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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This moment in time helps to connect our fascinating and shared history.
We recently commissioned Porchester Press to publish a Heritage Trail Booklet for us.
The booklet is a fantastic way to advance the culture, heritage and social history of his legacy. We now have a short guide about the story of William Thompson, that will be accessible to visitors to Nottingham and its tourism.
Most of the locations in the booklet are in the commercial area of the city centre. People visiting Nottingham for the first time will be able to get to know something about it’s history whilst enjoying the shops, restaurants and attractions.
The Nottingham of Bendigo’s time could not have been more different. The slums were rife with disease. Life expectancy was 22, less than half the national average. One government official even labelled Nottingham as the ‘Worst town in England’. The people of Bendigo’s childhood home were said to ‘be the poorest of all Queen Victoria’s children’.
The booklet is titled ‘Ten Bells For Bendigo’. This is taken from the tradition of the Ten-Bell Salute, given to honour a boxer or wrestler who has died.
It contains 28 pages of interesting facts, quotes and photographs.
During our research into Bendigo, we have found a fascinating piece of history that links our hero to a wealthy Nottingham solicitor named William Parsons.
William Parsons and William Thompson may have lived very different lives, but they lived to a similar age. Both were born and died a year apart, and both moved to Beeston in later life.
Parsons kept a diary and he makes an entry on 11th and 12th February 1839 about attending Bendigo’s fight with Deaf ‘n’ Burke at Appleby near Ashby de la Zouch in Lecestershire. He also writes about betting on Bendigo and winning £70 on the fight.
The entry in the diary reads
Fight between Bill Thompson called Bendigo of Nottingham and deaf Burke, won in ten rounds by Bendigo in about 25 minutes. Tho Tate sent £50 to Londo yesterday to make good a bet and he will win about £70 or £80 upon the fight.
Attended meeting of the Corn Law question but did not stay till it was over.
Pancakes for dinner.
This reference to Bendigo highlights the significance of his reputation in the country at the time. The sport of prize-fighting was popular with both the rich and the poor.
Parsons’ diaries are preserved in the Manuscripts and Special Collections of the University of Nottingham. There are eight diaries written by William Parsons. There is also a letter book and a memoranda and address book that belonged to William Parsons and his son Frederick. The collection provides details about the life of a solicitor and gentleman in Nottinghamshire in Victorian times and depicts legal cases, politics, leisure and family life.
William Parsons joined his father and younger brother Samuel as a solicitor the family firm of Parsons and Sons based in St James Street, Nottingham. Parsons’ diaries record his day to day activities although he sometimes grew tired of keeping a regular account part way through the year.
He wrote about his social engagements, often followed by a
resolution to live a more sober and serious life, and his professional
activities, and makes general comments on life in Victorian Nottingham from the
perspective of a well-off and politically engaged young gentleman.
By 1844, William had his own office in Park Row and by 1853, he was operating from Wheelergate and living in College Street. William tried unsuccessfully to become a junior councillor
for the Corporation of Nottingham in 1834 in a bid to push through land
enclosure that would have benefited his family. He was finally elected in
November 1835 as one of the councillors for Park Ward.
In 1864 William Parsons was Mayor of Nottingham and a portrait of him is held at the Nottingham Castle collection.
By 1869, William had moved to Clifton Villas, Beeston, Nottinghamshire where he remained until his death in November 1881.