likely, a Puddler, and was a well built, strapping young lad. Although frowned upon, the Prize Ring was still an attraction for those who fancied earning a bit of money, and Ebenezer was indeed interested. He had, before 1862, a few local fights, with mixed results, which may have been down to him getting married on 17th November,1861 to one Catherine Litherland, in Wednesfield, Staffordshire. The next time his names crops up, is in 1864, when in the wide open spaces of a remote part of the County, he and 10 others are arrested for Riot, and staging a Prize Fight. He may have been one of the contestants in this affair, as he was fined, on the 17th October,1864, £2, plus a £25 bond, to keep the peace for the next 12 months. Undaunted it seems by the fine and terms, he was arrested again in early February 1865, this time in Berkshire. For the event, he had slightly changed his name to Abel Hickins, as had his opponant, John Tyler, now called Bos Tyler. The scene of the encounter was the Swinnelly Racecourse, at Ascot, and they were at it hammer and tongs, when, after 33 rounds, the Police arrived in force. The crowd, including the seconds and the Referee, scattered to the four winds, but our intrepid duo, not having the strength left, were easily caught. Charged again with Riot, they were each fined £5, and again, a £25 bond, to behave over the next twelve months was required. It's not been recorded how many contests young Ebenezer had been involved in, but he must have earned a few bob, given the amount it had cost so far in fines and bonds. He returned back to Wolverhampton, but the temptation was to great, and another fight was arranged. Word soon reached the authorities and just as the action started, the police swooped and arrested everyone in, or near the ring. Joseph Nolan, Richard Fellows, Henry Hall, Henry Crutchley, and David Crutchley, were all charged with Prize Fighting, but strangely enough, not Abel Hickin, who it seems, being the last to the ring, hadn't as yet stripped off. In all, 13 men were charged, again with Riot and staging a Prize Fight, the fines and bonds being the same as before. After this, he may have had second thoughts about a career in the ring, for he disappears from the records completely. A short, but for him at least, an expensive debut on the fight circuit. If anyone has any other information on Ebenezer ( Abel ) Hickin, please let me know.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 13, 2012 at 11:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Elijah Parsons, Wombourne, Tom Paddock,


