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the second fight between Ned O'Neal and Jem Burn, near Ascot, the farmer shut the gate, and would not let the boxer out of the field till he received the money agreed upon. He was immediately knocked down, cruelly beaten, and left insensible on the earth.
The next operation, after hiring the ground, is to hire waggons. Fights that are attractive are attended by many, who, for personal safety from thieves, and from a dislike to mix with the butchers, scavengers and filthy wretches that compose the majority of the mob, will pay from 2s. 6d. to 10s. for a standing place in a cart to see the fight, a line of vehicles always forming the outer ring. The farmers and neighbouring hucksters that let out their carts on such occasions seldom get paid, and often experience brutal violence if they demand their money. At a fight at Virginia Water, a pugilist, in cant language a leading member of the Waggon Train, applied to a farmer for the hire of his waggon for the ensuing day. The farmer insisted on his having the hire first-a sovereign ;--the specious varlet readily consented, provided the farmer signed a receipt. The pugilist drew up the receipt as follows: “I, A. B., do hereby agree to let you, B.C., have my waggon for one sovereign hereby received." Immediately after the fight, the asto nished farmer saw his boxing-thief friend going off to London with his waggon. In great alarm, he demanded his vehicle—“ Your waggon, you —!" replied the scoundrel, with a very horrible epithet—" it is my waggon, you sold it to me, and I have the written agreement.” After a great deal of dispute, the rogue consented to let the farmer have his waggon on his paying two sovereigns. This robbery was well known to the sporting press, but was never exposed or mentioned. It is boasted of to this day as one of the cleverest tricks of the Waggon Train *.
At all fights, robberies are perpetrated by organized gangs of thieves, who walk round the ring and pick pockets, or knock people down, without the slightest attempt at concealment. Whenever any resistance is offered, the person who would defend his property is knocked down by fist or bludgeon, or the dreadful clasp knife called a chiv is exposed and used if necessary. Every thief carries this implement of terrorism, mutilation, or murder. It is a large clasp knife, with a catch spring at the back which prevents the blade closing, and thus forms a complete dagger. We have seen at a fight more than twelve persons knocked down at once, and with the thieves upon them rifling their fobs and pockets, and then proceeding to serve others in the same way; and this in the presence of county magistrates and Bow-street officers, who have been present as amateur spectators of the fight. The reporters of the press
have been robbed in a similar manner. The thieves know that the magistrates give them thorough impunity, for when a robbed and a beaten person applies to the bench for a warrant, the magistrate's an
rescued by a gang of boxers, who defeated the thieves, but Bill Gibbons was horribly beaten. He was succeeded by Tom Oliver, the most notorious of the cross-fighters-par nobile fratrum.
* At the fight on Lichfield Race Course between Jem Burn and an Irishman, one of the leading pugilists hired the grand stand for a large sum of money, and made his harvest by exacting five or ten shillings from each person who entered to view the fight from it. He decamped, and when the owner pursued him for the money, all he got was a torrent of the most revolting abuse, with threats of violence, which soon made him relinquish his claims.
swer is, “ You had no business there—you were engaged in a breach of the peace, so you must take the consequences." Notwithstanding this, , this
very magistrate has suffered the fight to be got up in his own district, has had full cognizance of all the parties and of all the preparations, and may have even been present at the combat.
At the fight, or rather intended fight, at Royston between Josh. Hudson and Phil. Sampson, there was an immense concourse of all classes, and the young gentlemen from the university were very numerous and very conspicuous on the occasion. The field had been hired of a farmer, and it had but one gate or entrance. At this gate were placed several of the fighters, with large money-boxes, with slits at the top, and they demanded 1s. from every person on foot, and 2s. 6d. from every mounted person that entered the field. Persons, in the hurry and excitement of the occasion, pulled out handfuls of gold and silver mixed, or took out long and wellfilled purses, and many of the Cantabs in particular gave double, quadruple the admission required. The fee being paid, they had to pass through a group of several dozen of the pugilists, who, of course, did not molest them. Half a dozen yards farther on, they had to pass through two large gangs of the swell mob, the East-end mob, and the West-end mob, the captains of which were pugilists. The East-end were by far the most desperate. The gentry, farmers, and others were now surrounded, hustled, and lifted, i. e., robbed, of watch, purse, and every thing they had about them. Those who made a serious resistance were felled to the earth by desperate blows of heavy bludgeons, and often beaten cruelly. Others, whose resistance was not of a serious character, were kicked ludicrously, but severely kicked, for their pains. More plunder was collected on this occasion than on almost any other ever known *. The Cantabs were not only beaten, kicked, and plundered, but they were deprived of the classic, refined enjoyment of seeing two naked ruffians bruize and mangle each other for hire. The fight was a cross, connected with a horse-racing robbery; and as the theft was discovered, the fight did not take place t.
