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.
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.
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.