Finding Sutfield Green

The third fight between Bendigo and Caunt was in 1845. Described as ‘the most scandalous brawl in boxing history’ it is acknowledged as the fight that marked the beginning of the end of prize-fighting. The modern era was beckoning.

Th fight took place near to what is now Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

We were intrigued to find out the exact location of where it took place, as the various reports on the fight give several different locations. 

Stony Stratford, Lillington Level and Sutfield Green. None are precisely in the same place, and Sutfield Green does not appear on any current maps at all.

We managed to find out more from some other publications. Here’s a sample

Prize Fighting in the 1850s  

“In 1825 and 1826 there were still prosecutions of innkeepers for “suffering tippling during the hours of divine service” and the landlord of the Fox and  Hounds at Puxley was fined £1 on this charge.  One of the Constable’s duties was preventing prize fights. The parson of Passenham, the Rev Lorrain Smith, was himself a great pugilist and encouraged various meetings on the borders of Bucks and Northants, so that if the police of either county interfered it was quite easy to move over into the next county.  A field near Puxley Glebe farm was the favourite venue and Sootfield Green was also used. But Rev. Smith was also a JP, and as such it was his duty to  prevent prize-fights. Mr W J Toms relates how on one occasion he organised the police to stop a fight, but himself catching the pugilist, who had laid all the constables flat out, he let him off with a fatherly lecture.

From “The History of Stony Stratford – F E Hyde and S F Markham (1948)  

Northamptonshire Prize-Fights  

“It is an old ancient road up into the Whittlewood Forest and to Sutfield Green, where there used to be prize-fighting. People used to come from Northampton and all round. A lot of bad men and women used to camp in the woods named Hatchells on the left hand side of the road as one goes to Wicken and Deanshanger, where they used to camp and fight in Sutfield Green where  Caunt and Bendigo, professional prize-fighters fought.  This is corroborated by my old friend Jack Brown, now 84 years of age (in 1950), whose mother, (a Wicken woman), used to go and watch the fights. One day she picked up the ‘colours’ of one of the champions on the field, which is still treasured by her descendants. There was an old ring marked with posts. I seen the old posties (posts) years ago, when we visited the spot in June 1949. Lord Penrhyn said he wouldn’t pull them up – they could rot in the ground. But in whatever way they may have perished, they have gone now. The green was ploughed by the orders of the War Agricultural  Committee, and at the time we saw it, was growing a fine crop of wheat. It must be above a hundred years since they had the fights. Caunt and Bendigo fought for an hour for £100. Bendigo was a Nottinghamshire man.

From; Northamptonshire Past and Present  Vol 1 Issue 2 (1950)  

Using this information we explored the area between Lillingstone Lovell and Stony Stratford.

We took ‘Bendy’ with us and started at Lillingstone Lovell which is very near to the border with Northants.

Taking the road from Lillingstone Lovell towards Wicken and Deanshanger, we came across the entrance to Whittlewood Forest.

Whittlewood Forest is a former medieval hunting forest, east of Silverstone in Northamptonshire in England. It is managed by the Forestry England. There are tracts of ancient woodland within it and old ditches can be found at the edges of several individual woods. 

This map is displayed at the entrance to Whittlewood Forest.

You can see Lillingstone Lovell (bottom left) and Deanshanger (bottom right)

Using the information we had about the ‘old ancient road up into the Whittlewood Forest and to Sutfield Green’ and people ‘used to camp in the woods named Hatchells on the left hand side of the road as one goes to Wicken and Deanshanger, where they used to camp and fight in Sutfield Green’

We went towards Wicken and came across a gated bridle path. There was a crude map on the gate, explaining the rights of way.

We couldn’t believe our luck. The map included the name SUTFIELD GREEN (top left). This was the first time we had seen the name on a map.

Comparing it to the map at Whittlewood Forest, Sutfield Green was clearly on the road we had just used to get from Lillingstone Lovell. He returned to the location.

