Ukrainians Welcomed to Nottingham

We have recently offered our guided tour to families who have arrived in Nottingham from the war in Ukraine. It is the least we can do to welcome them to Nottingham. We have adapted our tour to include details of modern Nottingham, but still managed to tell The Bendigo Story.

Welcome to Nottingham

Ukraine has of course produced some of the best heavyweight fighters in recent years. Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko were in their prime between 2004 and 2015. Then there is Usyk, who is due to fight Anthony Joshua again later this year.

The Guinness World Records show the Klitschkos as the pair of brothers with most world heavyweight title fight wins.

Vitali retired from boxing in 2013, relinquishing the WBC world title, and became a politician. He is now the the mayor of Kyiv. Wladimir successfully defended his titles before losing to Tyson Fury in 2015. Both brothers hold doctorates in sports science and speak multiple languages.

Our Ukrainian guests seemed to enjoy the wonderful buildings and the sporting heritage that Nottingham has to offer. They were shown the Motorpoint Arena and interested to learn that another Ukrainian boxer fought there in 2005.

Andry Kotelnik is from Lviv in Ukraine and had a very successful fourteen year career, winning and retaining the WBA Super lightweight title. His visit to Nottingham in 2005 ended in a rare defeat for him, losing to Junior Witter after 12 rounds and by Unanimous Decision.

Kotelnik went on to winning the world title and successfully defended it three year later in Cardiff, against Gavin Rees in his home town. Kotelnik sensationally won in the twelfth round by a stoppage.

The circumstances of our Ukrainian friends is an awful situation, but we hope that their stay in Nottingham is a positive one, until it is safe for them to return.

Our Ukrainian guests at the Bendigo memorial

We have also offered our Welcome to Nottingham tour to other refugee groups in Nottingham.

More Than a Statue Appeal

You may have noticed we have changed our ‘trading name’ to The Bendigo Heritage Project.

At a recent meeting, we reviewed the objectives of our campaign and also the individual roles of the trustees.

We realised the project has developed into something wider than a statue appeal. It has become a broader heritage project. Whilst the ultimate goal is to commission a prominent statue of Bendigo in Nottingham, the project is an ongoing celebration of Bendigo’s life and achievements.

We want all visitors to Nottingham to be aware of The Bendigo Story, whether they are from the area, tourists, on business. or visiting for another event.

Alan Dawson – Trustee of The Bendigo Heritage Project

To ensure this, the project now includes:

Guided Tour – Publications – Merchandise – Establishing an Archive of Images and Items – Exhibitions and other events – Ensuring that the Local Authority Celebrate The Bendigo Story at every opportunity (Using Civic Plaques and Signage).

We hope you will continue to support us in any way you can.

Here’s a couple of items we have obtained for our collection:

Bendigo – Antique Aquatint by Charles Hunt. London. Published April 10, 1846 by J. Moore.

Home Brewery bottle label c 1970

Bendigo and Cricket

Bendigo’s interest and involvement with the sport of cricket is well recorded. Not only was the man himself a capable cricketer, he was also a regular visitor to Trent Bridge cricket ground from its inception in the 1830s.

This was the decade that Bendigo’s boxing career took off, and Bendigo would have been somewhat of a celebrity who was always good entertainment. There is a story about Bendigo being at a match when a ball was hit and heading in his direction. He calmly removed his top hat and caught the ball using the hat, only for the ball to go straight through it, much to the amusement of the crowd.

Cricket At Trent Bridge

Nottingham Cricket Club is known to have played matches from 1771 and fifteen matches involving this side have been awarded first-class status. There was also a first-class match played by a combined Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire side in 1803. The first matches played as a Nottinghamshire side took place in 1829. 

Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club was formally created in 1841, when William Clarke established Trent Bridge as a cricket venue adjacent to the public house he ran. It was Clarke’s successor as Nottinghamshire captain, George Parr, who first captained a united England touring team in 1859.

Bendigo Matched With George Parr

Bendigo’s cricketing ability is further enhanced by an invitation from George Parr to a challenge match one-on-one. George Parr was considered the best player in the world at the time.

Bendigo describes it in this article from BritishNewspaperArchive.co.uk

Bendigo’s comments show his bravado has not diminished

In this article Bendigo brags about his achievements.

‘I have also played and beat at cricket Gerland of Leeds, one of the great All England players at that time’.

Bendigo appears to have mixed up the name Girling with Crossland to make Gerland!

I was matched to throw a cricket ball and then play the then great All-England cricketer George Parr. The match did not take place on account of me being seized with gout.

Bendigo forgets to say that Parr graciously declined to claim forfeit.

George Parr is commemorated at Trent Bridge

Trent Bridge was first used as a cricket ground in the 1830s. The first recorded cricket match was held on an area of ground behind the Trent Bridge Inn in 1838 with Trent Bridge hosting its first Test match in 1899, with England playing against Australia.

The modern Trent Bridge ground has stands that commemorate William Clarke and George Parr.

George Parr is widely considered to be the best cricket player in the world in his time

George Parr’s first-class career lasted from 1844 to 1870. He was a big name in cricket and was known as the “Lion of the North”. He was a right-handed batsman and bowled occasional right-handed underarm deliveries. He played mainly for Nottinghamshire, and was club captain from 1856 to 1870 making occasional appearances for other counties and for Marylebone Cricket Club.

Parr was a stalwart of the All-England Eleven and was captain of the first England touring team, which went to North America in 1859. He also captained England’s unbeaten second tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1864.

Parr played in 207 first-class matches and had 358 innings, in 30 of which he was not out. Parr is widely considered as the best cricket player in the world in his time. He scored 6,626 runs (average 20.20) at a time when conditions greatly favoured bowlers. His highest score was 130 for Nottinghamshire, against Surrey at The Oval on 14 July 1859. He made 31 fifties and took 126 catches. He took 29 wickets in his career.

Reports About Bendigo Facing Arthur Girling

‘I have also played and beat at cricket Gerland of Leeds, one of the great All-England players at that time.

