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, in a field close to Sutfield Green, beyond Lillington Level, in Oxfordshire.

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.

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

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.

Prize-Fighting In Nottinghamshire

We are often asked about where Bendigo fought in and around Nottingham. As his fame and reputation grew, his later fights were at Chapel-en-le-Frith in the Peak District, Selby in Yorkshire, Oxfordshire and Mildenhall in Suffolk.

Remember that prize-fighting (or pugilism) was closely linked to both wrestling and fencing. As the sport developed in England, it was one of the first to have a written code of rules, from 1743. Crowds of up to 10,000 would walk long distances to see a fight. Prize-fighting was patronized by the nobility and huge sums were gambled on fights. In 1786 the Duke of York and the Prince of Wales were among the biggest gamblers.

In Nottinghamshire, Sir Thomas Parkyns of Bunny was an enthusiast of prize-fighting, using his land for an annual wrestling match in the early 1700s.

These events took place in the open air and often organised on private estates. The precise location was often chosen by the nature of the landscape, using the contours of the land to create a natural amphitheatre to allow for spectators.

In Nottinghamshire, from what we have discovered, Bendigo fought at Sunrise Hill in Bestwood, (known as Bendigo’s Ring), Wilford Hill (before the building of the cemetery), Strelley Woods and near to The Traveller’s Rest Inn on Mapperley Plains.

It is also recorded that Bendigo fought Bill Moulds (known as Winterflood) in Bulwell Forest in October 1833.

Sir Thomas Parkyns even published an early account of boxing in 1713. He was a significant landowner in Bunny, Nottinghamshire who had practised the techniques he described. It was a manual of wrestling and fencing, Progymnasmata: The inn-play, or Cornish-hugg wrestler.

Parkyns recommends to his readers throwing contentious persons over their heads, with practical instructions. In the course of the work he acknowledged obligations to Isaac Newton, for his lectures at Trinity College, to Mr Cornish, his wrestling master at Gray’s Inn.

Parkyns annual wrestling match in Bunny Park included many of his servants who had beaten him in bouts. The competition that he founded continued in Bunny Park until 1810.

On his death in 1741, Parkyns was buried in the chancel of Bunny Church, where there a figure of him was in the act of wrestling. It is now by the north wall of the church, following the restoration of it in 1912.

Sir Thomas Parkyns (1664–1741) of Bunny, in a wrestler’s stance. He designed and built his own monument for St Mary the Virgin Parish Church in Bunny.

Photo credit https://tonyshaw3.blogspot.com

Bendigo And The Castle

When we raise a statue to Bendigo in Nottingham, we will have to decide on a suitable location. What about Nottingham Castle?

Bendigo was afterall, a Nottingham man through and through. He never left the town, other than to pursue his fighting career. His name may have reached every continent in the world, but Bendigo stayed in Nottingham, amongst his own people.

Nottingham Castle, though, may not be the ideal location for a statue of Bendigo. Why?

A Symbol of Oppression

Quite simply, the castle did not represent Bendigo’s people. His people were those who lived in its shadow, downtrodden, uneducated and poor.

As a child, Bendigo would have known about the simmering unrest in the disease ridden streets of Nottingham. He would have known that the Duke of Newcastle had moved away from his palace at the castle. The last Great Ball there had been held in 1776 and the Duke was now living his privileged life at Clumber Park. 

Throughout Bendigo’s adult life, it was nothing more than a burnt out shell of a building, having been destroyed during riots in 1831. It was a symbol of the social injustice of the time, a symbol of oppression on the hill. 

The castle was actually burning on the morning of Bendigo’s 20th birthday on 11th October 1831.

The riots had begun when news reached Nottingham that the Duke, Henry Pelham Clinton had opposed electoral reform, thereby keeping the power in the hands of the rich. Having stormed the building, the rioters stripped it of the remaining furnishings, destroyed statues and lit a great fire in the basement that destroyed the entire building. Bendigo would have been part of the crowds that watched as the palace lit up the sky like a giant bonfire.

Nottingham Castle in Ruins

As if to confirm his attitude to the town of Nottingham, the Duke left the ruins un-repaired for 45 years, until the Town Corporation stepped in.

During this period Bendigo’s career as a prize-fighter took off, undefeated in 21 matched fights up to 1850.

Following his retirement, a portrait of Bendigo was painted  by Thomas Earl. This fantastic piece, painted with oil on canvas is now held by the National Portrait Gallery in London,

The Castle Museum

In 1875, architect T.C. Hine was tasked with renovating Nottingham Castle and turning it into a Museum of Fine Art. This work was completed in 1878 and the Castle became the first municipal museum of art in the country.