Bearing in mind the comment from 1950 that said ‘the green was ploughed by the orders of the War Agricultural  Committee, and at the time we saw it, was growing a fine crop of wheat’.

It was the wheat field we had just passed, at the junction of two roads.

 

We were over the moon to have finally found Sutfield Green and taken Bendigo back there after 181 years.

Go ‘Bendy’ Go

Go ‘Bendy’ Go – The Boy Who Liked To Box

A new children’s book about Bendigo has been published over in Australia.

Go ‘Bendy’Go is based on the true story of Bendigo Thompson, underdog and street urchin turned heavyweight bare-knuckle boxing champion of mid 19th century England.

Written by Lauren Mitchell and illustrated by Geoff Hocking, the book shares the early history of Bendigo in a fun and accessible way.

Go ‘Bendy’ Go is based on the true story of William Abednego Thompson, a bare-knuckle boxing champion from England, who unknowingly gave his name to the goldfields city of Bendigo. A treat for all generations, a fun and rollicking read for children and informative for adults – the story of Bendigo.

Introduction

A richly-illustrated story of William Abednego Thompson, bare knuckle boxing champion of all-England (1832-1850), known as Bold Bendigo, after whom the Australian goldfields of Bendigo, in Central Victoria, is named. His is a story of rising from poverty, from a working class family in industrial Nottingham, UK, to become the ‘Pride of Nottingham. Known the world over as the most athletic, and thrilling fighter of his day, for William Thompson his life was not without its trials and tribulations. After his career in the ring was over he took to the drink and was gaoled 28 times for disorderly, drunken behaviour. In prison he found redemption and became a Methodist lay-preacher. He died in his 69th year after puncturing a lung, falling down the stairs in his cottage. His funeral, which passed through the crowded streets of Nottingham drew more than 10,000 onlookers and fights broke out among his supporters and fans. His tomb remains, the only one left, in a park in central Nottingham today.

Lauren Mitchell

Six generations of Lauren Mitchell’s family have watched the Chinese dragons dance in Bendigo, since her Cornish great, great grandfather arrived to mine for gold. Lauren has been sharing stories of Bendigo’s culture and community for more than 20 years, as a journalist, editor and author.

Bendigo’s Backer – Joseph Whitaker

All fighters needed backers and Bendigo found his as a 19 year old in 1932. His name was Joseph Whitaker, a wealthy landowner and squire of Ramsdale House near Arnold, just outside of Nottingham. His estate covered 1800 acres and is now a golf course.

Born in 1798, Joseph was a true sporting squire of the times, known to all by his nickname, The Duke of Limbs. He was a keen horse rider and one of the top riders to hunt with hounds in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. He was also a fine shot, and took great interest in all ‘manly sports’.

Here’s what is recorded about him, taken from the book Bold As A Lion by J.P.Bean

Whitaker was an accomplished horseman who rode hounds and a dedicated breeder of fighting cocks. He developed a new strain of duckwing birds that fought an historic contest against Lord Derby’s finest at the Cockpit in Tufton Street, Westminster. The ‘main’ as such events were known in cockfighting circles, was attended by the cream of the prize ring including John Jackson, Tom Cribb and Tom Molyneux. Other celebrity names were there, such as Beau Brummel and the Prince Regent. The latter lost heavily by backing Lord Derby’s birds, which were soundly defeated by those of Whitaker.

The Duke of Limbs nickname came from his powerful build. Wide shouldered and possessed of extraordinarily well-developed arms and legs. He cut a fine figure at the ropes of the prize ring. He stood over six feet tall, wore side-whiskers and dressed in the fashion of the day – a grey beaver hat, a green coat with silver buttons, a flowered waistcoat, leather riding breeches and shining top boots. His Malacca cane and monocle gave him a foppish air but he had true Corinthian manners. 

It was said of him “ He had a strong vein of eccentricity and many considered him as mad as a hatter”.

Whitaker was reputed to carry a bag of guineas in one pocket and a brace of pistols in the other, and he was not averse to putting on the muffs and sparring – if he could find anybody willing to take him on.

