Wrestling with danger: “We legislate by panic, and are surprised to find our laws a farrago of nonsense”

In 1878 a young man called Hooler was put on trial in Liverpool for the crime of accidentally killing a man named Brindle as a result of a half-Nelson. The unfortunate incident occurred at Burnley cattle market on the 9th November 1877. The men were engaged in wrestling, not a proper organised match, but rather… Read More Wrestling with danger: “We legislate by panic, and are surprised to find our laws a farrago of nonsense”

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)

“252 Pound English Girl Seeks Fame on the Mat!” Introducing the Graeco-Roman Goddess, Miss Juno May (Part I)

The whole point of my research project is to focus on wrestling in the 1880s and early 1890s. 1902-ish onward has been ‘done’, hasn’t it? Early Edwardian performers (Hackenschmidt, Gotch et al), born quarter of a century after Jack Wannop, were well photographed, documented, and if a written wrestling history exists without them it’s a… Read More “252 Pound English Girl Seeks Fame on the Mat!” Introducing the Graeco-Roman Goddess, Miss Juno May (Part I)

Lads on tour! Introducing Jack Wannop’s New Cross High Hat Brigade

Sitting here almost a year into the pandemic, on a freezing, grey, miserable evening, months since I saw a friend, it seemed fitting to bring you a little story about happier, sunnier, more sociable times.  I cannot find out much about why Jack Wannop started the New Cross High Hat Brigade but can deduce from… Read More Lads on tour! Introducing Jack Wannop’s New Cross High Hat Brigade

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

“Here we find the courageous Cumbrian trying conclusions with half a pint of bitter” [Finding Wannop’s Gymnasium – Part II]

Trying to find the exact location of Wannop’s Gymnasium in New Cross has been one of the most time-consuming and frustrating parts of my research. As explained in a previous post, which pieced together all the evidence collected on my hunt and took an educated guess at an address, Wannop doesn’t appear to have been… Read More “Here we find the courageous Cumbrian trying conclusions with half a pint of bitter” [Finding Wannop’s Gymnasium – Part II]

“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”

“Without doubt Jack is the most popular man in New Cross”

A lot happened during Jack Wannop’s 14-month absence from England. It was the year of the Ripper, of course. The Football League was established. The match girls went on strike, atheists became legally allowed to sit as MPs, and thousands of sheep mysteriously rampaged across Oxfordshire.   Closer to home, theatre, dance, art and pugilism continued… Read More “Without doubt Jack is the most popular man in New Cross”

WANNOP IS A WHIRLWIND: A drunk boxing ring fire and a mid-match escape

Following his defeat at the hands and shoulders of Evan Lewis and Duncan McMillan, Wannop caught a break of a sort in July 1888. With his reputation as a wrestler severely dented, Wannop gloved up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His opponent was Jim Fell, a fellow Englishman. Born just a few months after Wannop in… Read More WANNOP IS A WHIRLWIND: A drunk boxing ring fire and a mid-match escape