A few famous Nottingham characters

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Obvious first choice, Bendigo Thompson


William Abednego Thompson, better known as Bendigo, was arguably England’s greatest bare-knuckle boxer and one of Nottingham’s most famous exports - he even has a town named after him in Australia (well, kind of... an early Oz farmer/gold miner was also a bare-knuckle boxer, his style was reminiscent of our Bendigo and so the nickname stuck. When his ranch grew to a town, it took upon his adopted name).
Born into the slums of Nottingham on 18 October 1811, he was the last of 21 children, himself one of triplets, Abednego, Shadrach and Meshach named after the young men in the Book of Daniel who emerged from the fiery furnace of Babylon. Which was rather apt, seeing as Nottingham in Victorian times wasn’t exactly the cover of a Quality Street tin. With over 300 people per acre crammed into certain parts, it was one of the most densely populated areas in the British Empire – at a time when the Empire covered a huge chunk of the world.
Naturally, the slums were rife with pestilence and disease, and the life expectancy here was less than half the national average – a shocking 22 years. The town boundaries had not changed since they were erected nearly 800 years before, and the Industrial Revolution led to massive overcrowding. A town that probably housed around 1,000 people when built now squeezed in about 50,000. One government official even labelled Nottingham as the ‘Worst town in England’. The worst affected areas were Narrow Marsh and the streets crowded between Long Row and Parliament Street, the people here said to “be the poorest of all Queen Victoria’s children”. One of these streets, New Walk, was Bendigo’s stomping ground.
The young Bendigo was a born athlete, being noted as an excellent runner, cricket player, stone thrower and somersaulter. For a bet he once threw half a house brick over the River Trent with his left hand! Like most men of his era, he was well into cockfighting and badger baiting down at the local pub and fished at the Leen and the Trent. When he was 15 his father died, and so it was every man for themselves in the Thompson house. Bendigo was sent to the Nottingham Workhouse with his mother, but he didn’t stay long. His time here proved to be the turning point in his life. Experiencing the harshness of Victorian poverty, he vowed never to return.
After leaving the Workhouse, Bendigo scraped a living selling oysters in and around the streets of Nottingham. Getting bored with the stink of fish, he got a job as an iron turner, which developed his muscular physique. His background, his environment and now his job put him in good stead for his future career path of Prizefighting. In other words, he was hard as fuck.
By the age of 18 he was already fighting for money, in order to put food on the table. He destroyed his first eight opponents - including the Champion of Bingham - and by the time he was 21 he was virtually a professional fighter. Although a lot smaller than many of his opponents at just 5’ 9”, he had an extremely quick hand speed, an extraordinarily hard punch and fought without any fear whatsoever. Not only was he stronger and faster than many of his contemporaries, but he was also very skilful, earning the nickname ‘Bendy’ due to his bobbing and weaving. People just couldn’t get near him. It wasn’t too long before ‘Bendy’ Abednego became Bendigo.
Bendigo on LeftLionThough it was his speed and agility that won him his fights, it was Bendigo’s personality and sense of humour that won him the crowd. Over 100 years before Muhammad Ali, he would make up rhymes about his opponents during fights, and distract them with insults and tall tales of their wives and mothers while pulling funny faces. It wasn’t long before the local hero was drawing crowds of over 10,000 people to his illicit fights, held way out of town in barns or fields in an era when public transport was virtually non-existent.
All legendary boxers need a fierce rival, and Bendigo’s was another local lad from Hucknall, Ben Caunt. In 1835, the two met for the first time for the princely sum of £25. The fight only lasted 22 rounds, which was relatively easy compared to their rematches (back in those days, a round lasted until one fighter was knocked down, with no time limit) Bendigo, who was three stone lighter and six inches shorter, got into difficulties early on and started to go down a bit easily. This (along with Bendigo’s constant manic laughter and free flowing insults) frustrated Caunt, who ended up striking Bendigo while he was kneeling and so losing on a foul. A writer at the fight described Caunt as “full of trickery and treachery… he has no ethics” and Bendigo as "deadly and as poisonous as a rattlesnake with about the same ethics”
Over the next two years, Bendigo had three fights, first of all dispatching the renowned John Leachman of Bradford in a 52-round contest, before travelling to Newcastle the year after to take out Charley Langham in 51 rounds. A few months later, Bendigo answered a letter in the newspaper from a Liverpool man called William Looney, challenging “any man in the world for £100 stake and £200 a-side”. They met on 13 June 1837, on a hill at Chapel-en-le-Frith - the halfway point between their hometowns. The fight lasted 92 rounds(!), but will probably be remembered for Bendigo’s reaction to Looney contemplating a haymaker in the 15th round by falling to the floor “on his nether end throwing up his legs and laughing”. Bendigo took control shortly after and even started somersaulting in the ring, endearing him to the crowds.
However, even through the constant barrage of punches, Looney fought bravely on and he even nearly nicked the fight with a massive right hand when under some pressure from Bendigo. Eventually, as with most bouts of the time, Bendigo’s stamina and athleticism shone through and he was declared the winner after dominating over an hour’s brawling.
Bendigo’s name and status was steadily rising, and on April 3 1838 Caunt finally got his rematch for £300 prize money. Although three years younger in an era when every year counted, Caunt came into the ring in poor shape compared with the excellent physique of his opponent. Bendigo trained especially hard for this match and easily outfoxed and out-manoeuvred Caunt, leaving him looking clumsy in his attacks. However, the fight went on for 75 rounds of furious combat. That was marred – or enhanced, depending on your point of view – by foul play and crowd violence.