In September, 1814, a cry was heard in the night, it was plaintive call of a new born child, and a legend among the Wombourne village Nailers began. The new arrival was one Elijah Parsons, the son of a rather devout man, and whose example of christian charity, Elijah was to follow for the rest of his life. The family moved to Dudley in the 1830s, and the young Elijah, a powerfully built figure was soon in demand, clearing out the drunks from the many beerhouses in the Town. Like his father, he also became well known as one of the old Fire and Brimstone Preachers, which is somewhat at odds with the fighting abillity he could display. He was never happier, it was said, than when clearing out a " den of Satan ", a fact that could be attested to, by anyone who had made contact with his iron fists. He had another little trait which set him apart from his fellow pugilists, he detested the rogues and scoundrels who surround the fight game, and preached many a sermon on their evil ways. It was a kind of David v Goliath situation, and when he won a contest, he would distribute the prize-money he had earned, amongst those of the parish who faced hard times. The money was hard earned, he took more than few knocks, so why choose this way, perhaps he just loved a good old scrap. In January,1844, Elijah Parsons beat Frederick Pearce, who hailed from Cheltenham, at a meeting in Mappleborough Green, just outside Redditch, Worcestershire. It was a bruising match, and among the crowd, was another up and coming fighter, Tom Paddock, "The Redditch Needle Grinder ". Later that year, in December, the pair were matched to fight at Sutton Coldfield, Paddock using the occasion to boost his career. Although ten years older, Parsons was a fit and very able fighter. Standing 6 foot tall, and weighing in at 13 stones, he must have presented a worrying sight for the Redditch man. And so it proved, for " The Punching Preacher " had Paddock down a few times, as both men struggled for supremacy. They were both a sorry sight when the end finally came, age finally telling on the Preacher, after over an hour of bloody combat. Tom Paddock went on to meet some of the best big men of his era, and the Preacher went back to what he did best, the fire and brimstone preaching, and throwing out the rowdies from the Pubs of Dudley. Combining, you could say, a bit of business with pleasure, a most satisfactory way to live out your life.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 31, 2013 at 3:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Worcester was the scene, in 1824, where an epic battle between two well matched exponants of the " noble art " took place. Thomas Winter, better known as Tom Spring, was born in Fawnhope, Herefordshire, on the 22nd February, 1795. He grew into a big strong lad, useful around the farms, and by the time he was 17, useful in a boxing ring as well. Many of his early contests were at local fairs and fates, but in 1817, a fight was arranged with the then Yorkshire champion, Rawcliffe Stringer. This of course was a test, for Stringer was believed to be at least 40 years old, but as strong as an ox, with a stamina to match. Tom Spring, standing at just under 6 feet tall, and a little over 13 stones, was more of a scientific fighter than Stringer, but nevertheless, the fight went to 30 rounds. Well worth the effort for Spring, the purse was 75 guineas. He went on to defeat Ned Painter in 31 rounds 1818, Jack Carter, ( The Lancashire Brute ) in 71 rounds in 1819, Ben Burn in 1820, and Tom Oliver in 1821. When the great Tom Cribb retired, Spring believed he was the Champion, but then had a challenge from the man who had beaten our very own, Tom, ( the gas ) Hickman, Bill Neate, ( the Bristol Bull ) They met in May, 1823, and Tom Spring outclassed him, the fight lasting just 8 rounds. Now came a challenge from the Irish Champion, John Langan, and the contest, for a large purse, 300 guineas, set for Worcester Race-course.


John Langan was three years younger than Spring, having been born in Clondalton, County Clare, in 1798. He was just short of Tom Springs height and weight, and not so experienced in the ring, but a man of great ability. He had beaten Owen M'Gowran, an Irish Champion in 1819, and several other contenders, until in 1823, he arrived in Liverpool. Roared on by a very large Irish contingent, he beat the Manchester Champion, Matthew Vipond, promptly threw out the challenge to Tom Spring. The 7th of January, 1824, was going to be a big event, as it so proved, and not just in the ring.


Worcester Race-course had been used for many things over the years, also known as Pitch Croft, it had hosted many hangings from the City Goal. They were used to large crowds, but this fight must have surprised them, for they were forced to extend the stand, one alongside the river, with  temporary structures. From all over the Land the spectators came, an estimate would be between 30 and 50,000 people. The two opponants entered the ring, and disaster happened. The newly erected stand, nearest the river, with an audible sigh, collapsed, flinging over 1,500 people to the ground. Tom Spring was reported to have gone very pale, at the thought that he might be somehow be responsible for what might unfold. It took sometime to extracate those trapped from the wreakage, and by some miracle, no one was killed. Running somewhat late, the fight began, and all the early rounds were a bit subdued, Tom Spring maybe still thinking of the earlier mishap, and John Langan's early weak attacks being repulsed. After round 14, things hotted up, and by round 38, Langan was heard to say " You have done nothing yet ", to which Spring replied, All in good time, I shall do at last ". The spectators from the collapsed stand, unable to be moved elsewhere, now started to encroach on the ring, and no amount of whipping and prodding would move them back. Tom Spring began to get the upper hand, but Langan was a tough fighter, encouraged no doubt by the roar of the by now close crowd. Springs second, the retired Tom Cribb was forced to issue a warning that he would floor anyone who got in the way. This only resulted in an umpire being hit on the head by a Shillelah. Most of the crowd did move back a little, giving the two more room and the fight continued. By round 70, the constant punishment from Tom Springs flashing fists, had reduced Langan's face to a one -eyed parody of what it was when they started. It lasted to round 77, when John Langan, battered, bruised, and barely able to stand, finally went down for good, after a two fisted assault by Spring. As he was being carried away, Colonel Berkeley declared Tom Spring the winner, John Langan was too far gone to hear. The two fought again, on the 8th June, 1824, for a purse of 500 guineas, and this time, Tom Spring took just one round less to defeat Langan for the second time. In a period of just 12 months, Tom Spring had earned prize money of over £1,000, and an amount not declared on side bets. For the time, it was an enormous amount of money, but then again, it was earned after a great deal of pain. Pictures of both men, in the " Faces From the Past " album.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 22, 2013 at 3:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