I was matched to throw a cricket ball and play the then All-England cricketer George Parr. The match did not take place on account of me being seized with gout.

The article is a good example of Bendigo’s unassailoble beief in his own sporting ability.

The following letter in response to the article gives more detail.

The match referred to was played at Alrewas on September 20th 1836.

Bendigo’s opponent was Arthur Girling, who went on to be a professional at Manchester.

In the match at Alrewas, Girling scored 3 and 4, and Bendigo 3 and 5 (not out).

Arthur Girling (1807 – 1849) was a first-class cricketer and umpire. He was born at Burton upon Trent and made his debut in first-class cricket for the North against the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord’s in 1841. He next played first-class cricket in 1845, when he appeared for Manchester against Yorkshire. He played cricket for Manchester until 1848, making six appearances. His best figures of 6 for 32 came against Sheffield in 1848, a match in which he took two five-wicket hauls. He also stood as an umpire in two first-class matches in 1840 and 1841.  Girling died at Manchester in June 1849 at the age of 42.

Bendigo – The Bad Loser

There is also a report of Bendigo visiting Leeds in Yorkshire where he played a two-on-two at Woodhouse Moor. Bendigo easily beat a man named Ibbetson who was described as a ‘professor of the noble game’ and who played professionally around 1850. This win against Ibbetson allowed Bendigo (and a fielder) to play Mr J Holland and Andrew Crossland (a first class cricketer and umpire).

Crossland again went in and obtained 12 . The last ball he hit and run 2 for it, but just before Bendigo could field the ball, a dog started after it and Bendy, finding he had got too good a customer, walked off the ground, saying that he had not come to play dogs at cricket.

Andrew Crossland (1816 – 1902) was active from 1844 who played for Sheffield Cricket Club. Born in Dalton, Huddersfield, he died in November 1902 in Hull. His son Samuel Crossland also played first-class cricket

The Top-Hat Story

This story featured in a 1903 copy of the Evening Star. The game in question is suggested to be 1847 and at Trent Bridge where George Parr was playing.

It was etiquette to wear a top-hat at cricket matches. Before the game, the batsman were practicing, and one of them hit a ball towards Bendigo who was described as a fine athlete and a great cricketer. Bendigo was described as more than capable of catching the ball, removed his hat to preserve his hands and attempted to catch the ball using his hat. However, the ball went straight through – to the amusement of the crowd.

The Top-Hat Article

George ‘The Squire’ Osbaldeston

We shouldn’t finish without mentioning George Osbaldeston, a first class cricketer (as well as Member of Parliament for East Retford) who played professionally for Marylebone Cricket Club, Surrey, Sussex, and Hampshire.

He also took on the unenviable task of refereeing the third fight between Bendigo and Ben Caunt in 1845, the one that was described as ‘the most scandalous brawl in boxing history. 

George Osbaldeston was the classic sporting hero of the period. The Cricket Mash blog describes him as ‘a versatile all-round sportsman, compulsive gambler and life-long philanderer. He was one of the most colourful characters of early cricket’.

Born in 1787 to a wealthy family, Osbaldeston went from Eton to Brasenose College.

In the same year he had his famous duel with Lord George Bentinck. Osbaldeston putting a bullet through his opponent’s hat within two inches of the brain.

Known as ‘The Squire’, Osbaldeston was a High Sheriff of Yorkshire and for six years M.P. for East Retford.

He died in 1866, leaving no heir, just his reputation.

Thanks to BritishNewspaperArchive.co.uk for the articles featured here.

Belfast 1 – Nottingham 0

When our campaign started in 2016, former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan wished us luck. He also mentioned a similar campaign, for a statue in memory of Rinty Monaghan in Belfast.

In 2015, a statue of the former world champion boxer, John ‘Rinty’ Monaghan was unveiled close to his birthplace in Belfast. Monaghan was the first boxer from the city to win a world title, becoming flyweight champion in 1948.  

McGuigan Knows All About Bendigo

We have recently discovered that long before our campaign started, McGuigan had even celebrated the contribution of Bendigo to the sport.

In September 1991, he spoke about Bendigo in a BBC Radio 4 programme.

Similarities In The Two Campaigns

Having looked at news reports on the Rinty Monaghan statue, we have identified a number of similarities to the campaign here in Nottingham. The two cities even have a similar population. Belfast 280,000 and Nottingham weighing in at 330,000.

BBC News in Northern Ireland reported:

‘He wasn’t just a fighter, he was an entertainer’

This was the description of Monaghan by the sculptor Alan Beattie Herriot. The same has been said of Bendigo.

Photo credit Albert Bridge and the Sporting Statues Project in Sheffield

Champions 100 Years Apart

Monaghan was the first boxer from the Belfast to win a world title, becoming flyweight champion in 1948.

Bendigo was the first boxer from Nottingham to win the All England title in 1839 and again in 1845.

The 3m bronze statue of Monaghan was erected in Cathedral Gardens Belfast, close to where he grew up.

The statue of Bendigo will (most likely) be erected in Trinity Square Nottingham, close to his birthplace.

Monaghan’s family attended the ceremony, and were joined by well-known boxers, Belfast councillors and crowds of boxing fans.

The ceremony in Nottingham will welcome the many people who have helped us and who have a connection with Bendigo’s story.

The website for Irish Boxing reported that ‘the unveiling of the Rinty Monaghan statue in Belfast this year was one of the biggest occasions in Belfast Boxing.

We know that when Nottingham’s statue to Bendigo is unveiled, it will be one of the biggest occasions in Nottingham Boxing.

Five Year Campaign

In the BBC article, Rinty Monaghan’s great-nephew Eamon McAuley said that the statue was ‘absolutely beautiful’. He described his great-uncle as a ‘working-class hero. He also said that after a five-year campaign to erect the statue, his family were going to celebrate ‘a wonderful day’.

We expect that our statue to Bendigo will also be a beautiful work of art to honour Nottingham’s ‘working class hero’.

Our campaign is now eight years old, but……

Maybe it’s time that we celebrated with a beautiful day too?