The curator was a man named George Harry Wallis, who wanted the museum to inspire the creative and curious imaginations of the people of Nottingham.

Bendigo died in 1880 and we don’t know whether he visited Nottingham’s new Museum of Fine Art. It is ironic that the museum could have displayed that portrait of Bendigo. Maybe it did.

Maybe it should be loaned back to the Castle Museum. So it can inspire the ‘curious imaginations of the people of Nottingham’ again. 

Bendigo Makes A Visit

Either way, we will finish by sharing some images of Bendigo at the castle. We took him (well our small statue of him) there when the castle reopened in June 2021.   

John Thompson (Bendigo’s Brother)

John Thompson was born in 1809 and two years older than William. 

Whilst we don’t know much about him, we know he remained in Nottingham. He never married, nor did he have children that we know of. 

We do know that he was an optician with a premises on or near Glasshouse Street in Nottingham.

Bendigo seems to have had a good relationship with his brother. In his interview with James Greenwood in 1872 he said:

When my uncle died – an optician he was, and left us his stock-in-trade and his tools – I says to my brother, You take the lot, and allow mother six shillings a week on my account like, and so he did. And I used to buy the old lady her winter clothes, and he bought her her summer clothes, and so she did pretty well until she died at eighty-three.

Bendigo in 1872

John Thompson died in 1873 at the age of 64. He was buried in Nottingham’s Church (Rock) Cemetery, on his own in plot No 1292.  The numbering of the plots at the cemetery is quite haphazard and some plots are not easy to find.

Church Cemetery, also known as Rock 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. A church was included in the design, which gave the cemetery its name, but this was not built at the time of its opening. The construction works involved the removal and relocation of some 20,000 tons of earth and the laying out of paths and suitable planting including Cedars of Lebanon.

Thanks to the team at Nottingham City Council (Parks and Cemeteries Department), we joined them to look around the site. The tour was titled Rock Cemetery Catacomb Tour and is well worth a visit. The bonus for us was that we finally discovered the grave of John Thompson.

It was very much overgrown and 150 years of nature has added to its character.

Here are some images for you. 

How to find the grave

Here is the map of the cemetery with Select Site C marked

Here’s a plan showing Plot 1292 within Select Site C

Bendigo Exhibition

Exhibition To Celebrate ‘Bendigo’

The Bendigo Heritage Project has teamed up with Cafe Sobar on Friar Lane to exhibit a number of images and artwork that promote the importance of Bendigo to the City of Nottingham. 

Visitors to Cafe Sobar can now see a variety of items collated by the project since they formed in 2016. There are photographs, some pieces of modern art and memorabilia. It is hoped that the display will stimulate interest in the story of Nottingham’s first sporting superstar.

It will also highlight the work of Café Sobar as an innovative alcohol-free cafe and social space in Nottingham city centre.

William Thompson (known as ‘Bendigo’) was a 19th century boxer who fought 21 times between 1831 and 1850. He went on to become the undefeated Champion of England and is credited with introducing the ‘southpaw’ boxing stance. 

Shortly after his retirement, his mother died and Bendigo developed a problem with alcohol. This led to a number of arrests, behaviour that tarnished his reputation for a number of years.                                                                                                                         

His life had to change and the moment came when he attended The Mechanics Institute to hear a talk by a preacher named Richard Weaver. Bendigo joined Weaver’s revivalist church and he also preached the sermon to congregations up and down the country. His conversion was written about in various publications, including a well known poem titled Bendigo’s Sermon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   

Alan Dawson, trustee of the Bendigo Heritage Project said: 

We are keen for the public to see the items that we have collated, and Cafe Sobar is an ideal venue. It is a supportive network that gets people back into a positive lifestyle, something that wouldn’t have been available to Bendigo. Our gallery of items is not extensive but there is a variety of Bendigo related imagery to get people’s attention.  

Alan Dawson

Jason Loftus, the general manager at Cafe Sobar said: 

“Café Sobar and its parent charity Double Impact are honoured and excited to be in partnership with the amazing Bendigo Heritage Project. There are so many parallels with the life of this Nottingham legend and our own social mission. This partnership is the perfect fit for us to spread the legend of Bendigo and the transformative message he shared even further.”

Jason Loftus

A preview evening was held to allow supporters of the project to see these previously unseen items.

The free exhibition will run from Saturday 3rd February to the 1st April. It will be accessible during normal opening times at Cafe Sobar.