In the fifth round, Caunt had Bendigo against the ropes and nearly strangled him but Bendigo fought back, peppering his opponent with body shots and more insults. Desperate for victory and revenge, Caunt was said to have Bendigo by the throat, strangling him again in the thirteenth. By the time Bendigo’s followers had cut the ropes and entered the ring his face was going blue. A fight broke out between the two sets of supporters and Caunt took a few hits across the back with a ring stake.
When order resumed, Bendigo had a hit of brandy and stepped back up to the scratch. In the fiftieth round it was Bendigo’s turn for some underhand tactics, lashing out some kicks on Caunt, but the referee dismissed the complaint. In the seventy-fifth round, the referee stopped the fight as Bendigo went to ground without being struck, an illegal tactic in Prize Fighting. After the fight, Bendigo claimed it was a slip; a claim backed up by contemporary accounts, putting him well ahead and coasting.
Naturally, all hell broke loose. His supporters attacked Caunt with sticks, stakes and whatever else they could get their hands on. Caunt was dragged to his coach by his cronies and attempted to flee. The coach was held up by Bendigo’s mob, Caunt was dragged out, but during the melee he eventually escaped, riding bareback on a stolen horse...
In 1839, when Bendigo was 28, he finally reached the summit. He was given the task of defeating the fearsome Londoner James “Deaf ‘un” Burke for the All-England title and a purse of £220.
The fight was at No Mans Heath in Leicestershire, in front of an unruly crowd of 15,000 people. It lasted just ten rounds, with Bendigo battering the helpless Burke, who had just successfully toured America and was seen as an unofficial world champion. After half an hour, the frustrated Burke became so enraged with the barrage of punches and insults coming from his younger, faster and stronger challenger, he grabbed hold of Bendigo and full on headbutted him, thus losing on a foul and gifting the championship away.
The “Nottingham Jester”, Champion Prize Fighter of All England was presented his belt a few weeks later at a ceremony in The Queens Theatre, Liverpool. When he returned toNottingham, Bendigo met his jubilant supporters and got a bit carried away. He somersaulted into the crowd and ended up breaking his kneecap, which put him out of action for two years.
Bendigo was a true fighting champion, and once he recovered from his injury he defeated 19 opponents over the next four years, including seven in one month. But there was one fight the public were desperate to see - and on 9 September 1845 at Lillington Level,Oxford, a half-drunk riotous crowd of 10,000 came to see the third and final fight betweenBendigo and Caunt.
Bendigo’s tactics were called into question as he crouched and bobbed his way around the ring, making it harder for Caunt to hit him. Hardly a round went by without a foul being claimed in a notoriously dirty grudge match. The atmosphere was all the more intense because of the fierce rivalry between the two sets of supporters, who only really came to finish what they had started 6 years earlier.
The fight lasted a massive 96 rounds, with Bendigo tactically and methodically breaking his man down until, exhausted after two hours ten minutes, Caunt sat down without getting hit, losing on a foul. The fight was described by a contemporary writer as “one of the most scandalous brawls in boxing history. Both men used every foul under the sun and invented a good many others… Bendigo was tossed from the ring… Caunt trying to crash him on the ring stakes to break his back. Bendigo’s followers attempted to bludgeon Caunt whenever within striking distance… on one occasion missing by a hair’s breadth, the blow landing on Caunt’s brawny shoulder”
Years later, when speaking on this fight, an old friend said to Bendigo; “I hope you fight Beelzebub with more fairness than you fought Caunt, or else I might change sides”
This fight seemed to have taken a lot out of Bendigo, who slipped into semi-retirement and went back to his childhood pastime of fishing. He became good friends with a well-known angler called William Bailey, who made and sold fishing tackle from his shop in Broad Marsh.
Although enjoying the quiet life, Bendigo reluctantly accepted a challenge from a young Tom Paddock from Redditch, and on the 5 June 1850, the 39-year-old William Abednego Thompson fought his last fight. In two minds as to whether to accept the fight or not, his 82 year-old mother encouraged him by saying “I tell you this Bendy, if you don’t take up the fight you’re a coward. And I tell you more - if you don’t fight him, I’ll take up the challenge myself.”
The fight was a close one and lasted over an hour. Paddock, the younger man by far, and himself a future champion, was getting the better of Bendigo who started to go to ground very easily. This infuriated Paddock who, after flooring Bendigo with a right hand in the 49th, thought he had gone down again. Paddock charged across the ring and kicked Bendigo, and pulled him to his feet shouting, “Get up and fight like a man”.Bendigo’s corner man called foul and the referee concurred, giving the decision. By all accounts, Bendigo was lucky to win that last fight and he never disagreed.
Feeling he was getting too old for prizefighting, ‘The Nottingham Jester’ stepped down undefeated as champion, with two prize belts and four silver cups to his name. Bendigowas perhaps the last of the great prizefighters and to some is considered the ‘Champion of Champions’. He is credited with inventing the left-handed ‘Southpaw’ stance, ensuring his legacy lies within the fabric of boxing forever. His outspoken character and record in the ring attracted a massive fan base, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote a verse to the fighter titled ‘Bendigo’s Sermon’
You didn’t know of Bendigo?
Well that knocks me out!
Who’s your board schoolteacher?
What’s he been about?
Chock-a-block with fairy tales –
Full of useless cram,
And never heard of Bendigo
The Pride Of Nottingham!
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George Africanus


