“The death of Mr Sam Sloper has cast a gloom over the New Cross and Catford districts…”

The sums of money involved in boxing and wrestling during the late-19th century were quite frequently astronomical. Local tournaments might be fought for a modest £5 or a nice silver watch, but bigger bouts could attract a purse of £25 to £100 – well over a year’s salary for a labourer – with a zero… Read More “The death of Mr Sam Sloper has cast a gloom over the New Cross and Catford districts…”

How far can the lady go without unsexing herself? Billy Noon V the ‘irrepressible’ Mrs Noon

I have written previously on a boxer arrested on more than one occasion for punching his female companion in the face. Unlike Jem Haines, Billy Noon not only got away with doing the same, he was paid and cheered for it too. Billy and Mrs Noon were a husband and wife boxing act, one of… Read More How far can the lady go without unsexing herself? Billy Noon V the ‘irrepressible’ Mrs Noon

The Most Popular Man in New Cross (Introducing Jack Wannop to Carthorse Orchestra)

I was recently invited to Carthorse Orchestra, a charming online evening gathering of intimidatingly creative and literary types hosted by the author David Collard. Each week David organises an eclectic programme of short readings, discussion, film and performance to entertain and connect people during lockdown. The night was themed ‘wrestling with French literature or wrestling,… Read More The Most Popular Man in New Cross (Introducing Jack Wannop to Carthorse Orchestra)

The Short Life and Long Death of Jem Haines (Part I)

From Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August 1889 a Grand Assault-at-Arms was held at the Corn Exchange in Chichester, with boxing, wrestling, Indian clubs and fencing on the bill. An advert in the Chichester Observer encouraged ladies to show up, and admission was charged at between two and 10 shillings depending on your spot.… Read More The Short Life and Long Death of Jem Haines (Part I)

Searching for Clever Dick Leary and George Brown, the New Cross Hercules

It has all gone a little quiet here on the Grappling with History blog, my apologies. I’m currently working on my MA dissertation about Jack Wannop and his New Cross gymnasiums; researching and writing a lengthy blog post on Burnley wrestler J. W. Price (1870 – 1957); and still hoping to put together an article… Read More Searching for Clever Dick Leary and George Brown, the New Cross Hercules

“I’m Not So Black As I Am Painted” – The Violent Life of Jack Davenport (Part I)

Jack Davenport was angry. The young American, fortified with drink and brooding over his wrongs – real or imaginary – threw punches indiscriminately as more than a dozen policemen rained down blows with fists and truncheons. Finally, subdued, he was dragged once again to a holding cell. Did the police have it in for him… Read More “I’m Not So Black As I Am Painted” – The Violent Life of Jack Davenport (Part I)

A Chat With the Champions Part II: JACK WANNOP IN TRAINING

This short interview with Jack Wannop is reproduced here as it appeared in The Sporting Life on Saturday 28 September 1889. My only edits are the paragraphing and photographs. It was published after this wonderful interview with his opponent Jem Smith, under the headline A Chat with the Champions. We learn very little, but it… Read More A Chat With the Champions Part II: JACK WANNOP IN TRAINING

A Chat With the Champions Part I: JEM SMITH IN TRAINING

I present to you here, in full, a copy of The Sporting Life‘s interview with Jem Smith which appeared in print on Saturday 28 September 1889, two days before his boxing match with Jack Wannop. I have introduced paragraphs for ease-of-reading, and inserted an occasional photograph, but the text is otherwise reproduced verbatim. It is… Read More A Chat With the Champions Part I: JEM SMITH IN TRAINING

“Wannop walked on his head in a most extraordinary manner”

By mid-May 1889, Jack Wannop had settled back into New Cross life and answered a challenge from the visiting Jack Carkeek, an experienced American wrestler of Cornish background. With George Steadman – the recognised ‘British heavyweight champion’ – failing to fix up with Carkeek, Wannop was prepared to meet him instead for the ‘wrestling championship… Read More “Wannop walked on his head in a most extraordinary manner”