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.

BENDIGO

Our supporter Stuart Whomsley, tells the Bendigo story in this poetic tribute.

Great work Stuart, thank you.

Bendigo
 
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.
 

A Moment in Time – 1858

Let’s imagine that we are in Nottingham and the year is 1858. Queen Victoria has been on the throne for over twenty years and the tragedy of the Irish Potato Famine was thirteen years ago. The Australian Gold Rush is in full swing and people are seeking their fortune in a place called Bendigo. The Houses of Parliament in London have ordered a large bell to be installed. It will be named Big Ben after Ben Caunt, another famous Nottingham prize-fighter.

There is some optimism for the people of Nottingham. Bendigo is now a household name and a sporting hero. Nottingham is a town on the up. The Luddites and the Chartist riots are a thing of the past. The town is now building better housing for its people. The railway had arrived 20 years ago and this has allowed deep coal mining to begin. There is plenty of work in the railways, collieries, and the lace and garment factories. Photography has arrived and is changing the way news is shared.

Bendigo has now been retired for a few years. He is sat in The Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road, the pub where he used to train before his fights. He is a regular at the pub and has developed a liking for beer. This has caused him a few problems. His brother Thomas is involved at the pub and Bendigo has trusted him to look after his money. His brother gives him an allowance each week. Bendigo retired as the undefeated Champion of All England. His cups and belts are on permanent display in the pub.

Poster from The Forest Tavern promoting the display of Bendigo’s cups and belts

There is funeral taking place and people involved are congregating in the Forest Tavern. The funeral is of a man named Lewis Goldberg. He was the Jewish rabbi and his burial is taking place in the small Jewish burial ground at the back of the pub. His family later emigrated to Ballarat in Australia, not far from Bendigo.

This imaginary scenario is quite possible. We have found evidence to confirm that John Ellis, the proprietor of The Forest Tavern did display Bendigo’s cups and belts there. Thomas Thompson is also the only member of Bendigo’s family, known to have had children. Not only that, the direct descendants of Lewis Goldberg are still living in the area. We have met them and been able to visit the cemetery.

What happened to John Ellis and his family?

What happened to the family of Thomas Thompson?

What happened to Bendigo’s cups and belts?

We would love to know.

Whilst The Forest Tavern no longer operates as a public house, the owners of the building have committed to preserving the original front of the building. We are also hoping to erect a plaque so that the building is identified.

The Forest Tavern Mansfield Road Nottingham

Here is the more detailed history of the Forest Tavern and the Jewish Burial Ground.

Mansfield Road heads north from Nottingham and dates from at least 1674. It was established as a turnpike by Act of Parliament in 1787 but the roadside remained undeveloped until the early 1800s. North Sherwood Street (at the rear of The Forest Tavern) was a field road. The Enclosure Act of 1845 brought the common farmland (at the rear of The Forest Tavern) into developable hands. The scarcity of available land at this time meant building three stories high and up to the edge of the street. The rear part of the property fronts onto North Sherwood Street. This part of the building was originally a separate workshop unit, with carriage doors at ground floor level.

Immediately next to the rear workshop is a small Jewish burial ground that was created in 1823 on what was formerly waste ground. The burial ground is approximately 12 sq/m and contains seventeen graves surrounded by a stone wall. Although the cemetery closed in 1869 it remains unaltered and is included on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II.

The Jewish community in Nottingham had started to re-establish itself, bearing in mind they had been expelled from England by Edward l in the 13th Century. An inscription above the entrance reads: This burial ground was given to the community by the Corporation of Nottingham 5586. The ground was closed 5629.

There are between 20 and thirty graves dating between 1824 and 1866. The burial in 1824 was of a man named Soloman Barnett. He died at the Nottingham Workhouse after an epileptic fit. Bendigo would also spent time in the workhouse two years later.

Rabbi Lewis Goldberg was 61 years of age when he died in tragic but unusual circumstances. He had not long moved into a house on Drury Hill, the famous and very steep lane in Nottingham. There is a Jewish tradition of placing a symbolic ‘mezuzah’ above the doors of the home. Lewis Goldberg was stood at the top of the stairs and nailing the mezuzah into the door frame when he lost his footing and fell down the stairs. Even more tragically, the claw of his hammer landed on him and pierced his skull, causing his death.

Drury Hill in 1906 Credit Nottingham Hidden History Team

Thanks to the Snapper family, we also know the history of Lewis Goldberg. He was their great-great-great-grandfather and the family are still in Nottingham.