At the fight at Virginia Water, between O'Neal and Ned Baldwin, robbery was carried on by wholesale. Every man who attempted to protect his watch or fob had a bludgeon laid over his head, and some of the gashes and bruizes were dreadful. At last a large body of countrymen who witnessed the scene, armed themselves with stakes, staves, whips, and whatever weapons they could find, and they attacked the thieves with fury. But the swell mob were more numerous, they were more used to fighting, and were of more desperate natures. They were better tacti* Large sums
were collected in these money-boxes. One of the pugilists watched his opportunity and bolted with his box, by catching a stage-coach and leaving the fight to its fate. When his companions arrived in London and demanded an account of its contents, he replied that it felt so light, that he had broken it open out of curiosity, and finding only 1s. 6d. in it, he was ashamed to account for it, and had spent the money in gin.
† On this occasion, a keeper of a public-house was standing with a pugilist in conversation, when the leader of one of the gangs of thieves came up to him, and with a friendly politeness said,
give me a pinch of snuff, will you ?" Mr. put his hand in his waistcoat pocket for his silver box, and exclaimed with a laugh,-“D
if they have not lifted (robbed) me of my box !" " Here, sir, is your box," said the captain of thieves, politely touching his hat;
one of my young pals did not know you, and lifted your box, but it shall not happen again."
cians, and fought in unison. The countrymen were wofully beaten, and the robbery was resumed with increased vigour. Though the harvest had been so immense, the thieves were not satisfied with the booty they got on the ground, but they actually dispersed themselves in small corps through the long lane that led from the field of combat to the high road, and they stopped every gig, carriage, cart, and vehicle of every description, as well as all foot passengers, and actually committed highway robberies by the hundred, and this in open day; and not a single instance occurred of one of the wretches being brought to justice; nor did a single pugilist offer to protect any person that was assaulted.
In order to give the reader some faint idea of the enormous plunder collected by these gangs, we must relate that, at the celebrated fight which took place in Shropshire, between Brown of Bridgenorth, and Phil. Sampson, about eighty thousand persons were collected on the ground. There were more than twenty thousand people beyond the outside line of waggons, not one of whom by any possibility could get the slightest view of the fight. About five hundred of the Birmingham thieves were on the ground, armed with bludgeons, and even the London thieves were astonished at their ruffianism. At the fifth round of the fight, the ring was purposely broken, in order to create confusion for the thieves, and the scene became terrible, almost beyond imagination. The whole of this immense and ruffianly assemblage was mixed indiscriminately, and in a state of violence and fury. Some were rushing forwards in hopes to get a sight of the combat; others were flying in terror to avoid the fierce struggles of the multitude; and amidst all the horrors of the confusion, for more than an hour and a half the Birmingham thieves were rapidly knocking people down with their bludgeons, and plundering them. The London thieves were equally active, but they were by far less cruel in their infliction of injuries. So profusely had money flown about in the ring, that one celebrated pugilist, himself the captain of a swell mob, actually received upwards of 601. * chiefly in silver, for standing money in his waggons.
No reporter dared to take any notice of the violent robberies perpetrated at fights. We have known a reporter obliged to fly for his life, merely for warning a friend that the thieves were surrounding him. On one occasion, a reporter, having referred slightly to the conduct of the thieves at a fight, was compelled, under threats of assassination, to go to a notorious flash-house, at the Mile End-road, to make his humble apology, to pledge himself never to allude to thieves or their practices any more; and he finally gave them a treat of wine, and passed a night of orgies with them, after which they were all good friends, and have continued so ever since.
But the robberies at fights and on the ground are by far the least serious of the evils. Not only on the eve of fights, and on the succeeding night, is all the line of road, and all the neighbourhood, exposed
* The Birmingham thieves paid little respect to the London thieves ; and though this hero was one of the seconds at this fight; though he was one of the most celebrated of the pugilists, and above all, one of the best known, and, we believe, most admired of master pickpockets or leaders of a gang, he did not feel himself safe, and his mode of securing this 601. was rather curious. He stowed it away, secundum artem, in the pockets of his trousers, and then put on a second pair of trousers, which rendered robbery impossible, except by viclence.
to plunder, but the thieves have opportunities of forming local connexions, and of ascertaining assailable points, and they establish a whole system of depredations. For instance, Moulsey Hurst was the celebrated scene of these brutal exhibitions; and so many robberies and burglaries were committed in the neighbourhood,-so many graves were desecrated, and hen-roosts emptied, that the magistrates were obliged to prohibit fights on that spot, owing to the complaints of farmers, tradesmen, gentlemen, travellers, and every description of person.
During the frequent and horrible executions for forgery, (laws never to be revived,) prize-fights used to be the principal means which the thieves had of circulating forged paper, and keeping up the forgery trade. After the fight between Curtis and Aaron, in Hants, a forged note of a very large amount was imposed upon one of the county banks. Three days after a celebrated fight in the north of England, the bank of the neighbouring town was broken open, and plundered to a large amount.