John " Hammer " Lane.


Long before the Black Country aquired the name, the main area noted for Coal Mining, was over in Shropshire, at Dawley, Broseley, and Madeley. As the picking got thinner, word spread that more money could be earned in little Town of Bilston, Staffordshire, and a steady stream of miners began to appear in the district. Among the many " Shroppie " family names that settled in Bilston, was that of Lane, and one in particular, William " Sogger" Lane. ( The Shroppies Champion ) By trade he was a Blacksmith, at a local Pit called the slaughter, and his powerful build came in handy, when he was introduced to the noble art of Pugilistic Skills. From an early age, he could be relied on to perform well at the Bilston Wakes, for the betting men at least. Just before he could be pursuaded to join the Boxing Booth on it's travels, he was struck down with cupids arrow, and married a local girl, Hannah Clarke. Now he must have made a least a bit of money from the booths, for they moved to Birmingham, where young William set up a small business making Hammers and Iron Plate, in the busy Bartholomew  Street. William and Hannah produced five sons, and it was the second of these, John Lane, christened at Saint Peters, Wolverhampton, on 15th December, 1815, but possibly born in Bilston, who became the star of the family. In 1831, he was just turned 16, a strapping lad, and already well known in the Birmingham boxing circle. That year, for a purse of £5 a side, he took on an older opponant, Moses Sidaway, the local Chainmakers Champion, from Plants Green, Cradley Heath. Heavy betting on the fight, was matched with some heavy punching by the youngster, who soon despatched his rival. It's said, that so impressed with his powerful right hand, the chaimakers gave him the nickname " Hammer ", but in all likelihood, he already had that name, for his trade, was as a Hammer Maker.  His older brother William, also a boxer, ( two other brothers, Tom and Jem, were also well known on the local fight circuit ) had given up the fight game, in order to run the family business after the death of their father. A brief word here about his mother, for she was as tough as old boots.



She worked as a " wheeler out " , ( shifting the slag from the Furnaces of Baldwins Iron Works)  and  had it seems, also fought in the womens prize ring, having a formidable right hook, and a mouth to match. She had a nickname as well, " Fighting Nance ". ( No, I didn't make that up either. )  Hammers next  noted fight, was against Harry Ball, for £20 a side, which he won, took place in Smethwick, on the 18th November,1833. This was followed on the 25th of the same month, by the pounding into submission of William " Billy " Hewson for £10 a side, again in Smethwick. ( Fight interupted, but resumed the next day ) He had by this time, aquired a big following of fans, not just from Birmingham, but from his native Black Country as well, for the family were well respected back in Bilston. There nothing in the records for long periods, his next battle being on 17th March,1835, in Shirley, near Birmingham, when he beat Jack Green over 29 rounds, for a purse of £20 a side. I have already mentioned Tass ' Hazard' Parker, and the two of them had two meetings, the first in London, on the 15th September,1835, which Hammer Lane won over 48 rounds, and pocketed the £25 a side prize. There were two battles of note during his career, the first of which took place on the 10th May,1836, at Four Shires Stone, Warwickshire. ( just a few miles from Chipping Norton, and an excellent place to escape from should the law take a hand ) His opponant was Owen Swift, and it was an epic fight, as you will see in the next episode.