Immigration is always in the news these days, or so it seems, but it's been happening for a long time now.

The George Africanus story starts in 1763 when he was born in Sierra Leone in West Africa.
Black servants were fashionable at the time, and once the young George was brought to England, where he worked for the wealthy businessman Benjamin Molineux, who lived in Wolverhampton.
The family gave him his full name George John Scipio Africanus, but his original African name is unknown.
They ensured he grew up able to read and write, and he served his apprenticeship as a brass founder in one of the Molineux family's foundries.
In 1784, George Africanus moved to Nottingham to work as a brass founder.
Four years later he married local woman Esther Shaw and the couple lived on Chandler's Lane in the city centre.
Just after his marriage George and Esther founded the Africanus' Register of Servants, an employment agency which remained a family business for more than 70 years.
George Africanus was also involved in Watch and Ward, a sort of police force responsible for preventing civil disturbances.
In 1829 he became a "freeholder", owning his own family home as well as business premises and accommodation he rented out.
Nottingham City Museums Community Historian Suella Postles said: "Being of a certain property status he was able to vote - something very rare in Nottingham at that time".
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Lieutenant James Still RN


This guy was an amazing dude, I tried to find something about him on the internet, but I couldn't.
The above plaque is in St. Mary's church in the Lace district of Nottingham, next to Sneinton, and it was the church my school used once, so I first saw this plaque as an angelic voiced schoolboy (yeah, I don't know what I was doing in the choir either, no one told me about it until I was told where to sit, but maybe I missed something because I was to busy reading the plaque?)
Lieutenant James Still RN, left home and travelled thousands of miles away, to try and end the slave trade, the ships crew were attacked, most were slaughtered, but he was captured, and held by slave traders for months, as a slave, until he escaped, made it to a British port, and instead of coming home, enlisted with HMS The Pheasant, where once again he fought for the freedom of others, before succumbing to yellow fever, in 1821, aged just 22.
It doesn't matter that he came from my city, I'm just proud to live in a world where people like him live, and I'm proud to be a part of a city where we carry on the traditions and cultures of Bendigo, George Africanus, and Lt. Still, making the best of what we've got, defying the odds, and trying to build the best city we can.
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Ah, our Albert .......... my Granny knew him very well, but her slightly older sister was closer to our most famous WW1 flying ace. I have a couple of letters he sent my GA from the Front, also a lovely photo of him that I've never ever seen published, in fact I have a big box of Albert Ball memorabilia. I feel that he's part of our family as I heard so much about him when my Granny was still with us.

