Cock Fighting

Most of us today would find the idea of cocking (cock fighting) abhorrent, but we don’t have to go very back in our history to find it was regarded by many as a popular activity. In Nantwich it would take place at Nantwich Fairs, and in some pubs. Local Historian James Hall tells us:

After the Griffin Inn, was closed, the Cock-pit, for the convenience of the “royal sport,” was removed to the Pigeons in Welsh Row; and was resorted to at Easter and Whitsuntide ; the cock-breeders and trainers living in a dingy court, then called Bowker’s Yard in Wall Lane.

William Hoggarth’s picture below, from 1759, indicates a typical scene:

The Cockpit (1759) by William Hogarth from Museum of London
The Cockpit (1759) by William Hogarth

My thanks to the Museum of London, for their permission to reproduce this image. It’s worth visiting their site to read about all the different activities going on in this picture!

The article below (which I found in the wonderful Family History Society of Cheshire’s Crewe Group’s Family History Unit) appeared in The Cheshire Sheaf, September 1976 – September 1977. It gives an example of a song sung about such occassions:

Cheshire Cocking Song (1829)

Souling, Marling and other festivities and occasions have all produced their own songs and plays. Cheshire is no exception. Recently however there have come to light the words of a cocking song sung in South Cheshire about 1829, which are worth preserving along with the two queries, are there any other cocking songs known, and has anyone the tune?

Come all ye cocking masters far and near
And I’ll tell you of a cocking match, the when and where (Cheshire pronunciation!)
On Ashton moor as I’ve heard say
The Charcoal Black fought the Bonnie Grey.

The Ashton lads took up a cup
And soon a cock match they made up,
Ten guineas of a side they’d lay
On the Charcoal Black and the Bonnie Grey.

When these two cocks were bought to sod (or clod)
Said Ashton lads what bets, what odds?
No bets nor odds they then would lay
But we hold you on a guinea you are beat today.

Now Charley he came a swaggering down,
I’ll hold you a guinea to a crown
That the Charcoal Black will win the day
And drive off th’field the Bonny Grey

The Grey cock hearing them say so
He gave one flupper, struck one blow
As made them all look wan and pale
And wish they’d fought for a jug of ale.

At Ashton these two cocks were bred
As two fine cocks as e’er were fed
The coal black breast and th’glittering wing
These cocks were brought before the King

Chorus:

Oh, I’ll make you then remember
The hour and the day
When you matched your Black
Against the Bonny Grey.

 

p.s. Since writing this I’ve been told that a similar song was very common in Lancashire. You can hear Rob St. John singing a version here:

http://songbytoad.com/2013/04/rob-st-john-charcoal-black-the-bonny-greyshallow-brown

Bill Pearson \ Nantwich Pubs

Bill Pearson \ Nantwich History

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