The Bendigo Story – Guided Walk

                                                                                                       

Visitors to Nottingham can now learn about the incredible life of William ‘Bendigo’ Thomson in a new guided walking tour in the city centre.

‘The Bendigo Story’ is led by trustees of the Bendigo Memorial Fund. The tour starts in Nottingham’s Old Market Square and finishes at St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market.

Jevon and Alan at the grave with their ‘tour-guide’ umbrellas

Total walking distance is about two miles, at a relaxed pace and with regular stops to talk and explain the incredible story of Bendigo and 19th century Nottingham.

Here’s a review from Trip Advisor.

Lovely Saturday morning on the Bendigo Heritage Walk. Alan is very informative and entertaining. Lots of tales of Bendigo’s life, and some other interesting facts and hidden gems of Nottingham.

Julie (April 2021)

Two tours are scheduled once a month but private tours can be arranged with a minimum of six people.

Tickets can be obtained at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-bendigo-story-tickets-127381011033

Private tours can be arranged by contacting the Bendigo Heritage Project at: bendigofund@gmail.com

“Our guided walk has taken a lot of planning but we feel it has been worth it. We can tailor the tour to different groups with specific interests. We are sure it will be of interest to locals and to people visiting Nottingham for a city break or sporting event”.

Tour guide Alan Dawson

“We’re so excited about this! We can’t wait to introduce people to a story that has been Nottingham’s hidden, little gem. We’re going to unravel a tale that would be fit for filmmakers in Hollywood – and it’s on the city’s doorstep!”

Tour guide Jevon Patrick

Ryan Walker-Drain, the chair of Bendigo Memorial Fund said:

Thanks go to Alan and Jevon (the tour guides) for setting this up, The Bendigo Story will be a great way for visitors to learn about our first boxing superstar. It will also raise funds for our statue appeal.

A Year to Forget

2020 was a year to forget wasn’t it?

As we all tried to cope with the COVID19 pandemic, all non-essential activity was put on hold. This included our events and fundraising ideas. Let’s hope that 2021 is a year to remember.

Now that things seem to be improving, we are pleased to announce that in the near future, we will be launching The Bendigo Story. A guided heritage walk in Bendigo’s old ‘stomping ground’ of Nottingham’s city centre.

We are excited about this as it will allow us to meet visitors to Nottingham, and show them around. The timing of it will also coincide with the long awaited re-opening of Nottingham Castle as a major tourist attraction.

The 68 years of Bendigo’s life were during the most turbulent period in Nottingham’s history. On his 20th birthday, Nottingham Castle was destroyed by fire (1831) and it remained a ruin until two years before his death. Nottingham Castle became a museum in 1978, having been purchased by the Nottingham Corporation in 1875.

Was Bendigo one of the first visitors? We don’t know, but the sight of the burnt out ducal palace on Castle Rock would have been a permanent reminder to Bendigo of the political unrest in Nottingham.

The Bendigo Story is a guided walk that celebrates the life and times of William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson, Nottingham’s legendary Prize-Fighter and All England Champion. It will take you to a number of locations where you will learn not just about his life, but also what Nottingham was like during his time.

Image from nottinghamcastle.org.uk

Without giving everything away, the walk will last about two hours and we have decided it will finish up at St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market. At the end of the walk, each guest will receive a complimentary copy of our heritage booklet ‘10 Bells For Bendigo’.

Watch this space for more details.

Many thanks for your continued support, in particular those of you that follow our social media pages. We are all learning as we go along.

We will end with a recent image sent to us via our Twitter account @bendigonotts.

Emile Degand pays his respects to Bendigo

It is an image from a book that shows a Belgian flyweight boxer visiting Bendigo’s grave. His name was Emile Degand and he was in Nottingham for a bout with George ‘Tish’ Marsden. It gives the year as 1953. We have checked this and for some reason the date is wrong (by almost 20 years).

George Marsden fought 372 times between 1927 and 1946. He beat Emile Degand on 5th March 1934. We also noticed that Marsden’s birth (1911) and death (1980) were exactly 100 years on from Bendigo. Some coincidence eh?

Thanks for reading and maybe we will see you on the guided walk soon.

Bendy And The Baer

It is unfair to compare Bendigo to other boxers with whom we might be more familiar. In Bendigo’s time, the technology we enjoy today was not there for him. The invention of film allowed us to get to know boxers more personally.

Facial features, fighting style, and personality are all aspects we can find out about regarding any boxer after the 1900s.

When it comes to Bendigo, we are not that spoilt. We must rely on articles, books and sketches. Owing to this, it seems more natural to use more current fighters to get a better feel for past pugilists and that is exactly what the New York Times did in 1935.

John Kieran, was a sportswriter for the New York Times and would go on to become a Hall of Fame sports broadcaster and a regular face on US television. His article in 1935 had the headline.

“Bending Backward From Baer to Bendigo”

“Here. Read about Bendigo. He must have been the Max Baer of old England” cheerfully declared a gentleman as he dropped a hefty book onto Kieran’s office desk.

That book was the famed “The Story of Boxing” by Trevor Wignall. In the book, which covers many 19th century old British bare-knuckle boxers, it describes Bendigo as a “Pugilist, Harlequin, and Revivalist”. It is the word ‘Harlequin’ that really grabs Kieran’s attention as to what the cheerful fellow was suggesting.

The Clown Prince of Boxing

At the time of New York Times article, Max Baer (the ‘Clown Prince of Boxing’) was the heavyweight champion of the world.

Baer was a remarkable character who enlightened America during a time the country was rocked by the Great Depression.

He was an old school American heart-throb, an eccentric, a joker, and sadly misunderstood. (Hollywood’s depiction of Baer in the film ‘Cinderella Man’ is quite inaccurate).

The Nottingham Jester

Bendigo was also a very colourful character.

Many people during his fighting career referred to him as the ‘Nottingham Jester’ and every article you can read about him describes him as being eccentric.

Bendigo was a master at taunting his opponents. He would dance around them, pull silly faces, reciting rude rhymes, calling his rival ‘a big chucklehead’. The crowds loved it.