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Don't forget William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.

Funny you should say that, as he's up next:

William Booth was born in Sneinton, Nottingham, the second son of five children born to Samuel Booth and his second wife, Mary Moss.
In 1842, Samuel Booth, who could no longer afford his son's school fees, apprenticed the 13-year-old William Booth to a pawnbroker. Samuel Booth died on 23 September 1843.
Two years into his apprenticeship Booth was converted to Methodism. He then read extensively and trained himself in writing and in speech, becoming a Methodist lay preacher. Booth was encouraged to be an evangelist primarily through his best friend, Will Sansom. Sansom and Booth both began in the 1840s to preach to the poor and the sinners of Nottingham, and Booth would probably have remained as Sansom's partner in his new Mission ministry, as Sansom titled it, had Sansom not died of tuberculosis, in 1849.
When his apprenticeship ended in 1848, Booth was unemployed and spent a year looking in vain for work. In 1849, Booth reluctantly left his family and moved to London, where he again found work with a pawnbroker. Booth tried to continue lay preaching in London, but the small amount of preaching work that came his way frustrated him, and so he resigned as a lay preacher and took to open-air evangelising in the streets and on Kennington Common.
In 1851, Booth joined the Reformers (Methodist Reform Church), and on 10 April 1852, his 23rd birthday, he left pawnbroking and became a full-time preacher at their headquarters at Binfield Chapel in Clapham. William styled his preaching after the revivalist American James Caughey, who had made frequent visits to England and preached at the church in Nottingham where Booth was a member, Broad Street Chapel. Just over a month after he started full-time preaching, on 15 May 1852, William Booth became formally engaged to Catherine Mumford. In November 1853, Booth was invited to become the Reformers' minister at Spalding, in Lincolnshire. Booth married Catherine Mumford on 16 June 1855 at Stockwell Green Congregational Church in London. Their wedding was very simple, as they wanted to use their time and money for his ministry. Even on their honeymoon Booth was asked to speak at meetings.
Though Booth became a prominent Methodist evangelist, he was unhappy that the annual conference of the denomination kept assigning him to a pastorate, the duties of which he had to neglect to respond to the frequent requests that he do evangelistic campaigns. At the Liverpool conference in 1861, after having spent three years at Gateshead, his request to be freed for evangelism full-time was refused yet again, and Booth resigned from the ministry of the Methodist New Connexion.
Soon he was barred from campaigning in Methodist congregations, so he became an independent evangelist. His doctrine remained much the same, though; he preached that eternal punishment was the fate of those who do not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the necessity of repentance from sin, and the promise of holiness. He taught that this belief would manifest itself in a life of love for God and mankind.
In 1865 Booth was in the East End of London, preaching to crowds of people in the streets. Outside The Blind Beggar public house some missioners heard him speaking and were so impressed by his preaching that they invited him to lead a series of meetings they were holding in a large tent.
The tent was set up on an old Quaker burial ground on Mile End Waste in Whitechapel. The first of these meetings was held on 2 July 1865. To the poor and destitute of London's East End, Booth brought the good news of Jesus Christ and his love for all.
Booth soon realised he had found his destiny, and later in 1865 he and his wife Catherine opened 'The Christian Revival Society' in the East End of London, where they held meetings every evening and on Sundays, to share the repentance that salvation can bring through accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to the poorest and most needy, including alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes. The Christian Revival Society was later renamed The Christian Mission.
Slowly The Christian Mission began to grow but the work was difficult and Booth would "stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck", wrote his wife. Evening meetings were held in an old warehouse where urchins threw stones and fireworks through the window. Outposts were eventually established and in time attracted converts, yet the results were discouraging. The Christian Mission was just one of about 500 charitable and religious groups trying to help the poor and needy in London's East End.
Booth and his fellow brethren in Christ practised what they preached and performed self-sacrificing Christian and social work, such as opening “Food for the Million” shops (soup kitchens), not caring if they were scoffed at or derided for their work.
The name The Salvation Army developed from an incident in May 1878. William Booth was dictating a letter to his secretary George Scott Railton and said, "We are a volunteer army." Bramwell Booth heard his father and said, "Volunteer, I'm no volunteer, I'm a regular!" Railton was instructed to cross out the word "volunteer" and substitute the word "salvation". The Salvation Army was modelled after the military, with its own flag (or colours) and its own music, often with Christian words to popular and folkloric tunes sung in the pubs. Booth and the other soldiers in "God's Army" would wear the Army's own uniform, 'putting on the armour,' for meetings and ministry work. He became the "General" and his other ministers were given appropriate ranks as "officers". Other members became "soldiers".
Though the early years were lean ones, with the need of money to help the needy an ever growing issue, Booth and The Salvation Army persevered. In the early 1880s, operations were extended to other countries, notably the United States, France, Switzerland, Sweden and others, including to most of the countries of the British Empire: Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Jamaica, etc.
Now, I'm not a member of the Salvation Army, but I look at things in the context of their times, and I have to admire a man, who can rise from poverty, and who seeks to help his fellow man.
Here was another man, from the slums of Sneinton, who like Bendigo, Lt. Still, George Africanus, and Albert Ball, who dedicated his life to the betterment of others.
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Somewhere on here there's a thread that I started a couple of years back re Nottinghams famous sons (And daughters). In it there's a link to hundreds of names. We then started adding our own that weren't in it, and had come up with quite a few .

