Hello, I’m Sarah. Thank you for visiting my blog documenting ongoing research into Jack Wannop and his weird and wonderful wrestling and boxing circle in New Cross and Deptford (although we might occasionally venture further afield) in the late-Victorian period (and we might occasionally go into the 20th century a bit by a decade or so).
My first post on 22 February 2019 explains a little bit more about what this blog is for. Some information presented in that early article might have changed in the years since.
By day I am the Media and PR Manager for Tommy’s, the UK’s largest charity funding research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Until recently I worked at Goldsmiths, University of London as a press officer, based in a new-build office built on top of the exact part of the New Cross road that once held a house lived in by Jack Wannop and family in the 1880s.
Press Officer-ing is a job I’ve done since 2010 for various higher education institutions, including Queen Mary, Brunel, Trinity Laban and Gresham College. In 2018 I realised I’d spent more than enough time promoting other people’s research and decided to work on my own too. Before all this I spent a little over seven years pulling pints. My CV also includes stints as PR and events volunteer at Barts Pathology Museum, co-organiser and occasional performer for nerd comedy nights Science Showoff and Books Showoff, and theatre critic for Stage Review.
A decade ago, I graduated from the University of East Anglia with a BA Politics and an MA International Relations and Asia-Pacific Studies, completing a dissertation on the failure of UN Resolution 1325 to protect women and children from sexual violence in war-zones. In December 2020 I finished an MA in History at Goldsmiths, taking classes in modern European genocides, the history of violence, historiography and research skills, with a dissertation on Jack Wannop and his boxing and wrestling gymnasiums. In 2019 I contributed toward this very cool Journal of Zoology paper on the history of ring-necked parakeets in the UK, and led on its publicity campaign.
My research into men punching each other to a bloody pulp began as a bit of light-hearted fun in between all the genocide stuff. Now the MA is finished I’m planning to turn this work into a group biography, weaving together Jack’s story with those of other boxers and wrestlers around at the same time who were ‘forgotten’ by pugilistic history. They include the south Londoners George Brown, Tom Thompson, Dick Leary and Walter ‘The Cross-Buttocker’ Armstrong, and east and central London’s Caribbean-born or black American fighters Ching Hook, Jack Davenport, Jack Watson, Charlie Bartlett, Alec Munroe and the Sisters Mills.
Before the pandemic I was extremely deep into an early-mid-30s crisis and started pro-wrestling training at EVE Academy and London School of Lucha Libre in Bethnal Green. I was never any good but do look pretty cool dressed up as a scary, masked, leather-clad, purple-haired, 6ft vigilante bat woman…
Enormous thanks to: Geoffrey Thurley and the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries for helping me find Jack; everyone at Goldsmiths who has either encouraged my project or provided inspiration for it, including Professor Tim Crook, Professor Les Back and Dr John Price; Dr Alice Jones Bartoli and Dr Ben Swift for their thoughtful and generous help; Tony, Danielle and Theresa of Wannop family fame, for your time and interest and the incredible photographs which made me cry; Myko Clelland at Findmypast for both initiating and enabling my obsession with random dead people; and my colleagues, friends, and family for putting up with it.