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.   

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

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.