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Picture featuring Harry Broome who fought at Acorn Bridge earlier. Picture from the Hulton Archive depicts a fight from 1855 between Harry Broome & Tom Paddock
The article from the Morning advertiser, courtesy of The British Library Board.

Prize Fighting in the 19th Century near Shrivenham

This Listing is to record the events of Prize Fights that took place somewhere close to Acorn Bridge. Up to the latter part of the 18th century, Acorn Bridge was a wooden bridge that crossed the River Cole and was generally documented as 'Hackern Bridge.' With the arrival of the Wilts and Berks Canal around 1800 followed by the Great Western Railway in 1840, there were three bridges, and the name evolved to Acorn Bridge.

Some where very close to this junction of bridges was the Prize Fight location. The newspaper called the Cork Examiner, dated 9th February, 1846 covered the contest between Harry Broome and Ben Terry for 200 sovereigns. The Reporter describes how he arrived at Swindon Railway Station and walked up the hill to the Goddard Arms where he hired a horse drawn vehicle to take him to the fight site. He describes that he went over the Wilts/Berks border (the River Cole) to Acorn Bridge where he observed a, 'militia of rustic volunteers' busy driving stakes into the ground and reeving ropes. The fighter Harry Broome carried out the traditional dropping of his hat into the ring (the invitation to his opponent for a fight) and the battle commenced at noon. But before this there had been a huge amount of argument over the choice of Referee. The article goes on to describe an amazing 49 rounds and much excitement from the large crowd and many threats to the Referee who eventually declared the fight as a draw.

The Athlone Sentinel dated 18th December, 1846, describes the prize fight between William Herbert (The Mouse) and J. Edwards of Cheltenham for a purse of £50. The Reporter describes the fighting ring as a 24 feet quadrangle that was located about 2 miles from Shrivenham and a trifle lesser distance from Shrivenham Station. So it seems to be the same location as the fight described above. The betting was organised at the Barrington Arms, the rules agreed and the contest started at noon. The length of the battle that ensued was described as a staggering 167 rounds over 4 hours and 31 minutes with the Referee declaring a draw!

There appears to have been another prize fight very soon after the Herbert/Edwards match as the Morning Advertiser, also dated 18th December, 1846 carries an article headed, 'Pugilism in Wiltshire.' This describes a contest between Coles of Swindon and Gale of Cirencester for 20 guineas to 20 sovereigns. It makes reference that it was carried out at the same location as the two fights listed above. It seemed to have been a much smaller affair with the battle lasting 61 minutes and Coles hailed as the victor.






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