When Bendigo retired from the prize ring, he began to enter a particularly dark time in his life, which involved too many pubs and prison cells. However, he would turn his life around when a priest would grab his attention with the story of David and Goliath. Bendigo replied,

‘I should like to know more about that David bloke. He must have been a good’un for a lightweight’.

Bendigo

A notable example of Baer’s mischief and jest was before his world title fight with the ‘Ambling Alp’ Primo Carnera, he sneakily plucked a hair from Carnera’s chest as if it was a garden daisy and said “He loves me!”. He then managed to grab another before the man mountain realised what he was doing and said “He loves me not!”, reporters present were rolling around laughing.

Carnero and Baer

Kieran suggests that the Bendigo comparison is perhaps a lazy one and that he could equally be likened to ‘The Fighting Marine’ Gene Tunney, who twice beat the famous Jack Dempsey and middleweight king Mickey Walker. Interestingly, they both had a history of saving people from drowning, which Bendigo did numerous times whilst fishing on the River Trent in Nottingham.

This heroic act of saving a drowning person was mentioned to Max Baer whilst he was training at Asbury Park. He cheekily responded that ‘the waves were pretty high’ and that he would not attempt to rescue anyone unless they were a ‘prominent person like Johnny Weissmuller’. Maybe this was another example of the boxer’s jest. (Johnny Weissmuller was an Olympic Swimmer who became more well known in the 1930’s as an actor).

Another aspect of the Bendigo-Baer comparison that Kieran perhaps overlooks in his article is that both fighters had to overcome significant size disadvantages to win their championships.

Max Baer overcame four inches in height, four inches in reach and nearly a four stone weight disadvantage against the colossal Primo Carnera, who stood 6ft 5inches.

Bendigo was also the much smaller man in his battles against Ben Caunt who was 6ft 2 inches – a giant of the time when the average height of a man was 5ft 5 inches. Bendigo’s height was chalked up at just under 5ft 10 inches and he would also enter the ring around the 11st 11lb mark. He would look like a snack stood next to Caunt ‘The Torkard Giant’, as he entered the ring weighing up to 18st.

The main aspect that I think links Baer and Bendigo is that they both stood out and entertained people. They were different. They made the sport better and that is why they both have their names in the Boxing Hall of Fame.

I mentioned earlier that Baer was misunderstood and also misrepresented in the film ‘Cinderella Man’. The film seems to portray him as a killer. In my opinion, Baer’s manager’s view has to be considered. He said that Baer’s ‘Heart was too big for his fists’.

I invite readers to watch the Max Baer documentary called ‘Tender Hearted Tiger’ so you can decide in which thought league you stand.

Article written and researched by Jevon Patrick for the Bendigo Heritage Project

Finding Sutfield Green

The third fight between Bendigo and Caunt was in 1845. Described as ‘the most scandalous brawl in boxing history’ it is acknowledged as the fight that marked the beginning of the end of prize-fighting. The modern era was beckoning.

Th fight took place near to what is now Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

We were intrigued to find out the exact location of where it took place, as the various reports on the fight give several different locations. 

Stony Stratford, Lillington Level and Sutfield Green. None are precisely in the same place, and Sutfield Green does not appear on any current maps at all.

We managed to find out more from some other publications. Here’s a sample

Prize Fighting in the 1850s  

“In 1825 and 1826 there were still prosecutions of innkeepers for “suffering tippling during the hours of divine service” and the landlord of the Fox and  Hounds at Puxley was fined £1 on this charge.  One of the Constable’s duties was preventing prize fights. The parson of Passenham, the Rev Lorrain Smith, was himself a great pugilist and encouraged various meetings on the borders of Bucks and Northants, so that if the police of either county interfered it was quite easy to move over into the next county.  A field near Puxley Glebe farm was the favourite venue and Sootfield Green was also used. But Rev. Smith was also a JP, and as such it was his duty to  prevent prize-fights. Mr W J Toms relates how on one occasion he organised the police to stop a fight, but himself catching the pugilist, who had laid all the constables flat out, he let him off with a fatherly lecture.

From “The History of Stony Stratford – F E Hyde and S F Markham (1948)  

Northamptonshire Prize-Fights  

“It is an old ancient road up into the Whittlewood Forest and to Sutfield Green, where there used to be prize-fighting. People used to come from Northampton and all round. A lot of bad men and women used to camp in the woods named Hatchells on the left hand side of the road as one goes to Wicken and Deanshanger, where they used to camp and fight in Sutfield Green where  Caunt and Bendigo, professional prize-fighters fought.  This is corroborated by my old friend Jack Brown, now 84 years of age (in 1950), whose mother, (a Wicken woman), used to go and watch the fights. One day she picked up the ‘colours’ of one of the champions on the field, which is still treasured by her descendants. There was an old ring marked with posts. I seen the old posties (posts) years ago, when we visited the spot in June 1949. Lord Penrhyn said he wouldn’t pull them up – they could rot in the ground. But in whatever way they may have perished, they have gone now. The green was ploughed by the orders of the War Agricultural  Committee, and at the time we saw it, was growing a fine crop of wheat. It must be above a hundred years since they had the fights. Caunt and Bendigo fought for an hour for £100. Bendigo was a Nottinghamshire man.

From; Northamptonshire Past and Present  Vol 1 Issue 2 (1950)  

Using this information we explored the area between Lillingstone Lovell and Stony Stratford.

We took ‘Bendy’ with us and started at Lillingstone Lovell which is very near to the border with Northants.

Taking the road from Lillingstone Lovell towards Wicken and Deanshanger, we came across the entrance to Whittlewood Forest.

Whittlewood Forest is a former medieval hunting forest, east of Silverstone in Northamptonshire in England. It is managed by the Forestry England. There are tracts of ancient woodland within it and old ditches can be found at the edges of several individual woods. 

This map is displayed at the entrance to Whittlewood Forest.

