I would think ‘anyone’ interested in the history of Wednesbury would know about ‘Ye Olde Wednesbury’s Blood sports’, the cruel animal sports our ancestors reveled in, especially at Wake-time. And Cock fighting and Bull baiting are two of the most well known of our blood sports.
“There were many more, as you know, but let’s start with the Bull baiting”
“The Bull Stake and The High Bullen both stand as reminders of this Sport”
Before this event even started, the Bull was tormented, its nose blown full of pepper so as to enrage the animal, before the baiting started.
The bull was then either placed in a hole in the ground or tethered to a post. And then the dogs were sent in to bait the bull.
Many of the participators wore long white aprons which extended to the ground, these were used to catch their dogs after they had received a tossing from the bull.
The baited bulls would be killed and cut up on the Thursday of wake week to provide cheap meat for some of the many visitors who had by then spent most of their money.
“But here is something you may not know; Bull baiting did not begin as a sport at all”.
There was a law In 1376 forbidding the sale of meat from bulls that were not baited. and it was believed that the prolonged exertion rendered tough meat tender and palatable.
“Violent heat and motion might attenuate [the bulls’] blood, resolve their hardness, and make the flesh soften in digestion”
Bull baiting’s popularity may have also derived from practical necessity, as tainted meat was a perpetual hazard in those early days.
Therefore, it could be understandable, that potential consumers preferred to observe the town butcher slaughter an animal, which included baiting the bull, thus to ensure the meat’s quality?Bull baiting was held during the wake, initially at the High Bullen, and later in Back Field, with as many as 6 bulls being bated each year.
“It is also believed that the term “bull baiting,” which originally referred to the practice of keeping bulls stabled and feeding them grass and hay, was later misinterpreted and an alternate definition became generally accepted”.
“Whatever our thoughts may be on the ‘Sport’, Let’s not forget (at that time) this was their belief, their ‘law’ and obviously to them: ‘entertainment”. No different in fact, from sports played out all over the world, that most of us totally disagree with?
I could make a flippant remark about some of the things we class as entertainment? Things that would make the people of 1500′s look at us in horror … but I wont!
But we can thank the vicar Isaac Clarkson and Quaker Lloyd for the eventual ban of this and other blood sports.
“The suppression of bull baiting was formed at a meeting of clergymen and Gentlemen held at Wednesbury on Wednesday 3rd Nov 1824″.
The suppression of this practice was introduced into the British House of Commons in 1802, but was defeated by 13 votes.
It was not till the year 1835 that it was finally put down by Act of Parliament, called the: “Cruelty to Animals Act 1835″, which forbade the keeping of any Public house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal.
But like many laws that forbade things that were enjoyed by the majority, it simple went underground …. and exactly what happened to the next sport:
Cock fighting ….’Wedgbury Cocking’
The famous Cock fighting was a fight between two roosters .
Two owners would place their gamecock in the cockpit and the two ‘Cocks’ would fight till ultimately one of them dies or is critically injured.
“Historically, this was happened in a cockpit, a term which was also used in the 16th century to mean a place of entertainment or frenzied activity”.
This ‘sport’ seems to go back a long way.
A book entitled:“The Commendation of Cocks and Cock Fighting”was published in 1607″.
In fact, Cock fighting is said to be the world’s oldest spectator sport. It goes back 6,000 years in Persia.
There used to be a “well known”cock pit in Potters Lane, Cock fighting was a big thing in Wednesbury. So when Cockfighting was banned outright in England and Wales with the “Cruelty to Animals Act 1835″, they of course went underground.
“The lectern in the Parish Church is said to be a fighting cock and not the eagle they say it is.”
“The Spittle family were well known at the time for Cock Fighting and interestingly enough, while reading the old trade directories, the Spittle name popped up quite often as landlords of public houses”.
At the height of the Cock fighting days, The Spittle’s ran the Blue Ball at Hall End, which was listed as “Spittle’s” and sometimes recorded as the ‘Cockfighting Arms’.
They were well known for sponsoring local cockfights in which 30 or 40 cocks were fought at each match, with £2 staked on every battle and as much as £40 staked on the main fight.
Prizes of a “warming pan” or half a dozen “pewter plates” were regularly offered to the winning cocks.
It was advertised in one paper as: A “good ordinary” was to be had at Spittle’s house on the day of the fighting.
There was a lot of money to be made at these events so of course Cock fighting was banned, they continued in the back yard of the pub.
There were of course other sports of course including bear baiting, and badger drawing.
Bear baiting and Badger drawing were both horrible blood sports and need no explanation.
But something to make your stomach turn is the ‘so called’ sport of ‘Rat & Barrel’.
There was pub called ‘The Boat’ and was said to be very popular for this.
(read more about the Rat & Barrel ..’If you must’ 🙂 … here)
But it wasn’t all about blood, fighting and cruelty, we also had some pleasant sports in Wednesbury.
In 1778 Horse race meetings were held in Monway Field and later moved to a new course. Each meeting was followed by a grand ball.
This was, and still (In much respects): a rich man’s sport.
And there was golf! We had our very own golf course. (see picture)
It was a 9 hole golf course with a little club house, founded in 1908 in Hydes Road on land leased from the Patent Shaft.
In 1938 the company attempted to sell the land to a private property developer, but the attempt failed because of the onset of war.
In 1947 the council purchased the land and built the Golf Links Estate, consisting of Woden Road South , Chestnut Road, Cherry Lane, Yew Tree Lane, Lilac Grove, Walnut Lane, Cedar Road and Sycamore Road.
“More to come on sports”
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