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I notice that my original link (In my own archives) no longer works, yet the one I posted on here does, strange.!

Edit , OOOOPPPSSS No it doesn't !

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He may not have been a Nottingham man, but Edmund and Thomas Helwys are thought to have been the founders of the See Baptist movement when they lived at the long gone Broxtowe Hall (situated near where the shops are now at the Bottom of Coleby Road, and demolished just before WW2). There is a plaque telling of his burial place in the Church of St. Martin of Tours in Bilborough Village.

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re : POST #3 Lieutenant James Still .

We all like a mystery and I can't see any link to Nottingham for Lieutenant James Still.

So I wonder why that stone is in St. Marys ?

This is the only newspaper announcement of his death :


Lieutenant James Still, of his Majesty's ship Pheasant, son Peter Still, Esq. Devonshire-place (London). the inst. died, his residence Bath, aged full,
Salisbury and Winchester Journal
South West, England
This of his posting to the ship
Lieut. James Still, to the Pheasant; '
Morning Chronicle
London, England
This of his promotion
James Still, William Ramsay, James Puckford, Washington Carr,and William Mansell— to be Lieutenants.,
Morning Post
London, England
There is a wedding for Peter Stills daughter , called Marian Still (James' sister) to Arthur Wilton Dashwood 15/051827.
Marian Still was born Tytherley, Hants in 1804 .
Alexander Dashwood, to Marian Still, youngest daughter of Peter Still, Esq. of Devonshire-place.
Morning Post
London, England
OK James Still was born about 1799 so its possible his father Peter Still could have lived in Notts prior to his move to a posh part of London but no evidence , so a mystery !
There is a marriage for Peter Still to a Letitia Lawrence (b1773) . She was born in Westchester County , New York and was buried there too in 1858 !
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Samuel Butler (novelist) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Butler_(novelist)

Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Howe,_1st_Earl_Howe Two from Langar Nottinghamshire

Sergeant Richard Bolitho Dambuster, rear gunner AJ-B http://www.dbolitho.co.uk/dambuster.html From Kimberley

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Interestingly composed the Dambusters March.

My son, a Lord of the Rings fanatic informed me that Tolkein, although not a Nottingham man actually lived part of his life in Gedling. He has a book about it.

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That's covered in here too somewhere Bilbraborn, somebody actually came up with a map, he lived at a farm just off of Arnold lane IMMSC.

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My mum was brought up in the next terrace to where they filmed in Radford. My uncle was working at the Raleigh Cycle Works at that time. Pity all the actors had Salford accents.

In the last 30 years or so, Nottingham has been associated with Torvill and Dean (home grown) and Brian Clough (an outsider).

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Here's that link to the whole film I posted a while back.


Again ignore all the 'pop ups' telling you that you need all sorts of 'add on' and 'plug ins' to allow you to watch it in full, you don't !

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Here's that link to the whole film I posted a while back.


Again ignore all the 'pop ups' telling you that you need all sorts of 'add on' and 'plug ins' to allow you to watch it in full, you don't !

I'll be thanking you for that, I was looking for a full copy for a post at another forum recently and had to make do with the trailer, now I can go back and continue their education on the subject of Nottingham.

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