You can see Lillingstone Lovell (bottom left) and Deanshanger (bottom right)

Using the information we had about the ‘old ancient road up into the Whittlewood Forest and to Sutfield Green’ and people ‘used to camp in the woods named Hatchells on the left hand side of the road as one goes to Wicken and Deanshanger, where they used to camp and fight in Sutfield Green’

We went towards Wicken and came across a gated bridle path. There was a crude map on the gate, explaining the rights of way.

We couldn’t believe our luck. The map included the name SUTFIELD GREEN (top left). This was the first time we had seen the name on a map.

Comparing it to the map at Whittlewood Forest, Sutfield Green was clearly on the road we had just used to get from Lillingstone Lovell. He returned to the location.

Bearing in mind the comment from 1950 that said ‘the green was ploughed by the orders of the War Agricultural  Committee, and at the time we saw it, was growing a fine crop of wheat’.

It was the wheat field we had just passed, at the junction of two roads.

 

We were over the moon to have finally found Sutfield Green and taken Bendigo back there after 181 years.

Go ‘Bendy’ Go

Go ‘Bendy’ Go – The Boy Who Liked To Box

A new children’s book about Bendigo has been published over in Australia.

Go ‘Bendy’Go is based on the true story of Bendigo Thompson, underdog and street urchin turned heavyweight bare-knuckle boxing champion of mid 19th century England.

Written by Lauren Mitchell and illustrated by Geoff Hocking, the book shares the early history of Bendigo in a fun and accessible way.

Go ‘Bendy’ Go is based on the true story of William Abednego Thompson, a bare-knuckle boxing champion from England, who unknowingly gave his name to the goldfields city of Bendigo. A treat for all generations, a fun and rollicking read for children and informative for adults – the story of Bendigo.

Introduction

A richly-illustrated story of William Abednego Thompson, bare knuckle boxing champion of all-England (1832-1850), known as Bold Bendigo, after whom the Australian goldfields of Bendigo, in Central Victoria, is named. His is a story of rising from poverty, from a working class family in industrial Nottingham, UK, to become the ‘Pride of Nottingham. Known the world over as the most athletic, and thrilling fighter of his day, for William Thompson his life was not without its trials and tribulations. After his career in the ring was over he took to the drink and was gaoled 28 times for disorderly, drunken behaviour. In prison he found redemption and became a Methodist lay-preacher. He died in his 69th year after puncturing a lung, falling down the stairs in his cottage. His funeral, which passed through the crowded streets of Nottingham drew more than 10,000 onlookers and fights broke out among his supporters and fans. His tomb remains, the only one left, in a park in central Nottingham today.

Lauren Mitchell

Six generations of Lauren Mitchell’s family have watched the Chinese dragons dance in Bendigo, since her Cornish great, great grandfather arrived to mine for gold. Lauren has been sharing stories of Bendigo’s culture and community for more than 20 years, as a journalist, editor and author.

Bendigo’s Backer – Joseph Whitaker

All fighters needed backers and Bendigo found his as a 19 year old in 1932. His name was Joseph Whitaker, a wealthy landowner and squire of Ramsdale House near Arnold, just outside of Nottingham. His estate covered 1800 acres and is now a golf course.

Born in 1798, Joseph was a true sporting squire of the times, known to all by his nickname, The Duke of Limbs. He was a keen horse rider and one of the top riders to hunt with hounds in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. He was also a fine shot, and took great interest in all ‘manly sports’.

Here’s what is recorded about him, taken from the book Bold As A Lion by J.P.Bean

Whitaker was an accomplished horseman who rode hounds and a dedicated breeder of fighting cocks. He developed a new strain of duckwing birds that fought an historic contest against Lord Derby’s finest at the Cockpit in Tufton Street, Westminster. The ‘main’ as such events were known in cockfighting circles, was attended by the cream of the prize ring including John Jackson, Tom Cribb and Tom Molyneux. Other celebrity names were there, such as Beau Brummel and the Prince Regent. The latter lost heavily by backing Lord Derby’s birds, which were soundly defeated by those of Whitaker.

The Duke of Limbs nickname came from his powerful build. Wide shouldered and possessed of extraordinarily well-developed arms and legs. He cut a fine figure at the ropes of the prize ring. He stood over six feet tall, wore side-whiskers and dressed in the fashion of the day – a grey beaver hat, a green coat with silver buttons, a flowered waistcoat, leather riding breeches and shining top boots. His Malacca cane and monocle gave him a foppish air but he had true Corinthian manners. 

It was said of him “ He had a strong vein of eccentricity and many considered him as mad as a hatter”.

Whitaker was reputed to carry a bag of guineas in one pocket and a brace of pistols in the other, and he was not averse to putting on the muffs and sparring – if he could find anybody willing to take him on.

Although his background was one of wealth and class, Joseph Whitaker had the common touch. He was a prodigious drinker, he was equally at home in the fighting pubs of Nottingham as on his country estate. He was a stalwart of the Nottingham Fancy and had a great appreciation of boxing skills. 

One day in 1832 he came across Bendigo sparring with Sam Turner, and The Duke of Limbs liked what he saw. 

He agreed to put up stakes for Bendigo’s fights. It was a partnership that would last eighteen years, from Bendigo’s early ‘bye’ fights to the Championship of England.

Joseph Whitaker died in 1874, aged 75. 

Familiar Name?

If the name Joseph Whitaker sounds familiar, there is a school with that name at Rainworth in Nottinghamshire. The school takes the name, not from The Duke of Limbs but from his son, also named Joseph.

Joseph Whitaker (junior) was born in 1850 at Ramsdale House. He went to Uppingham School and became an English naturalist. He was also a keen sportsman, botanist, fisherman and collected curios. He wrote several books, and some of his collection passed to the Mansfield Museum.

Whitaker junior loved the outdoors, a trait he learned from his father.

He also seems to have inherited his father’s eccentricity.

He had an unusual trait of always walking on the road, and never on the pavement.

He died on 27 May 1932 at Rainworth Lodge.

The Joseph Whitaker School was founded in 1963, and uses the Whitaker family coat of arms, with its motto ‘SPES ET FIDES’. This accurately reflects the expectations of the school – HOPE for our pupils’ future and FAITH in their ability to rise to whatever challenges they meet.

