Bare-knuckle Boxing:


A Mill, 1878


All for Love, at The Angel


A Mill, 1878

For those of you that are expecting an article about windmills you are to be disappointed! The ‘Mill’ in this case is a 19th Century expression for a bare-knuckle boxing match. The one in question took place in March, 1878 at Mapperley.  at 7pm on the morning of 21st March, 1878. A police officer of the Nottingham City Force, B Division was walking his beat when he noticed a crowd moving up Blue Bell Hill in the direction of Mapperley.

Being of a suspicious mind, and due to the earliness of hour, he decided they were all bent on some sort of mischief and to investigate.  He followed the crowd at a discreet distance until they arrived at Mapperley Plains. Here he found the reason for the Nottingham exodus. A tent and ring had been installed on waste ground and all laid out for a boxing match which was about to commence. Prize fighting was illegal at the time as it was considered to present a riotous and unlawful assembly. Past experience had taught the authorities that matches of this type could, and usually did, turn to arguments and violence. The result was often that there was as much fighting in the crowd as in the ring. Being alone, the officer called for reinforcements and when further officers of B Division arrived they told the crowd to move on. This they did without argument and trouble. However, they merely moved but a few yards along the road over the county boundary and out of the city limits and so out of the jurisdiction of the city police. Having set up the ring again, with the police watching but helpless to act, the fight then started.

This contest was being fought between Jemmy Brown, also known as ‘Tom the Fiddler’ and Johnny Gorse, both residents of Narrow Marsh in Nottingham.  The name of the first combatant at least suggested that this was not being conducted by the most honest members of this, at the time, notorious community. The stake was set at £2 per side and betting on both combatants was very heavy. This being a Sunday morning, several additional laws were being broken so the constabulary could not stand by and watch this disregard of their authority. They therefore dispatched a runner to Arnold to call out the county force on whose ‘manor’ the fight was now taking place. By the time the new force had arrived several rounds had been fought. No conclusion however, had so far been reached as to the better man. The County police stopped the fight and put the event to an end but surprisingly, no arrests were made. The crowd must have been remarkably well behaved as many would have lost money as a result of the police action. Whether the match was refought or not isn’t recorded so perhaps we shall never know who came out on top.  I doubt that, with money and reputations at stake, this was the last contest between Gorse and   Brown.


All for Love, at The Angel

In 1835, The Old Angel public house in Woolpack Lane in the Nottingham Lace Market was the drinking establishment for many a local lad. Two such regulars were young, single men by the name of Austin and Lupton. Thomas Austin was employed as a bobbin turner and living in Coalpit Lane.  Joseph Lupton, who was a Dyer, was from Hockley. A certain young lady who was employed as a barmaid at the inn attracted the attentions of both men and a deep rivalry developed over which one would claim her affections. 

On Saturday, 2nd May, 1835 a fight developed between her two suitors which had to be broken up before the police were called. The young lady decided to settle the matter by stating that if they felt this strongly they should have a proper organised fight and who ever won would also win her heart. Both men already battered from their scuffle, agreed her terms and a fight was arranged to take place on Mapperley Hills just outside the city boundary.  On Monday 11th May a crowd assembled to see the outcome of this duel, for such it was, not fought with pistols or swords but hard bare knuckles.

The fight started and with the two men being evenly matched was fought with determination for two hours. Neither man would give way as their heart’s desire was involved and neither would give her up although both were badly beaten and injured. Suddenly, Lupton collapsed and fell. Austin was overjoyed and claimed he was the victor until someone realised that Lupton was not moving. In his insensible state, Lupton was carried back to Nottingham and taken to a medical man. It was in vain however, as it was soon discovered that he had in fact died. Lupton’s body was then taken to Mrs Kitchen’s house in Knotted Alley off Canal Street where he had lodged. Austin, in a terrible state and very concussed and confused, returned home to his bed unaware of his rival’s fate. He was receiving medical attention and being bled with leaches when he immediately fled. The local magistrate on hearing of the fight immediately ordered an inquiry as to the events and who had acted as the two ‘seconds’. As a result, three3 persons were detained, awaiting the outcome of the inquest.

The encounter was held on 7th May with the deceased being described as 5' 10" in height and of muscular and athletic build.

Austin exhibited many signs of the fight from the Saturday as well as his recent injuries with very extensive damage to his right fist, arms, body and face as well as his right eye. The verdict of the jury was manslaughter against Austin with Henry Holland and Joseph Caleb, the seconds, being held as accessories. Holland and Austin fled and only Caleb was held in custody who after eleven weeks in prison was fined one shilling and then released. The other two were never caught. And the barmaid? Well her name and fate is not recorded but she got neither man and had one’s death on her conscience!

All articles © Bob Massey