Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Boxing and Prize-Fighting

17-19 July 1700   Yesterday there was a trial of skill, performed at his Majesty’s Bear Garden [at Hockley in the Hole], between John Terrewest, of Oundle in Northamptonshire, and Thomas Hesgate, a Barkshire man, the former having challenged the other in vindication of his brother Reuben Terrewest, who had been soyl’d by Hesgate. They fought at back-sword, sword and dagger, sword and buckler, sword and ga[u]ntlet, single falchon, and case of falchons; at all which, Terrewest received only one wound, but Hesgate 5 or 6, so that he lost the day. Whilst they were a fighting, Davis, commonly known by the name of the Champion of the west, got upon the stage, and refused to go off again, challenging Terrewest, to fight him for offering to put him off, and afterwards challenged to fight any man there, whereupon one Gorman, who was lately tryed twice, for killing one of the Turn-keys of Newgate, Jumped upon the Stage, and proffered to take up this bold challenger, and accordingly they both stript, and went to it, and at first bout Gorman wounded the Champion in the throat, and at second bout received a wound himself, in the side, but gave the Champion so great a wound on his forehead, that he swooned away; and many thought he had been killed, however he was so far disabled, that he could not try the third bout. [London Post] Note, there is lately built a pleasant cool gallery for . [Advertisent for a repeat performance in the Post Boy, 5-8 July 1701.]

29 August 1724   The Justices of the Peace for the City of Westminster and County of Middlesex, are about to suppress those publick and scandalous nusances the Bear-Gardens. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

Tuesday 8 September 1724   The sober part of the town express great concern at the scandalous advertisements that are almost every day publish'd, for calling raw tradesmen out of their shops, students from their books, apprentices and hired servants, and even his Majesty's soldiers from their duty, to attend at the rude and savage diversions of the Bear-Garden, where prophaneness reigns triumphantly, vollies of the most dreadful oaths being pour'd out incessantly, and picking of pockets practic'd openly with impunity: The citizens are also under great grief to observe the minds of too many of their young sparks turn'd, and entertain'd with these idle amusements, and the grand question become, Who fights? instead of Who trades? We have for their consolation this to acquaint them, and that too from good authority, that Mr Jones, the famous High-Constable of Holborn, in whose division this nuisance chiefly lies, will speedily be commission'd to take one single bout at STAFF with this terrible Mr Figg [the boxer], he being as well vers'd in the true exercise of that weapon as Mr Figg, or any of his fraternity. (The Daily Journal)

Saturday 16 January 1725   The English Gentleman, who lately wagered with a foreigner at Slaughter's Coffee House in St Martin's Lane, that he would find one of his country-men who should beat an Italian in town, famous for boxing and victories that way (on whose side the foreign Gentlemen made his wager), as soon as the articles were signed, applied himself for a man to the celebrated Mr Fig [Figg the famous boxer], who has procured him a grazier, known far and near for a stout boxer; and he is now entertained at Mr Fig's house for instruction and proper diet 'till the day of battle. We are assured that some thousands of pounds have been laid on this occasion, and that a great body of butchers, who have been witnesses of the grazier's dexterity, have waited on the Gentleman, his patron, with a request, that he would let each of them go a guinea with him; but the Gentleman is so satisfied with his man, that their request was not granted. The combatants have had an interview, when the English Champion took the Italian by the hand, and invited him to one bout for love (as he termed it) before-hand; but he declined it. In a word, the publick daily enter into this affair with so much passion for the event, and gentlemen are so warm on both sides, that it looks like a national concern. (The London Journal)

12 February 1726   Last Saturday one Richard Prinching, a young lad was committed to Newgate for the murther of William Fenwick, another lad at boxing, a barbarous practice, but daily encourag’d by the mob in our streets with impunity; especially in setting poor children to fight it out, when they perceive them at any variance about their play. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

1 October 1726
At Mr. STOKES’s Amphitheatre,
in Islington Road, near Sadler’s Wells, on Monday next, being the 3d of October, will be perform’d a trial of skill by the following Championesses. Whereas I Mary Welch, from the Kingdom of Ireland, being taught, and knowing the noble science of defence, and thought to be the only female of this kind in Europe, understanding there is one in this Kingdom, who has exercised on the publick stage several times, which is Mrs. Stokes, who is stiled the famous Championess of England; I do hereby invite her to meet me, and exercise the usual weapons practis’d on the stage, at her own amphitheatre, doubting not, but to let her and the worthy spectators see, that my judgment and courage is beyond hers. I Elizabeth Stokes, of the famous City of London, being well known by the name of the Invincible City Championess for my abilities and judgment in the abovesaid science; having never engaged with any of my own sex but I always came off with victory and applause, shall make no apology for accepting the challenge of this Irish Heroine, not doubting but to maintain the reputation I have hitherto establish’d, and shew my country, that the contest of it’s honour, is not ill entrusted in the present battle with their Championess, Elizabeth Stokes.
     Note, The doors will be open’d at two, and the Championesses mount at four.
     N.B. They fight in close jackets, short petticoats, coming just below the knee, Holland drawers, white stockings, and pumps. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