Bendigo And Sheffield

It appears that some people connected to Sheffield did not respect Bendigo in the way most other followers of boxing do. 

Knock – Out Razor Blades

Bendigo featured in a set of collectable cards issued by the Sheffield company that made shaving products including the Knock-Out Razor Blades in 1938. Bendigo featured at No. 13 of 50 Famous Prize Fighters. This was clearly unlucky for him as the text was not well researched or written, describing him as ‘not a stylish fighter’ something that we all know he was. 

Bendigo’s Biography

He had great strength but was not a stylish fighter, and was a very bad sportsman indeed in many ways, though eventually he became Champion of England.

Anon

Ungrateful Sheffield?

We don’t know who wrote these words for the company but whoever did appears to have some agenda against Bendigo’s ability and his reputation.

Even more disappointing was the company involved was Fred C. Cartledge (Sheffield) Ltd.

It is well known that Bendigo put considerable effort into improving the prize-fighting scene in Sheffield in the late 1830s. Initially he was introduced to the town when he joined Levi Eckersley who ran a touring boxing booth at travelling fairs. Bendigo spent some time with him, working on his technique.

Sheffield even became his base whilst waiting for his opportunity to fight James Burke for the All England title. Burke was in the United States so Bendigo had to wait for his return. He made use of his time by running the Manchester Arms public house on West Street in Sheffield, and organising prize-fights for up and coming Sheffield fighters, who did not match those from his hometown 40 miles south. 

Even more ironic is that two weeks after beating James Burke for the title, he was actually presented with the belt in Sheffield, at the Batty’s Circus Royal in Sheffield.

Collectible Cards

The Knock-Out Razor Blades Famous Prize Fighters are still very collectible as are the razors and blades produced by F.C Cartledge.

Pictures on the cards were black and white. Some were real images while others were renditions of the subjects. The first 30 cards were drawings while the final 20 were in the modern era and used photographs. Like most other collectible cards of the  period, biographies were printed on the back.

Two different sets were issued, one has a matte finish and the other, a glossy finish. The company encouraged collectors to complete a set offering anyone with 50 cards, to send them to the company and their duplicates would be exchanged for cards they needed.

Who’s Who Of Boxing

Here’s the checklist of all the names in the series of Knock Out Razor Blades of 1938:

John Broughton – Jack Slack – Tom Johnson – Isaac Perrins – Samuel Elias – Tom Belcher – John Gulley – Tom Cribb – Thomas Molineaux – Tom Spring – Bill Neat – Jem Ward – William Thompson – Eric Boon – James Burke – Tom Sayers – Jem Mace – Tom King – John Sullivan – Bill Doherty –  Arthur Danahar – Peter Jackson – Frank Slavin – James Corbett – Charlie Mitchell – Bob Fitzsimmons – Georges Carpentier – Jack Dempsey – Gunnar Barlund – Henry Armstrong – Max Schmeling – Joe Louis – Walter Neusel – Al Roth – Don McCorkindale – Arno Koelblin – Maurice Strickland – Pete Sarron – Tommy Farr – Eddie Phillips – Len Harvey – Jack Petersen – Benny Lynch – Johnny Ward – Kid Berg – Gustav Humery – Ben Foord – Max Baer – Small Montana – John Henry Lewis – Harry Mizler

Let’s hope the biographies or these great names were more accurate.

Bendigo Gallery At Paramount Gallery

The Bendigo Gallery is now available to view again in Nottingham City Centre. 

The Bendigo Heritage Project has collected a number of images and artwork over the years. Any pictures that required framing, we have used Paramount Picture Framing and Gallery in Nottingham City Centre. Not only is their work of the highest quality, their gallery is on the historic Heathcoat Street which is very close to Bendigo’s grave and was almost certainly on the route of his funeral cortege in 1880. 

Our images range from photographs, modern art and even a high quality copy of the portrait (oil on canvas) of Bendigo from 1850.

We were pleased to accept the offer to display our collection in the shop window of Paramount, visible to passers by and even illuminated at night when the shop is closed.

The shop window at night. The Jam Cafe is a popular bar and music venue.

Paramount Gallery

Paramount was established in 1985. They offer a personalised and bespoke framing service. The framing is done on site and the premises also has a spacious, well-lit gallery with an extensive collection of prints and framed pictures on display.  There are even some iconic photographs from sport, including boxing. 

It is worth browsing the gallery as there are images from vintage magazine covers, classic rock & pop, travel posters, film, music and historical maps.

On the subject of history.

Heathcoat Street

Heathcote Street was (since 1387) called Beck Lane, part of an old agricultural road that led by the side of the Beck rivulet, away to the fields on either side of the valley now occupied by St. Ann’s Well Road.

In 1854 The People’s Hall on Beck Lane was founded by George Gill who bought the former mansion house. It had been used as a School of Art and Design before he altered and enlarged it. He used the hall for a variety of philanthropic purposes. It contained a library of ten thousand books. 

The People’s Hall is visible and just 30m from the gallery.

Just beyond the modern building in the distance is Bath Street and Bendigo’s grave.

In about 1874 (during Bendigo’s lifetime) Beck lane was widened and renamed Heathcote Street. It took its name from John Heathcote, a prominent lace manufacturer who first set up at a workshop nearby in the early 1800s.

Next to Heathcote Street is Broad Street where there are several bars and shops. The Broadway Cinema backs onto Heathcote Street. The cinema was originally The Broad Street Wesleyan Chapel, a Methodist chapel from 1839. It is where William Booth (the founder of The Salvation Army) attended a service in 1844 and chose to devote his life to the church from that point. 

We hope you get the chance to visit Heathcoat Street while the Bendigo Gallery is on show.

Heathcoat Street is a five-minute walk from Nottingham’s Old Market Square and two minutes from the Lace Market tram stop.  There is currently no parking on Heathcoat Street.

A Review Of 2023

Hello Supporter. We hope that you are well.

2023 has been a busy year for the Bendigo Heritage Project.

