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.   

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.

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 once a month but private tours can be arranged with a minimum of six people.

Tickets can be obtained at

Private tours can be arranged by contacting the Bendigo Heritage Project at:

“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.