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.

New Civic Plaque For Bendigo

Legendary Prize-Fighter ‘Bendigo’ is known to have a strong association with the Forest Tavern in Nottingham. He was close to the landlord John Ellis, who supported him in his career and beyond. The building now has a plaque installed in his memory, thanks to funding by Nottingham Civic Society.

The unveiling was conducted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, Cllr Nicola Heaton, who spoke about Nottingham’s sporting heritage and the importance of Bendigo to it.

Cllr Nicola Heaton unveiling the plaque

In the 1830s, the Forest Tavern would not have been surrounded by housing, as it is now. It would have had a rural feel to it. The location had until then been known as a place of public execution and was also a turnpike. There were even a dozen windmills along what is now Forest Road, taking advantage of the hilltop location. The Forest Tavern was one of the first properties built along that stretch of Mansfield Road, before the Enclosure Act allowed Nottingham to expand. The Rock Cemetery was created in 1845 and St Andrews Church in 1871.

Alan Dawson of the Bendigo Heritage Project said:

‘We know that the first proprietor of the Forest Tavern was a Londoner named John Ellis. It seems he was a close friend of Bendigo. In addition to allowing the tavern as a base for him to train, it was also used to exhibit his cups and belts. John Ellis was also on the committee that organised and funded the lion memorial over Bendigo’s grave. It’s an important part of the Bendigo story.’

Jevon Patrick of the Bendigo Heritage Project said:

We are really grateful to the Nottingham Civic Society for supporting us and in recognising Bendigo’s contribution to our city. The building is no longer a pub but it has been tastefully maintained in keeping with the Arboretum Conservation Area. The plaque will be a constant reminder to people using the busy Mansfield Road. We have specifically chosen a blue plaque to represent the colour that Bendigo used at his fights, ‘Bird’s Eye Blue’.

Funding for the plaque has been provided by the Nottingham Civic Society.

Hilary Silvester Chair of Nottingham Civic Society said:

Nottingham Civic Society is delighted to be joining with the Bendigo Heritage Project, to celebrate and commemorate Nottingham’s 19th Century sporting hero, William Thompson, nicknamed Bendigo. For a number of years, it seems, he was largely forgotten, so it is good that he once more has an enthusiastic band of followers. We congratulate them on their achievements on Bendigo’s behalf, and wish them well in their future work to publicise the city’s Victorian pugilist.’

Hilary Silvester

Ian Wells of the Nottingham Civic Society also spoke about why they wanted to support us in keeping the Bendigo story accessible to future generations.

The event also welcomed Nottingham’s rising star, welterweight boxer Ekow Essuman. Ekow was joined by his Nottingham trainer Barrington Brown. It was great to see passers-by stopping to acknowledge Ekowe, whose last fight was at Wembley Stadium in April whne he retained his British, Commonwealth and European titles against Darren Tetley.

The Sheriff of Nottingham with Ekowe Essuman and Barrington Brown

We were also joined by Colin Wilde and Gaz Peacham, from Castle Rock Brewery. Castle Rock owned the building of the Forest Tavern until its closure a few years ago.

Gaz Peacham and Colin Wilde for Castle Rock Brewery

Bendigo On The Big Screen

We have always thought The Bendigo Story would make it to the big screen. Well now it has. Well sort of. Bendigo gets name checked and even appears in one scene of a new film:

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.

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.

Bendigo Supporters

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.

Here is the script from two scenes in the film. Taken from Amazon Studio Guilds

Scene 9 – JEM MACE’S BOXING GYM, LONDON – DAY 

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.

JEM MACE

Alright, Wain, that’s enough. You’ll be late for your meetings…

LOUIS

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.

LOUIS (CONT’D)

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.

LOUIS

Go on, Bendigo!

RAILTON

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.

LOUIS

But he’s electric, Herb. Look how his fancy all adore himHalf 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!

RAILTON

Are you talking about the photographers?

LOUIS

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…

Have you seen the film?

Let us know what you think.

James ‘Jem Mace

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

If Belfast Can Do It Then Nottingham Should Too.

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.

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 by Albert Bridge ©

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 five years old.

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 every weekend up until 16th May when the schedule will be reviewed. There is a choice between Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Tpurs are currently limited to five guests.

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 Memorial Fund 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.

The Bendigo Story (Guided Walk)

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

Booking is via this link

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-bendigo-story-tickets-127381011033

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.

Memorial Walk – 140 Years On

Supporters of the legendary prize-fighter ‘Bendigo’ will walk the route of his funeral, 140 years to the day.

On Sunday 23rd August 2020, supporters of the Bendigo Memorial Fund will walk the route of Bendigo’s funeral cortege in 1880.

The walk will go from the site of his former home at Wollaton Road, Beeston to his grave at Bath Street in Nottingham City Centre, a distance of 5.7 miles.