Although his background was one of wealth and class, Joseph Whitaker had the common touch. He was a prodigious drinker, he was equally at home in the fighting pubs of Nottingham as on his country estate. He was a stalwart of the Nottingham Fancy and had a great appreciation of boxing skills. 

One day in 1832 he came across Bendigo sparring with Sam Turner, and The Duke of Limbs liked what he saw. 

He agreed to put up stakes for Bendigo’s fights. It was a partnership that would last eighteen years, from Bendigo’s early ‘bye’ fights to the Championship of England.

Joseph Whitaker died in 1874, aged 75. 

Familiar Name?

If the name Joseph Whitaker sounds familiar, there is a school with that name at Rainworth in Nottinghamshire. The school takes the name, not from The Duke of Limbs but from his son, also named Joseph.

Joseph Whitaker (junior) was born in 1850 at Ramsdale House. He went to Uppingham School and became an English naturalist. He was also a keen sportsman, botanist, fisherman and collected curios. He wrote several books, and some of his collection passed to the Mansfield Museum.

Whitaker junior loved the outdoors, a trait he learned from his father.

He also seems to have inherited his father’s eccentricity.

He had an unusual trait of always walking on the road, and never on the pavement.

He died on 27 May 1932 at Rainworth Lodge.

The Joseph Whitaker School was founded in 1963, and uses the Whitaker family coat of arms, with its motto ‘SPES ET FIDES’. This accurately reflects the expectations of the school – HOPE for our pupils’ future and FAITH in their ability to rise to whatever challenges they meet.

Bendigo And Sheffield

It appears that some people connected to Sheffield did not respect Bendigo in the way most other followers of boxing do. 

Knock – Out Razor Blades

Bendigo featured in a set of collectable cards issued by the Sheffield company that made shaving products including the Knock-Out Razor Blades in 1938. Bendigo featured at No. 13 of 50 Famous Prize Fighters. This was clearly unlucky for him as the text was not well researched or written, describing him as ‘not a stylish fighter’ something that we all know he was. 

Bendigo’s Biography

He had great strength but was not a stylish fighter, and was a very bad sportsman indeed in many ways, though eventually he became Champion of England.

Anon

Ungrateful Sheffield?

We don’t know who wrote these words for the company but whoever did appears to have some agenda against Bendigo’s ability and his reputation.

Even more disappointing was the company involved was Fred C. Cartledge (Sheffield) Ltd.

It is well known that Bendigo put considerable effort into improving the prize-fighting scene in Sheffield in the late 1830s. Initially he was introduced to the town when he joined Levi Eckersley who ran a touring boxing booth at travelling fairs. Bendigo spent some time with him, working on his technique.

Sheffield even became his base whilst waiting for his opportunity to fight James Burke for the All England title. Burke was in the United States so Bendigo had to wait for his return. He made use of his time by running the Manchester Arms public house on West Street in Sheffield, and organising prize-fights for up and coming Sheffield fighters, who did not match those from his hometown 40 miles south. 

Even more ironic is that two weeks after beating James Burke for the title, he was actually presented with the belt in Sheffield, at the Batty’s Circus Royal in Sheffield.

Collectible Cards

The Knock-Out Razor Blades Famous Prize Fighters are still very collectible as are the razors and blades produced by F.C Cartledge.

Pictures on the cards were black and white. Some were real images while others were renditions of the subjects. The first 30 cards were drawings while the final 20 were in the modern era and used photographs. Like most other collectible cards of the  period, biographies were printed on the back.

Two different sets were issued, one has a matte finish and the other, a glossy finish. The company encouraged collectors to complete a set offering anyone with 50 cards, to send them to the company and their duplicates would be exchanged for cards they needed.