Lewis Goldberg was born in Prussia in 1797. He moved to the UK with his wife Hannah Brasch. They had a total of eight children including Elizabeth (great-great-grandmother) and were known to be living in Nottingham by 1851. Elizabeth Goldberg married a Lewis Karmel in Nottingham and they had twelve children. Some of Elizabeth’s sisters moved to Liverpool after marriage.

Following Lewis Goldberg’s death, Hannah and her children were impoverished, and in the early 1870s, members of both the Karmel family and the Goldberg family emigrated to Ballarat in Australia (a centre of the Australian gold rush at the time). Only Lewis and Elizabeth Karmel remained in Nottingham. Their daughter Minnie went on to marry David Snapper, and through two further generations this family name has survived.

Goldfields of Australia showing Bendigo and Ballarat

This moment in time helps to connect our fascinating and shared history.

Sponsored Walk in Memory of Bendigo

On Sunday 29th April 2018, a group of supporters will walk the route of Bendigo’s funeral cortege in 1880.

This will be from his home at Wollaton Road in Beeston to his grave at Bath Street in the City Centre, a distance of 5.7 miles. The walk will take approximately 2 hours and will be limited to twenty one people representing his 21 fights.

The group will meet at the Bendigo Lounge  on the High Road, where the general manager has kindly invited them in for refreshments before they set off

The walk will officially start from the site of his cottage at 1100hrs and take Wollaton Road to Bramcote Hills, then Derby Road into the city centre via Lenton Abbey, Dunkirk, Lenton, and Canning Circus. The final route will be through The Old Market Square and on to St Mary Rest Garden on Bath Street. They will gather at the graveside where the moment will be commemorated with a reading about the funeral taken from the novel of his life Bendigo – The Right Fist of God.

All are welcome to join the group at St Mary’s Rest Garden from around 1300hrs.

Bendigo’s Grave at St Marys Rest Garden

Each of the walkers will raise individual sponsorship. Anyone wishing to donate directly to the fund can do so via the link on our website.

Andrew Edwards, the renowned sculptor who created a maquette of Bendigo is unable to do the walk, as he is in New York that weekend. He sent this reply:

A gallery in Manhattan is promising to show my scale model of my new Beatles statues so I can’t refuse being there – I’d rather be in Nottingham though, honestly. In fact if I could pick any job to be working on now anywhere in the world, it would be Bendigo’s statue.

Andrew Edwards presents the maquette to Trustee Alan Dawson.

Trinity Square Needs a Figure Head

Bendigo Memorial Fund is now 18 months old and we are making good progress and lots of friends around the world. Closer to home, Nottingham City Council have approved Trinity Square as the location for Bendigo’s statue.

The Bendigo story centres on this location. Not only was he born here but many significant events in his life happened within a few yards of Trinity Square. Sadly, most of the buildings are gone, several being demolished and redeveloped in the last 60 years.

This makes us more determined to put things right and make the location a permanent reminder to Bendigo.

Trinity Square has always been a popular location for visitors to Nottingham.

In the 19th century it was home to The Mechanics Hall and the Holy Trinity Church. The Mechanics’ Institution was a national movement for artisans, or mechanics, as they were then called. Many of these artisans were illiterate, and the founder wanted to provide them with a means of improving their knowledge by classes and lectures, by good libraries, music, drama and readings, and by social contacts with a good cross-section of the better-educated section of the community. The original Mechanics Institute stood at the junction of Milton Street, Burton Street and Trinity Square, opposite the Victoria Hotel next to the Railway Station. The Mechanics Institute comprised of a large hall (33m long, 18m wide and 12m high) and a members refreshment room. The hall later became a cinema and was called Mechanics Pictures.

Holy Trinity Church was designed by Henry Isaac Stevens and built in 1841. It was an example of Victorian High Gothic architecture and for many years it had a tall spire which was eventually removed.

In 1953, the council proposed to demolish Holy Trinity Church. The locals were incensed and 16000 people signed a petition against the proposal, however demolition went ahead in 1957.

In 1964 the Mechanics’ Institution decided to redevelop the building on the same site. The stone façade of the 1845 building was exported to the United States of America by an American, who erected as his Californian hunting lodge.

Trinity Square was redeveloped in the 1960s, when multi storey car parks and offices replaced the iconic buildings. These dark and austere looking buildings barely lasted 50 years.

Trinity Square was transformed into a public space again in 2009, with further improvements being made to the seating areas. It now compliments the leisure and retail at The Cornerhouse, which replaced the Nottingham Evening Post offices after they relocated in 1998.

Despite all the recent developments, there are still a few smaller and older buildings, most on the narrow lanes of Trinity Walk and that lead down towards the Old Market Square

Trinity Square remains a well-known part of Nottingham City Centre. All it needs now is a figurehead, and the return of William ‘Bendigo Thompson.