We have continued to operate our guided walking tour, taking groups of people around historic Nottingham and learning all about the Bendigo Story. In addition, we kept the momentum going with talks and conversations to interested parties. Here’s a summary of what we posted on our website.

In February we exhibited a collection of images about Bendigo as an exhibit gallery at Cafe Sobar in Nottingham. The cafe was a perfect partnership for us, as Café Sobar is an innovative alcohol-free cafe and social space. Something that wasn’t available to Bendigo when he battled with his problems with alcohol.

We were also pleased to have finally located the grave of Bendigo’s brother John Thompson who died in 1873 at the age of 64. He is buried in Nottingham’s Church (Rock) Cemetery but locating the plot proved difficult. Church Cemetery is a Grade II listed site at the south-east corner of Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham. It was created around an old sand mine and some of the mine tunnels give the place a unique atmosphere. It was founded in 1848 but did not open until 1856.

After a pause in the operations at Nottingham Castle, we were pleased to renew our relationship with the management team. Our heritage booklets are now on sale in the shop, and we are in discussions with them about how the Bendigo Story links in with the history of Nottingham Castle.    

One of our trustees came across an old newspaper article from Australia that finally answered a question for us. It identified who was responsible for naming Bendigo’s Creek, which (after the Australian gold-rush) went on to become the City of Bendigo in 1871. The person was Tom Myers who, it turns out, has a street named after him in the historic gold-rush town of Victoria, Australia. 

Our exhibition of images then moved to the William Booth Memorial Centre. The title of the exhibition was Bendigo – From Pugilist To Preacher. William Booth of course, was the Nottingham man who established the Salvation Army during Bendigo’s lifetime. 

One of our trustees went to County Cork in Ireland and took our maquette of Bendigo with him. This small statue (made by renowned sculptor Andy Edwards) always gets attention and we even took him to Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club in Cork and showed him off to the members after their training session. 

Thanks again for your support this year. Who knows, next year we may be a step closer to our aim of commissioning a statue to Nottingham’s first sporting superstar and ‘original southpaw’.

Best wishes,

The Trustees

Bendigo Visits County Cork In Ireland

We don’t believe that Bendigo ever travelled outside of the British mainland, although many of his fellow prize-fighters did, often to the United States or Australia. All of Bendigo’s fights took place in England, so we decided to take ‘Bendy’ with us on a trip to County Cork in Ireland. 

‘Bendy’ is our maquette (a small statue) of him. It was produced by renowned sculptor Andrew Edwards and it always attracts attention whenever it is displayed.

Prior to the trip, we got in touch with one of Ireland’s top middleweights and Corkonian, Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan. Gary is a fine ambassador for Irish Boxing and we are grateful for the welcome he gave us.

Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club

We asked Gary to arrange a visit to one of Cork’s boxing clubs and he chose Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club, where he used to train. It turned out to be the perfect link to connect us, as it already had a Nottingham connection. Roy Keane used to box there, before his football career took off at Nottingham Forest in 1990. The name Brian Dillon relates to a contemporary of Bendigo too. The club is not named after its founder, but is in memory of a local 19th century republican who campaigned and fought for Irish independence. Dillon, like Bendigo, was born into a time of political injustice and both rose up to the challenge.

Brian Dillon was born on the Rathcooney Road in Cork in 1830. His republican activity got him imprisoned in an English prison. He was five years into his ten year sentence when he died in 1872. He was just 42 years of age. 

He us considered a patron of Irish independence in the Cork area and Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club was set up in 1981 at premises used by the GAA Club as a meeting room on Stream Hill near Dillons Cross.

Over the years the club has produced many outstanding boxers who have won numerous County, Munster and, All-Ireland titles. Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan being one. Between 2009 and 2017, held multiple middleweight championships at regional level including the Irish title. He also acted and performed stunts in the 2007 film Strength and Honour.

On our visit to Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club, we presented them with some copies of our Heritage Booklet and let the young boxers admire ‘Bendy’ the maquette.

After our visit, we toured the coastal area of West Cork, taking ‘Bendy’ with us of course.
Here he is at Kinsale

Now at Baltimore

Any trip to Cork means a visit to Blarney Castle, where those that kiss the Blarney stone are supposedly endowed with the ‘gift of the gab’ or great eloquence. Something that Bendigo was certainly skilled at.

Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Bendigo – From Pugilist To Preacher

The Bendigo Heritage Project are pleased to take their gallery of images and artwork to the William Booth Memorial Centre in Sneinton.

The entrance to the William Booth Centre and The William Booth Birthplace Museum at Notintone Place. The statue of William Booth stands proud in the courtyard.

William Booth of course is the founder of The Salvation Army.

Bendigo – From Pugilist to Preacher runs Mon – Fri (9-5) until December 1st.

When the Centre Manager Ian Young contacted us about taking our exhibition to the Centre, we had no hesitation in accepting.

Trustee Alan Dawson and Community Manager Ian Young ‘come up to scratch’ after completing the gallery.

Nottingham’s Famous Sons Named William

Both William Booth and William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson lived in the same period, and both were affected by the poverty and suffering of ordinary people.

William Booth attended the Broad Street Wesley Chapel (Methodist) where in 1844 he had a conversion experience, noting that: “It was in the open street [of Nottingham] that this great change passed over me”.

William Thompson (on his retirement) developed a problem with alcohol and he knew that his lifestyle needed to change. That change came in 1872, when he converted, having attended a congregation held by the former coal miner turned preacher named Richard Weaver. This was at The Mechanics Institute on Milton Street in Nottingham.

New to the gallery is a high quality copy of Bendigo, painted in 1850 by Thomas Earl.

The original oil on canvas is owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The City of Bendigo

The City of Bendigo in Victoria Australia is 90 miles northwest of Melbourne.

We have read various theories about how the name Bendigo made its way there. We have now discovered the truth about the matter.

Initial Report

Bendigo Creek was founded as a sheep run in 1840. Then gold was discovered in 1851 which brought rapid growth to the area. This created the impressive city that still stands today, with fine examples of Victorian architecture and tree-lined streets. Gold mining ceased in 1955. 

