In The Bendigo Story, our tour guides take visitors from his grave to Sneinton Market, where they pause to talk about Nottingham after his death in 1880. They mention that most professional boxing in Nottingham took place at the nearby Victoria Leisure Centre or the Ice Stadium. Did you know that Cassius Clay was there in 1963?
He didn’t fight there but we’re proud to say he came to a night of boxing in Bendigo’s town. We found this story by Ethan Lewis and are grateful for the image too.
On the 27th of May 1963 my father, aged 15 at the time, met Cassius Clay at the Victoria Hotel in Nottingham (now the Hilton Hotel). He also obtained his autograph (pictured below).
Cassius Clay was also photographed with two well-known Nottingham Police Officers. PCs Geoff Baker and Denis ‘Tug’ Wilson were both about 7 feet tall in their boots and helmets.
Clay was in the city to watch the British Middleweight Title fight between George Aldridge and Mick Leahy. This was prior to Clay’s fight with Henry Cooper at Wembley.
The Aldridge v Leahy fight was for the British Middle Weight Title and took place on 28th May at the Nottingham Ice Stadium. It lasted just 1 minute 45 seconds. The referee Ike Powell stopped the fight after Aldridge was knocked down twice, Leahy winning on a Technical Knockout.
Leahy’s career spanned nine years between 1956 and 1965. The orthodox middle weight lived in Coventry but hailed from Cork, Ireland. It wasn’t the first time Leahy had fought at Nottingham’s Ice Stadium. He faced Nottingham’s Wally Swift there in December 1964. The promoter was Reg King and again the British Middleweight titel was up for grabs. It went the full 15 rounds with Swift winning on points.
George Aldridge was a middle weight from Market Harborough in Leicestershire. His career of 52 professional bouts was between 1956 and 1963.
“Ask no questions, I’ll just talk”
Back to Cassius Clay and the Victoria Hotel press-conference. Clay said to the press ‘Ask no questions, I’ll just talk’.
In true style, Clay predicted that he would beat Cooper in the fifth round. He was right.
Clay also described that Sonny Liston was an ‘ugly bear’ who would ‘fall in eight’.
Clay and Cooper met on the 18th June 1963 at Wembley Stadium, the referee was Tommy Little. Despite knocking Clay down in the 4th round, the fight was stopped in the next round due to cuts suffered by Cooper. Cooper fought him again (as Mohammed Ali) in 1966 and that fight was also stopped for the same reason.
Clay was nearly right about his fight with Sonny Liston, which took place the following February in Miami. Liston retired in the sixth round, claiming a shoulder injury.
Cassius Clay (as Mohammed Ali) returned to Nottingham in 1992. This time it was for a book signing event, at Dillon’s bookshop in the town centre.
Thanks as always to BoxRec for the records of the boxers and their fights.
The film depicts the true story of eccentric British artist Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch). Wain became famous with creating playful, sometimes even psychedelic pictures of cats. Moving from the late 1800s through to the 1930s, it follow the incredible adventures of this inspiring, unsung hero, as he seeks to unlock the “electrical” mysteries of the world and, in so doing, to better understand his own life.
Directed by BAFTA award-winning Will Sharpe. Story by Simon Stephenson, screenplay by Simon Stephenson and Will Sharpe.
The story starts in 1881.
This immediately rules out Bendigo from being personally involved, but who cares.
This is the cinema and if a film about a true 19th century character wants to acknowledge that Bendigo was the biggest name in boxing, then so be it.
In Scene 9, Louis Wain is is seen sparring with James “Jem” Mace (1831 – 1910). Mace’s fighting career actually started in the 1850s, after Bendigo had retired.
They could though have sparred together though. At the height of his career, Mace won the English Welterweight, Heavyweight, and Middleweight titles. Like Bendigo, he was considered one of the most scientific boxers of the era. Most impressively, he held the World Heavyweight Championship from 1870 to 1871 while fighting in the United States.
The scene in the film describes them sparring at Mace’s boxing gym in London. It is known that Mace trained in London at Nat Langham’s Rum Pum Pas boxing club.
SMACK! WALLOP! LOUIS is suddenly boxing. A SKETCH of the famous boxer BENDIGO – hangs on the wall. LOUIS keeps throwing himself at a much bigger SPARRING OPPONENT.
THWACK! LOUIS falls onto his back and starts laughing.
Alright, Wain, that’s enough. You’ll be late for your meetings…
Let me have one last crack at him!
LOUIS dizzily wobbles back to his feet, jiggling about in a febrile dance. OTHER BOXERS, both men and women, enjoy this.
The Bendigo Shuffle! Come on, you big brute. Give me your best shot!
THE BIG BOXER thinks about it for a second. Then – THWACK!
The Bendigo Shuffle’? We like the sound of that.
The next scene actually features Bendigo
Scene 100 – EXT. BOXING TENT, LONDON – DAY (1886)
TWO FIGHTERS do battle – the huge JOURNEYMAN and the sprightly BENDIGO, who has a weird, cheeky charisma, bouncing about and making up insulting rhymes to put off his opponent.
Go on, Bendigo!
Curious little fellow, isn’t he.