Owen Swift was a Londoner, a man with a great deal of skill, backed up with hefty punch from both hands. In 1834, he agreed a contest with one Anthony Noon, but unfortuately, after the bout ended, Noon died from his injuries. In order to curb the Prize fighting, the authorities came down hard on Swift, who was arrested, charged with manslaughter, and sent to prison for six months. On his release, he reverted back to teaching the up and coming, and in September 1835, was invited to become Tass Parkers second, in his first bout with Hammer Lane. Like many in the game, he had a rather rough manner about him, and proceeded to make himself very unpopular in the midlands, accusing Lane of cheating during the fight. Before he went back to London, he was challenged to fight Lane, and in a short time, the terms had been arranged, £50 a side. The 10th May,1835, was a fine day, which may have been partly the reason why around 8,000 people turned out to watch the battle. Among the crowd, was a braver man than both fighters, a local Constable whose name has not been recorded.



As soon as the two men had shaken hands, he stepped forward, and charged them with " Breaking the Kings Peace ".  It took a little while for the backers of this fight, to realise that the Constable was on his own, and that he did not have a Magistrates Warrant. He was however persistant, and knew his duty, and threatened to arrest the first man who threw a punch. The crowd were all for binding and gagging the lonely Consatable, and a bit of rough and tumble took place during which the brave man in blue managed to knock down two of his assailents. The men from the Black Country, recognising the bravery, quickly overpowered him, carried him from the ring, and as he had done the best he could, gave him a ringside seat for the bout.


I may have mentioned it elsewhere, but prizefighting rules were a bit different from what we modern folk would understand. It was perfectly legal to ' thow ' an opponant, and then fall on him as wrestlers do today, although the purists frowned on such behaviour, as this didn't produce the blood and gore that was a feature of the time. Each time a man went down, that ended the round, and each was then required to " come to scratch ", a line drawn across the ring from the neutral corners. Striking when a man was down, kicking, gouging eyes, biting, or blows below the belt would get a man instantly, if the referee was any good, disqualified. If both were to weak to come to scratch, the fight was declared a draw, and the same was also true if the bout was interrupted by the Law. Betting of course was the main business at these fights, and along with the pleasent smell of fast money, came the stink of curruption, which had been rife for many years. Not that these boxers had been ' got at ', for the vast crowd certainly got their monies worth.


John " Hammer " Lane,  looked to be in fine condition, having been trained by a former boxer at " The Hen and Chickens ", in Stone, Staffordshire. His mother had quarrelled several times with trainer David Davis, and on more than one occassion, had to be forcible restrained. ( I told you she was formidable woman, for on one Census record, she had inserted the words, " Great Mother to the Family " )  Owen Swift, on the other hand, looked a bit pale, but appearences can be deceptive, for the man they called " The Westminster Pet ", was still in the fight game in 1856. The odds, just before the fight began, were 6 to 4 in favour of the Londoner, and for the first few rounds of punching and wrestling, very little seperated the men, except that Swift was unable to throw Lane to the ground. Things hotted up in round 20, Swift increasing the pace, although until round 25, Lane seemed entirely comfortable, despite the blood from his nose. Lane continued in the same way, putting in some telling blows, and seemingly able to throw Swift at will, which began to sap the others strength. In round 52, Swift finally manged to give Lane a heavy fall, but in the next round, Lane smacked him so hard in the head that both of Swifts feet left the ground. He was tough man though was Swift, and he was still hanging in there come round 78, although the odds now favoured Lane by 3 to 1. There was more to come.


There comes a time, in every contest of strength and willpower, when one side senses that defeat is enevitable. Owen Swift tried, in the next 22 rounds, used all his crafty skills, including a few head butts, to wear down the Bilston/Birmingham man. It all failed. Swifts seconds, almost threw in the sponge in round 100, but their man refused, and gamely struggled on, his weakness really beginning to take a hold. There were many in this brutal fight game, who had, and would show, utter ruthlessness to win, but Hammer Lane wasn't one of them. He kept his cool, and his rather old fashioned manners, by refusing to throw and fall down on Swift. ( this may have shortened the fight, but risked giving his opponant serious injury ) He also held back from delivering the punch that would also have finished  Swift, instead, in round 104, he threw Swift heavily to the ground, and stood back and waited. Swift was finished, and could not rise again, being counted out by the referee. Hammer Lane's Black Country supporters were well pleased with this result, and of course, it cemented the reputation of Lane as an honest and fair fighter. He was also a very Brave one.