Wednesday, 4 January 1727
AT Mr. FIGG’s regularly licens’d Amphitheatre, at his House, the Sign of the City of Oxford in Oxford Road, Marybone Fields, Tomorrow the 5th of January, will be perform’d a Trial of Manhood by the following Men. Whereas the British Nation arrogates to itself the Precedency of all other Nations in the Performance of the Noble Olympick Games, viz. Wrestling, Boxing, and such like Exercises as serve to discover their Manhood, more especially since the Conquest over the Venetian Gondolier: But seeing that Victor is since overcome by the famous Gritton, who bears the Character of the greatest Boxer in England; now to convince the World, that the renowned Country of Muscovy is able to produce Abundance who are capable of making these bold Britons sensible of their Arogancy and Error, I, a Native of the said Russian Empire, do hereby dare the said famous British Hero to dispute the same with me as above, for and under the Penalty of forfeiting the Twenty Guineas, as already agreed on by Articles. I John Gritton, Champion for Great Britain, will not fail agreeing with every Article, as to Time, Place, Money, and all Things else that are specified in our said Articles: When, instead of Twenty Guineas, if any will back their Nation for Two Hundred, it shall be immediately answered, at, or before the Time of tis Grand Decision.
       N. B. Attendance will be given at Ten, and the Combatants to commence at Two, under Forfeiture of the said Articles of Twenty Guineas by him that fails. Prices, Gallery 5s. Pit 2s. 6d. (Daily Post)

28 January 1727
As the celebrated Mr. Sutton has
for several years past been encouraged to assume to himself the character of the Invicible Kentish Champion, I Hugh MacDonald, tanner by trade, invite him to meet me at Mrs. Lee’s Great Booth, in Blue-Maid-Alley, near the Marshalsea Gate, on Tuesday next, and exercise the usual weapons practis’d on the stage, not doubting but to satisfie the spectators that I shall come up to the performance of my predecessor Arthur Bland in his engagement with Robin Hood, when he tann’d him as long as tanning was good, in the Forest of merry Sherwood. I Edward Sutton, from Gravesend, finding my establish’d reputation in the judgment both of the sword and staff still in doubt with this Hibernian tanner, (he reporting himself to be the only Master of the Staff in Europe,) will not fail complying with his invitation, and exercise the weapons with him in the maner he proposes, beginning with the staff,
     When if he proves no puny starter, I’ll make him know he has chose a Tartar.
     The doors to be open at one, and the Masters mount at three. Side box 2s. 6d. Pit 1s. Gallery 6d. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

27 August 1730   Saturday, Aug. 22. Yesterday Mr. Sutton the prize-fighter was taken into custody, and carried to the county gaol of Surrey, for desperately wounding several women in the Mint with his sword, and in particular one woman, who has received a dangerous wound in her thigh. Daily Journal — On reading this paragraph, I could not forbear looking over the annals of our society [i.e. other newspapers], and in the Daily Post of the 19th instant found the following Answer to Mr. Felix Mac-Guire, the most noted and successful Champion of the Kingdom of Ireland, who never yet knew the scandal of a defeat. I Edward Sutton, renowned Champion of invincible Kent, to whose arms proud foreigners have resigned the prize, and foes domestick paid submission, doubt not but it will be the fate of this Adamantine Heroe, who has said so much of himself, there is little room left for me to say anything. I was in hopes so many of his wounded countrymen had felt my fury, that it might have restrained the rest, and the catalogue of their mighties had been at an end; but as the mushrooms are said to breed in a shower of rain, and come to maturity in a single night; so every easterly wind, I think blows over some Champion or other, and a swords-man rises in the morning, where no such thing could be found the evening before it. Sure! Ireland is well stock’d! but I will endeavour to lessen the number, by cutting him up for pickle, at the time and place appointed, &c. — Strange! That so great a Hero should at last stoop to draw his puissant sword upon feeble women! [Grub-street Journal]

31 March 1738   Yesterday was a great boxing match between the famous Broughton and one Stephenson, a coachman, for a hundred pounds, which was won by the former. One Mr. Maynar, a barber and perukemaker in Dean-street, Soho, was squeez’d to death as he attempted to get into the Great Booth at Tottenham Court to see the said battle. (Daily Gazetteer)

10 February 1739   Monday was fought at Tottenham-Court Booth, the great boxing-match between Stephenson the coachman, and Taylor the barber; there was a prodigious crowded house of Nobility and Gentry at five shillings a ticket: The odds before they began was six to four on the coachman who had buit one eye; and tho' the coachman at the very beginning of the battle struck the barber just above the eye such a blow, that the wound seem'd as if done with a sword, and the blood gush'd out, and run into that eye, that he could scarce see, yet the Barber flung him several times successively, fought away boldly, and beat him in eleven minutes: Peartree was the coachman's second, and Boswell the barber's. There were vast sums of money lost on this match: A noble Lord took a bett [sic] of 300 guineas to 200, that the barber would beat the coachman. During the battle, part of the benches fell down, and several were hurt, and a poor man had his thigh broke. (Read's Weekly Journal)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Boxinging and Prize-Fighting", 18 November 2001, updated 31 December 2005 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/boxing.htm>

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