Who’s Who Of Boxing

Here’s the checklist of all the names in the series of Knock Out Razor Blades of 1938:

John Broughton – Jack Slack – Tom Johnson – Isaac Perrins – Samuel Elias – Tom Belcher – John Gulley – Tom Cribb – Thomas Molineaux – Tom Spring – Bill Neat – Jem Ward – William Thompson – Eric Boon – James Burke – Tom Sayers – Jem Mace – Tom King – John Sullivan – Bill Doherty –  Arthur Danahar – Peter Jackson – Frank Slavin – James Corbett – Charlie Mitchell – Bob Fitzsimmons – Georges Carpentier – Jack Dempsey – Gunnar Barlund – Henry Armstrong – Max Schmeling – Joe Louis – Walter Neusel – Al Roth – Don McCorkindale – Arno Koelblin – Maurice Strickland – Pete Sarron – Tommy Farr – Eddie Phillips – Len Harvey – Jack Petersen – Benny Lynch – Johnny Ward – Kid Berg – Gustav Humery – Ben Foord – Max Baer – Small Montana – John Henry Lewis – Harry Mizler

Let’s hope the biographies or these great names were more accurate.

Bendigo Gallery At Paramount Gallery

The Bendigo Gallery is now available to view again in Nottingham City Centre. 

The Bendigo Heritage Project has collected a number of images and artwork over the years. Any pictures that required framing, we have used Paramount Picture Framing and Gallery in Nottingham City Centre. Not only is their work of the highest quality, their gallery is on the historic Heathcoat Street which is very close to Bendigo’s grave and was almost certainly on the route of his funeral cortege in 1880. 

Our images range from photographs, modern art and even a high quality copy of the portrait (oil on canvas) of Bendigo from 1850.

We were pleased to accept the offer to display our collection in the shop window of Paramount, visible to passers by and even illuminated at night when the shop is closed.

The shop window at night. The Jam Cafe is a popular bar and music venue.

Paramount Gallery

Paramount was established in 1985. They offer a personalised and bespoke framing service. The framing is done on site and the premises also has a spacious, well-lit gallery with an extensive collection of prints and framed pictures on display.  There are even some iconic photographs from sport, including boxing. 

It is worth browsing the gallery as there are images from vintage magazine covers, classic rock & pop, travel posters, film, music and historical maps.

On the subject of history.

Heathcoat Street

Heathcote Street was (since 1387) called Beck Lane, part of an old agricultural road that led by the side of the Beck rivulet, away to the fields on either side of the valley now occupied by St. Ann’s Well Road.

In 1854 The People’s Hall on Beck Lane was founded by George Gill who bought the former mansion house. It had been used as a School of Art and Design before he altered and enlarged it. He used the hall for a variety of philanthropic purposes. It contained a library of ten thousand books. 

The People’s Hall is visible and just 30m from the gallery.

Just beyond the modern building in the distance is Bath Street and Bendigo’s grave.

In about 1874 (during Bendigo’s lifetime) Beck lane was widened and renamed Heathcote Street. It took its name from John Heathcote, a prominent lace manufacturer who first set up at a workshop nearby in the early 1800s.

Next to Heathcote Street is Broad Street where there are several bars and shops. The Broadway Cinema backs onto Heathcote Street. The cinema was originally The Broad Street Wesleyan Chapel, a Methodist chapel from 1839. It is where William Booth (the founder of The Salvation Army) attended a service in 1844 and chose to devote his life to the church from that point. 

We hope you get the chance to visit Heathcoat Street while the Bendigo Gallery is on show.

Heathcoat Street is a five-minute walk from Nottingham’s Old Market Square and two minutes from the Lace Market tram stop.  There is currently no parking on Heathcoat Street.

A Review Of 2023

Hello Supporter. We hope that you are well.

2023 has been a busy year for the Bendigo Heritage Project.

We have continued to operate our guided walking tour, taking groups of people around historic Nottingham and learning all about the Bendigo Story. In addition, we kept the momentum going with talks and conversations to interested parties. Here’s a summary of what we posted on our website.