At the fights themselves, the thieves do not merely take purses and watches; we have seen them tear brooches from the necks, rings from the fingers, and cut the clothes of people off their backs.
After a fight, the compromises of felonies are innumerable. A great many of the persons robbed are apprentices, managing clerks, stewards, agents, and others, whose characters would be ruined, if, by the loss of watches, &c., it were to be exposed that they had been at one of those infamous scenes.
We recollect that, after a fight at Noman's Land, Herts, a gallant captain entered a public-house which was full of the thieves and fighting men. He exclaimed, “ I have been robbed of thirty pounds and my gold watch ; I don't care a for the money, but I must have the watch.” The watch at that moment, with very many others, was in the possession of one of the most celebrated pugilists and thieves, who restored it to its owner for a certain sum.
When the thieves and pugilists fall out, for rogues do not often, or at least always, agree, the pugilists invariably have the worst of it. The herculean Cribb once threatened them, and he was soon obliged to fly from their brandished knives. The powerful pugilist Carter, himself a transported felon, wished only to prevent the thieves breaking the ring, at the cross fight between Curtis and Perkins, and he was uvmercifully punished by reiterated blows of the thieves' bludgeons. We have even seen the powerful Ned Baldwin, who, among pugilists, was the bravest of the brave," fly from the thieves in terror, and screaming like a child *.
Having thus given a few, and a very few, of the elements of prizefighting, we come to a truly astounding part of our subject. How is it possible that the magistrates can tolerate this dreadful hotbed of all existing crimes ?
The magistrates cannot plead ignorance of these fights, nor of the scenes that take place at them. We have seen both magistrates and Bow-street officers at fights, and eye-witnesses of the robberies we have described. We have known magistrates, who have been robbed at fights, to have their watches and purses politely restored to them, in gratitude for their permitting such exhibitions. At the fatal fight at
* Soon after Adams, a convict, was released from the hulks, he was advertised to fight one Smith. His principal backer was hustled by the thieves, and to save his watch and property, he gave them to a powerful pugilist, who for his offence in taking the property was threatened with murder, and obliged to fly the ground.
which the pugilist Mackay was so foully murdered (at Newport Pagnell), one of our most celebrated Bow-street officers was present at the exhibition. The Lord Lieutenant of the county, the Duke of
was determined that such a villainous scene as a prizefight should not take place, as formerly, on his estate, or within his district. He accordingly applied to Sir Richard Birnie, who sent an officer down to stop the fight*. This officer, of course, told the thieves and pugilists that they must not carry on their game on the spot intended, but he informed them where they might carry it on; and at that fight, at which Mackay was murdered, that officer was a looker on. Onė would imagine, that after a human life had been thus sacrificed, the magistrates of that locality at least would have suppressed such scenes of murder, outrage, and plunder; and yet a recent fight has been got up in that neighbourhood, at which one of the seconds was a notorious Dutch pugilist, then actually under his recognizances to keep the peace. When this man, a brothel-keeper, was bound over to the peace, the magistrates (of Shropshire) actually apologized to him for being obliged to execute their duty. With matchless effrontery the flash sporting or fighting press not only publishes their apology, but forthwith advertises a fight between this Jew and another prize-fighter; and every week it advertises the night and hour at which betting, and all other preliminaries of a fight, are to be settled, at certain specified public-houses, kept by ex-pugilists.
For months before a fight takes place, it is advertised every Sunday in the newspaper of the fighters. Even the public-houses at which the men are sent to train are ostentatiously advertised, and yet the licensing and other magistrates permit these convocations of desperate characters. On one occasion, in Middlesex, a respectable tradesman wrote to the magistrates, describing the outrages to property, and the demoralization among servants and labourers, which these fights had inflicted upon him and his neighbours; and he implored the magistrate to prevent an approaching combat. He added that his letter was anonymous, for he dared not sign his name, in terror of these ruffians. The magistrate immediately took this letter to one of the men in training, asked him if he knew the hand, and left the letter with the rascal, that he might show it to the ring or fancy, in order to trace the writer. This worthy magistrate little knew that, had the writer been discovered, his property, and, most probably, his life, would have been the sacrifice. On another occasion, in a county contiguous to London, the clergy, who were not in the commission of the peace, at , wrote to a lay magistrate, requiring him to prohibit a fight which had been advertised to take place at This magistrate, an amateur-pugilist, immediately wrote to an ex-pugilist, the keeper of a flash-house, to the following effect:
Clergy won't let you fight here, on account of the robberies, &c., committed at the last fight. You come down here too often-don't come here for some little time, and when you do come, do, for God's sake, bring us a good fight, for the last was .” Another magistrate, in another county, was called on by the inhabitants to do his duty and prohibit an intended fight. He accordingly wrote to one of the fighters, who was then in training, and who is one of the most notorious burglars in
* It has been said that the orders were, not to stop the fight, but to merely prevent its taking place on the Duke's property. It is utterly impossible that any magistrate could have committed himself to the extent of giving such an order.