He was back in the Ring again three months later, beating Jack Adams, for £50 a side on the 23rd August, at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, in just 19 rounds. Tass Parker made a further challange, and they fought on the 7th March,1837, again at Woodstock, and again, Lane beat him over 96 gruelling rounds. Byng Stocks was next, at Bicester, for £50 a side on the 15th January,1838, which Lane won after 10 rounds. Several lesser fights were undertaken, and by 1840, at just 25 years old, he had beaten all of the best at his fighting weight of 10st 10lbs. ( Todays equivelent of a Welter weight ) The law of averages says that you can't win them all, and on the 9th June, 1840, he took on Jem " Young " Molineux. After 53 of the hardest rounds most supporters could remember, the heavier man won the day, and Hammer lane was at last beaten. He now displayed the bravery, for which he was respected for the rest of his life, and which folk from Bilston and Birmingham never forgot. On the 2 February, 1841, he fought " Yankee " Sullivan. It was a fight he should have won, but early on in the battle, he was thrown, the fall breaking his right arm. Neither he, nor his corner, at first thought the damage was serious, but as the fight went on, his arm became evermore useless, untill he could not raise it. Despite pleas from his second, he refused to quit, saying that he could beat the man with one arm, and then proceeded to prove his point. For several rounds he pounded Sullivan with his left hand, and it began to look like he would be true to his word. Sadly it wasn't to be, and as he grew weaker, he begen to take a load of punishment, so much, that he was forced in the end to stop. He had kept it up for 19 rounds, and if that's not brave, against a man with two arms and fists, I don't know what is. John Hammer Lane, virtually gave up prize fighting, taking on a Public house in Birmingham called  The Spread Eagle, ( he is listed as an Inkeeper, in Moor Street, Birmingham in 1841 ) which attracted many others to seek his help in the game. I say virtually, for in 1850, he made a comeback, something many have tried, and failed at, in the past. On the 5th June,1850, he was beaten over 47 rounds by a relative of his own former trainer, Tom Davis. Associated with many famous local Bare Knuckle Boxers from the region, including The Tipton Slasher, and Tass Parker, he kept himself busy with training and acting as second at many future fights. So busy in fact, that at 35, he was still unmarried, and living with his brother William Lane, his wife and family, and his mother Hannah, at Court 17, house No.5, Bartholomew Street, Birmingham.  Nothing but a gentleman was Hammer Lane, his mother was very proud of him, which is exactly what  you would expect from a Bilston Wench. 


John " Hammer " Lane, died in Birmingham, aged 67, in 1882. Any further details, will be gratefully received.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now I was recently asked about a local fighter, already mentioned in this topic, Timer Hill. Not much is recorded about run- of- the-mill locals, so this is all I have. Hill bore the nickname, ' The Wolverhampton Pet ', so it's a fairly safe bet that he actually came from the area. On the 16th October, 1836, he fought another local man, Bill Small, who was syled as The Darlaston Champion. The Law may have got wind of this fight, for it took place at Shipley, which I believe was over the border in Shropshire, but still near enough to Wolverhampton to enable both sets of supporters to turn out in force. At just £20 a side, it wasn't a massive purse, and it took just 23 minutes, ( 17 rounds ) for Hill to subdue his opponent. The only other recorded fight is against William Baker, at Gospel End, which you will find described elsewhere in this topic. If anyone has any further details of his career, do let me know.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 19, 2015 at 5:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

This topic is closed, no additional posts are allowed.