In February we exhibited a collection of images about Bendigo as an exhibit gallery at Cafe Sobar in Nottingham. The cafe was a perfect partnership for us, as Café Sobar is an innovative alcohol-free cafe and social space. Something that wasn’t available to Bendigo when he battled with his problems with alcohol.

We were also pleased to have finally located the grave of Bendigo’s brother John Thompson who died in 1873 at the age of 64. He is buried in Nottingham’s Church (Rock) Cemetery but locating the plot proved difficult. Church Cemetery is a Grade II listed site at the south-east corner of Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham. It was created around an old sand mine and some of the mine tunnels give the place a unique atmosphere. It was founded in 1848 but did not open until 1856.

After a pause in the operations at Nottingham Castle, we were pleased to renew our relationship with the management team. Our heritage booklets are now on sale in the shop, and we are in discussions with them about how the Bendigo Story links in with the history of Nottingham Castle.    

One of our trustees came across an old newspaper article from Australia that finally answered a question for us. It identified who was responsible for naming Bendigo’s Creek, which (after the Australian gold-rush) went on to become the City of Bendigo in 1871. The person was Tom Myers who, it turns out, has a street named after him in the historic gold-rush town of Victoria, Australia. 

Our exhibition of images then moved to the William Booth Memorial Centre. The title of the exhibition was Bendigo – From Pugilist To Preacher. William Booth of course, was the Nottingham man who established the Salvation Army during Bendigo’s lifetime. 

One of our trustees went to County Cork in Ireland and took our maquette of Bendigo with him. This small statue (made by renowned sculptor Andy Edwards) always gets attention and we even took him to Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club in Cork and showed him off to the members after their training session. 

Thanks again for your support this year. Who knows, next year we may be a step closer to our aim of commissioning a statue to Nottingham’s first sporting superstar and ‘original southpaw’.

Best wishes,

The Trustees

Bendigo Visits County Cork In Ireland

We don’t believe that Bendigo ever travelled outside of the British mainland, although many of his fellow prize-fighters did, often to the United States or Australia. All of Bendigo’s fights took place in England, so we decided to take ‘Bendy’ with us on a trip to County Cork in Ireland. 

‘Bendy’ is our maquette (a small statue) of him. It was produced by renowned sculptor Andrew Edwards and it always attracts attention whenever it is displayed.

Prior to the trip, we got in touch with one of Ireland’s top middleweights and Corkonian, Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan. Gary is a fine ambassador for Irish Boxing and we are grateful for the welcome he gave us.

Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club

We asked Gary to arrange a visit to one of Cork’s boxing clubs and he chose Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club, where he used to train. It turned out to be the perfect link to connect us, as it already had a Nottingham connection. Roy Keane used to box there, before his football career took off at Nottingham Forest in 1990. The name Brian Dillon relates to a contemporary of Bendigo too. The club is not named after its founder, but is in memory of a local 19th century republican who campaigned and fought for Irish independence. Dillon, like Bendigo, was born into a time of political injustice and both rose up to the challenge.

Brian Dillon was born on the Rathcooney Road in Cork in 1830. His republican activity got him imprisoned in an English prison. He was five years into his ten year sentence when he died in 1872. He was just 42 years of age. 

He us considered a patron of Irish independence in the Cork area and Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club was set up in 1981 at premises used by the GAA Club as a meeting room on Stream Hill near Dillons Cross.

Over the years the club has produced many outstanding boxers who have won numerous County, Munster and, All-Ireland titles. Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan being one. Between 2009 and 2017, held multiple middleweight championships at regional level including the Irish title. He also acted and performed stunts in the 2007 film Strength and Honour.

On our visit to Brian Dillon’s Boxing Club, we presented them with some copies of our Heritage Booklet and let the young boxers admire ‘Bendy’ the maquette.

After our visit, we toured the coastal area of West Cork, taking ‘Bendy’ with us of course.
Here he is at Kinsale

Now at Baltimore

Any trip to Cork means a visit to Blarney Castle, where those that kiss the Blarney stone are supposedly endowed with the ‘gift of the gab’ or great eloquence. Something that Bendigo was certainly skilled at.

Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Bendigo – From Pugilist To Preacher

The Bendigo Heritage Project are pleased to take their gallery of images and artwork to the William Booth Memorial Centre in Sneinton.

The entrance to the William Booth Centre and The William Booth Birthplace Museum at Notintone Place. The statue of William Booth stands proud in the courtyard.

William Booth of course is the founder of The Salvation Army.

Bendigo – From Pugilist to Preacher runs Mon – Fri (9-5) until December 1st.

When the Centre Manager Ian Young contacted us about taking our exhibition to the Centre, we had no hesitation in accepting.

Trustee Alan Dawson and Community Manager Ian Young ‘come up to scratch’ after completing the gallery.

Nottingham’s Famous Sons Named William

Both William Booth and William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson lived in the same period, and both were affected by the poverty and suffering of ordinary people.

William Booth attended the Broad Street Wesley Chapel (Methodist) where in 1844 he had a conversion experience, noting that: “It was in the open street [of Nottingham] that this great change passed over me”.

William Thompson (on his retirement) developed a problem with alcohol and he knew that his lifestyle needed to change. That change came in 1872, when he converted, having attended a congregation held by the former coal miner turned preacher named Richard Weaver. This was at The Mechanics Institute on Milton Street in Nottingham.

New to the gallery is a high quality copy of Bendigo, painted in 1850 by Thomas Earl.

The original oil on canvas is owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The City of Bendigo

The City of Bendigo in Victoria Australia is 90 miles northwest of Melbourne.

We have read various theories about how the name Bendigo made its way there. We have now discovered the truth about the matter.

Initial Report

Bendigo Creek was founded as a sheep run in 1840. Then gold was discovered in 1851 which brought rapid growth to the area. This created the impressive city that still stands today, with fine examples of Victorian architecture and tree-lined streets. Gold mining ceased in 1955. 

Bendigo became a city in 1871, although the official name was Sandhurst until 1891. A poll of the residents decided to revert to the original name of Bendigo, to ‘honour a local prize-fighter who compared his own prowess to that of the famous English pugilist known as Bendigo’. The name of this prize-fighter was unknown in most historical text.

The National Library of Australia holds two watercolour paintings of Macpherson’s Store in Bendigo.

The modern location in Bendigo is now called Charing Cross.

They were created in 1853 and show Bendigo Creek at the time of the early gold rush.

Latest Discovery

On the 21st April 1878 the Australian Town and Country Journal published an article titled:

ORIGIN OF THE NAME ‘BENDIGO’

The origin of the name ‘Bendigo’ has, time after time, led to much controversy. Now the origin of the name is thus accounted for.

A few old residents who are yet in existence will remember that Messrs Heap and Grice occupied a station run in the country now forming the Sandhurst district.

On this quotation says the Independent we have been shown an extract from a letter to Dr Pounds from Mr Grice which should put the matter at rest.

Mr Grice writes:

“Tell your friends who want to know the origin of Bendigo, that it was named by Tom Myers, Heap and Grice’s overseer in 1841. Tom himself was a bit of a dab with his fists and a great admirer of the boxer Bendigo: hence the name.”

From ‘Tom Myers’, those well known localities ‘Myers Flat’ and ‘Myers Creek’ take their name.

Image of the actual article in the Australian Town and Country Journal of 1878

Thanks to Google for the image of Bendigo with Myers Street standing proud.

‘Bendigo Creek’ in August 1852, painted by the artist S.T. Gill.

Bendigo v Ben Caunt 1845

The much anticipated third and final bout between Bendigo and Ben Caunt took place on 29th September 1845. The location was in a field close to Sutfield Green, beyond Lillington Level, in Oxfordshire. The site is now part of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, close to the A5 Watling Street at Stony Stratford.

Here is how the Nebraska State Journal reported on the end of the fight.

Both fighters came to the centre jauntily for the ninety-third round, which was to prove the last, and, incidentally, to turn loose a controversy never quite decided.