BENDIGO is doing a dance – like LOUIS’ own eccentric boxing dance – pulling silly faces at the JOURNEYMAN. FLASH PHOTOGRAPHERS huddle to take shots. LOUIS and RAILTON sit ringside. LOUIS is trying to draw BENDIGO.
But he’s electric, Herb. Look how his fancy all adore him – Half his opponent’s size but he knows how to harness the electricity of the crowd… look, see! There it is.
FLASH! POW! WAPOW! FLASH! FLASH!
Are you talking about the photographers?
No, Herb. Look properly. The electricity. Finally, I feel like I’m starting to understand it. In fact I have a hypothesis that electricity is what pushes us through time. And if I can find a way to conduct and divert electricity with more accuracy, I could, in theory, experience the past as if it were no different to the future…
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.
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.
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
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’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
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 faced another first class cricketer in Leeds
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).
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.
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.
When our campaign started in 2016, former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan wished us luck. He also mentioned a similar campaign, for a statue to 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.
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. The programme was mentioned in The Reading Evening Post as a Radio Highlight.
Similarities In The Two Campaigns
Having looked at the news reports about 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.
This was the description of Monaghan by the sculptor Alan Beattie Herriot. The same has been said of Bendigo.
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’.
Private tours can be arranged by contacting the Bendigo Memorial Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org
“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.
An original ticket to one of Bendigo’s exhibition matches is listed on a US Sports Memorabilia site for $2000.
Jo Sports Inc are currently offering for sale a full, unused ticket for an exhibition match between Bendigo and Bob Brettle on December 30, 1856. It is the earliest boxing ticket currently being offered for sale.
The match took place at the Talbot Inn in Digbeth, Birmingham.
Brettle was an active star in boxing at the time and the match was held to raise money for the retired Bendigo.
Robert “Bob” Brettle, born at Portobello, near Edinburgh, in January 1832. He was a successful bare-knuckle boxer active in Birmingham, England, during the 1850s. He was known as “The Birmingham Pet”.
A silver belt, given to him by his patrons to honour his achievements, and made in Birmingham, was featured on the television programme Antiques Roadshow. It was subsequently donated to the British Boxing Board of Control and is now displayed at their headquarters.
Brettle died aged 38 and is buried in the churchyard of St. Peter’s Church, Harborne in Birmingham.
The ticket is stamped in lower right corner and is not creased or torn. It has the allocated seat number and is described as in outstanding condition given the age. The ticket measures 2 3/8″ x 3 1/2.
We are pleased to announce the launch of our Guided Walk, starting on April 17th.
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.
The guided tour will be led by a trustee of the Bendigo Memorial Fund, who will take you to a number of significant and historic locations, where, you will learn not just about his life, but also what Nottingham was like during his time.
The tour lasts approximately two hours and is along pavements and involves no steps. It is a walking tour that is suitable for wheelchair access
Total walking time is an hour (talking time 2 hrs) and we have chosen a route that will include some interesting features and buildings too. The walk will finish up at St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market, where you will receive a complimentary copy of the Heritage Book and the opportunity to seek refreshment at a local pub
The Bendigo Story is registered with Visit Britain, the corporate website of the UK Tourism Industry. We have the Industry Standard mark meaning we follow government and industry COVID-19 guidelines. A Risk Assessment is in place and a process to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing.
Whilst The Bendigo Story is an outdoor activity, we assess all of the locations and premises that may be visited. This might be in relation to the measures they have in place for social distancing and sanitising.
Our booking system is to encourage pre-booked so that we know the numbers involved will be manageable
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.
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.
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.
Our supporter Stuart Whomsley, tells the Bendigo story in this poetic tribute.
Great work Stuart, thank you.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Way back in the bible, a long time ago
Thrown by Nebuchadnezzar into the fiery pit
Surely that was the end of it?
But one son rose like a phoenix from the flame
Baptised in St Mary’s font with a different name
William Thompson, but as we all know,
William Thompson was Nottingham’s Bendigo
Bare chested Bendigo enters the ring,
Looks at his rival Caunt, with a massive old grin
Knuckles hit stomach then face, stomach then face
Sweat and blood, all over the place,
Caunt, he is hurting, now down on the floor
Victory for Bendigo. Hear the crowds roar
Southpaw, athletic, intelligent, quick and game
Soon all of England knew Bendigo’s name.
Banter like Ali when in his prime
Champion of all England by 1839
After the boxing, social justice was Bendigo’s fight
Rioting with the Nottingham Lambs deep into the night
Drink then did to Bendigo what no man could do
Put him down in the gutter, seemed his fight was through
Then preacher Richard Weaver lifted him up
Swapped communion wine for the beer in his cup
Reborn preacher Bendigo toured the land
Could not read the bible, but he could still understand
"See them belts? See them cups?”
They were all vanity, and that self destructs.
The value of a soul cannot be priced,
“I used to fight for those, now I fight for Christ."
Satan he is hurting, Satan is now on the floor,
Victory for Jesus. Hear the crowds roar.
The hillsides of Nottingham were Bendigo’s Zion,
Bendigo, Bendigo Nottingham’s Lion.