Here’s what the Nottinghamshire Guardian reported on 3rd September 1880.

The funeral of William Thompson, better known to the public as ‘Bendigo’, the ex prize-fighter, whose death occurred at his residence at Beeston on Monday last, took place on Friday afternoon in St Mary’s burying ground, St Ann’s Well Road Nottingham. 
The circumstances attending the death of this Nottingham celebrity are already well known, and it is unnecessary here to recount them further than to say that death took place in consequence of injuries received by a fall downstairs some little time ago. 
The funeral procession, which consisted of a hearse and several carriages conveying the relatives and friends of the deceased, left Beeston at one o’clock for Nottingham, the departure being witnessed by an immense number of residents. 
On the journey considerable interest was taken in the cortege, which moved at a very slow pace, and on arriving in Nottingham shortly after two o’clock, by the Derby Road, several hundreds of spectators had assembled to follow the remains to the grave. These were quickly augmented as the procession reached the Market-place, and on arriving at the gate of the burying ground – several thousands of persons were waiting to witness the funeral ceremony. 
Arrived at the door of the chapel the coffin was borne by some of Bendigo’s old friends into the building, where the service of the Church of England appointed for the burial of the dead was solemnly performed by the Rev. William Murray, curate of St Stephen’s Church, Nottingham, in the presence of a few who had been fortunate enough to gain admission. Outside a scene of a very different character was witnessed. As it was impossible for the immense concourse of people to gain admission to the chapel, a sort of religious service was conducted by several revivalists with whom Bendigo when alive was identified. Mr Richard Weaver, a well-known revivalist, through whose instrumentality the deceased prize-fighter is said to have ben brought under religious influence, mounted on of the mourning coaches, and gave out the hymn Welcome Home, which was loudly sung by the crowd, composed to a great extent of the lower classes. After this Mr Weaver delivered an address, in the course of which he said he was glad to see they had met to witness the burial of the ‘rags of Old Bendy’, for in the chapel close by were only the ‘rags’ of their old friend; he himself had gone above. The speaker then went on to give an account of his meeting with Bendigo some years since in the Mechanics Hall, Nottingham, by which led the deceased’s subsequent conversion. 
By this time the first part of the service in the chapel was concluded, and as soon as the coffin and the procession appeared from the building a rush was made towards them, and it was with great difficulty that the grave was reached. Fortunately a strong posse of police was present to keep order, so that there was no disturbance save what was necessarily caused by such a large assembly. The officers, however, were successful in keeping the people so far from the grave as to prevent annoyance, and the concluding part of the funeral service was gone through by Mr Murray. The coffin, which was covered with a number of immortelles, was then lowered into the grave. It bore the following inscription: William Thompson, alias Bendigo, born 11th October 1811 aged 68 years.
Next followed an impressive address by the officiating clergyman, who spoke of the deceased’s life, which had been brought under the influence of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. After the Rev gentleman had finished his observations, which were eagerly listened to, Mr J Dupe gave put a hymn, followed by an address, in which the speaker said that Bendigo’s last words were, ‘Harry, meet me in heaven’. Mr Weaver and other speakers followed, while the spectators pressed forward to take a view of the coffin in the grave, which is situated near to where the deceased’s mother is laid.
The people however, throwing off the restraint under which, for a short time they had been placed, commenced to joke and jeer and to talk of the early life of the deceased. The principal battles in which he had engaged were discussed freely, and such names as ‘Ben Caunt’, and ‘Jem Ward’ were constantly heard. Others directed their conversation to the deceased’s after life, and his appearance upon the platform as a revivalist. This kind of thing continued for some time, after which the multitude quietly dispersed.
Nottinghamshire Guardian article from Friday 3rd September 1880

Heritage Trail Booklet Published

We recently commissioned Porchester Press to publish a Heritage Trail Booklet for us.

The booklet is a fantastic way to advance the culture, heritage and social history of his legacy. We now have a short guide about the story of William Thompson, that will be accessible to visitors to Nottingham and its tourism.

Most of the locations in the booklet are in the commercial area of the city centre. People visiting Nottingham for the first time will be able to get to know something about it’s history whilst enjoying the shops, restaurants and attractions.

The Nottingham of Bendigo’s time could not have been more different. The slums were rife with disease. Life expectancy was 22, less than half the national average. One government official even labelled Nottingham as the ‘Worst town in England’. The people of Bendigo’s childhood home were said to ‘be the poorest of all Queen Victoria’s children’.

The booklet is titled ‘Ten Bells For Bendigo’. This is taken from the tradition of the Ten-Bell Salute, given to honour a boxer or wrestler who has died.

It contains 28 pages of interesting facts, quotes and photographs.

It can be ordered from Porchester Press for £4.50 plus £1.00 postage