Bendigo became a city in 1871, although the official name was Sandhurst until 1891. A poll of the residents decided to revert to the original name of Bendigo, to ‘honour a local prize-fighter who compared his own prowess to that of the famous English pugilist known as Bendigo’. The name of this prize-fighter was unknown in most historical text.

The National Library of Australia holds two watercolour paintings of Macpherson’s Store in Bendigo.

The modern location in Bendigo is now called Charing Cross.

They were created in 1853 and show Bendigo Creek at the time of the early gold rush.

Latest Discovery

On the 21st April 1878 the Australian Town and Country Journal published an article titled:

ORIGIN OF THE NAME ‘BENDIGO’

The origin of the name ‘Bendigo’ has, time after time, led to much controversy. Now the origin of the name is thus accounted for.

A few old residents who are yet in existence will remember that Messrs Heap and Grice occupied a station run in the country now forming the Sandhurst district.

On this quotation says the Independent we have been shown an extract from a letter to Dr Pounds from Mr Grice which should put the matter at rest.

Mr Grice writes:

“Tell your friends who want to know the origin of Bendigo, that it was named by Tom Myers, Heap and Grice’s overseer in 1841. Tom himself was a bit of a dab with his fists and a great admirer of the boxer Bendigo: hence the name.”

From ‘Tom Myers’, those well known localities ‘Myers Flat’ and ‘Myers Creek’ take their name.

Image of the actual article in the Australian Town and Country Journal of 1878

Thanks to Google for the image of Bendigo with Myers Street standing proud.

‘Bendigo Creek’ in August 1852, painted by the artist S.T. Gill.

Bendigo v Ben Caunt 1845

The much anticipated third and final bout between Bendigo and Ben Caunt took place on 29th September 1845. The location was in a field close to Sutfield Green, beyond Lillington Level, in Oxfordshire. The site is now part of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, close to the A5 Watling Street at Stony Stratford.

Here is how the Nebraska State Journal reported on the end of the fight.

Both fighters came to the centre jauntily for the ninety-third round, which was to prove the last, and, incidentally, to turn loose a controversy never quite decided.

Caunt set the pace and pitched in right and left forcing Bendigo to the ropes, where he hung. He scrambled up, when Caunt hit him down again. The champion now repeated a mistake which he had made earlier in the fight believing that Bendigo was down for good and the round therefore at an end. He turned his back and walked for his corner. Bendigo got up and rushed in pursuit. Caunt saw him coming and deliberately sat down. Instantly Bendigo’s friends claimed the decision for him on a “foul.” Declaring Caunt had fallen before being struck, The referee decided that such was the case and rendered the decision, carrying title, stakes and belt, to Bendigo.

So ended the only famous battle of a period which added little to the reputation of the sport. The decision was hotly attacked. It was said that Bendigo had no right to rise again and that Caunt sat down to escape being surprised or taken at disadvantage until “time” was called again. It was openly charged that the referee had been intimidated by the cudgel bands about the ring. No precise settlement of the question was ever reached, but the decision stood reflecting no particular credit upon either contestant. Caunt was undoubtedly the stronger at the end, but his utter inability to land a decisive blow left the ultimate result of a finish fight a question.

Disputed Result

Some writers described the fight as ‘the most scandalous brawl in boxing history’.

Following the fight Tom Spring (a supporter of Caunt) challenged the result and thereby, questioned the integrity of the referee.

Spring retired as a fighter in 1824 and became landlord of the Castle Inn at Holborn in London. It was there that he became a respected promoter of the sport. He arranged the patronage and contracts of many of the major boxing events of the period, while overseeing fair play in the ring.

Tom Spring was a formidable boxer himself, nicknamed ‘Light Tapper and known for his strength of character, courage and skill in the ring.

Born in Herefordshire in 1795, he boxed locally and in 1814 met the legendary champion Tom Cribb. Cribb was impressed by Spring’s prowess, and persuaded him to go to London under his patronage; this was the beginning of Spring’s boxing career.

The referee though, was no other than George Osbaldeston an English politician who served as MP for East Retford.

Known as The Old Squire, Osbaldeston was also respected as a sportsman and first-class cricketer. His integrity was being challenged for the first time.

Osbaldeston responded to Spring’s challenge in a letter to the editor of the Bell’s Life newspaper.

Sir,

An appeal having been made to me, as referee, by Mr Spring, to reverse my decision in the late fight between Bendigo and Caunt, on grounds unworthy of my consideration, I request you will confirm that decision by paying over the stakes to Bendigo, who, in my opinion, is justly entitled to them.      

It was with the greatest reluctance, and at the particular request of my friends and the unanimous solicitations of the backers of the men, that I accepted the office; but I shall always consider it one of the greatest acts of folly I ever was guilty of in my life. 

In discharging my duty I endeavoured to do justice to the contending parties to the best of my abilities and judgment; and, arriving at the conclusion I did, and now confirm, I was actuated only by a complete conviction of the justness of my decision, and not by the intimidation of the roughs, as stated by Mr Spring in his letter.

Had I been under the intimidation of the ‘roughs’ I had several opportunities of putting an end to the fight before the conclusion by foul acts on the part of Caunt. A noble lord, and several gentlemen who stood close by me during the whole fight, can corroborate this statement. I most positively deny that I stated to any one that a man going down without a blow, after he himself had treacherously delivered blows, was fair.

In no one instance, in my judgment, did Bendigo break the laws of fair fighting. I must also deny, in the most positive manner, that I ever stated to any person that I did not see the last round. I saw every round distinctly and clearly, and when Caunt came up the last round he had evidently not recovered from the 92nd. After the men were in position Bendigo very soon commenced operations, and Caunt turned round directly and skulked away, with his back to Bendigo, and sat down on his nether end. He never knocked Bendigo down once in the fight, nor ever got him against the ropes in the last round. In my opinion Caunt got away as soon as he could from Bendigo, fell without a blow to avoid being hit out of time, and fairly lost the fight.

I am, your obedient servant,

THE OLD SQUIRE.

Doncaster. Sept 1845.