Caunt set the pace and pitched in right and left forcing Bendigo to the ropes, where he hung. He scrambled up, when Caunt hit him down again. The champion now repeated a mistake which he had made earlier in the fight believing that Bendigo was down for good and the round therefore at an end. He turned his back and walked for his corner. Bendigo got up and rushed in pursuit. Caunt saw him coming and deliberately sat down. Instantly Bendigo’s friends claimed the decision for him on a “foul.” Declaring Caunt had fallen before being struck, The referee decided that such was the case and rendered the decision, carrying title, stakes and belt, to Bendigo.

So ended the only famous battle of a period which added little to the reputation of the sport. The decision was hotly attacked. It was said that Bendigo had no right to rise again and that Caunt sat down to escape being surprised or taken at disadvantage until “time” was called again. It was openly charged that the referee had been intimidated by the cudgel bands about the ring. No precise settlement of the question was ever reached, but the decision stood reflecting no particular credit upon either contestant. Caunt was undoubtedly the stronger at the end, but his utter inability to land a decisive blow left the ultimate result of a finish fight a question.

Disputed Result

Some writers described the fight as ‘the most scandalous brawl in boxing history’.

Following the fight Tom Spring (a supporter of Caunt) challenged the result and thereby, questioned the integrity of the referee.

Spring retired as a fighter in 1824 and became landlord of the Castle Inn at Holborn in London. It was there that he became a respected promoter of the sport. He arranged the patronage and contracts of many of the major boxing events of the period, while overseeing fair play in the ring.

Tom Spring was a formidable boxer himself, nicknamed ‘Light Tapper and known for his strength of character, courage and skill in the ring.

Born in Herefordshire in 1795, he boxed locally and in 1814 met the legendary champion Tom Cribb. Cribb was impressed by Spring’s prowess, and persuaded him to go to London under his patronage; this was the beginning of Spring’s boxing career.

The referee though, was no other than George Osbaldeston an English politician who served as MP for East Retford.

Known as The Old Squire, Osbaldeston was also respected as a sportsman and first-class cricketer. His integrity was being challenged for the first time.

Osbaldeston responded to Spring’s challenge in a letter to the editor of the Bell’s Life newspaper.

Sir,

An appeal having been made to me, as referee, by Mr Spring, to reverse my decision in the late fight between Bendigo and Caunt, on grounds unworthy of my consideration, I request you will confirm that decision by paying over the stakes to Bendigo, who, in my opinion, is justly entitled to them.      

It was with the greatest reluctance, and at the particular request of my friends and the unanimous solicitations of the backers of the men, that I accepted the office; but I shall always consider it one of the greatest acts of folly I ever was guilty of in my life. 

In discharging my duty I endeavoured to do justice to the contending parties to the best of my abilities and judgment; and, arriving at the conclusion I did, and now confirm, I was actuated only by a complete conviction of the justness of my decision, and not by the intimidation of the roughs, as stated by Mr Spring in his letter.

Had I been under the intimidation of the ‘roughs’ I had several opportunities of putting an end to the fight before the conclusion by foul acts on the part of Caunt. A noble lord, and several gentlemen who stood close by me during the whole fight, can corroborate this statement. I most positively deny that I stated to any one that a man going down without a blow, after he himself had treacherously delivered blows, was fair.

In no one instance, in my judgment, did Bendigo break the laws of fair fighting. I must also deny, in the most positive manner, that I ever stated to any person that I did not see the last round. I saw every round distinctly and clearly, and when Caunt came up the last round he had evidently not recovered from the 92nd. After the men were in position Bendigo very soon commenced operations, and Caunt turned round directly and skulked away, with his back to Bendigo, and sat down on his nether end. He never knocked Bendigo down once in the fight, nor ever got him against the ropes in the last round. In my opinion Caunt got away as soon as he could from Bendigo, fell without a blow to avoid being hit out of time, and fairly lost the fight.

I am, your obedient servant,

THE OLD SQUIRE.

Doncaster. Sept 1845.