Boxing legend’s striking legacy
A nickname given to a nineteenth century boxing giant could be the origin of the tag for the iconic clock tower that has been chiming the hour for the nation for 160 years.
Taking up the cudgels for the view that Big Ben is named after the bare-knuckle boxing legend, Ben Caunt, will be Peter Clayton, the chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, who will present his case at the first home of Wisbech’s most famous daughter on Monday, May 6.
Mr Clayton will argue that the label given to the beacon of British democracy was a fond tribute to the six-foot two-inch, 18-stone heavyweight champion rather than a reference to Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner of Works, who oversaw the installation of the 13.8-tonne hour bell, ‘Big Ben’, in the clock tower.
Caunt, the champion of the Victorian prize ring, known as the ‘Torkard Giant’ and ‘Big Ben’, had fought epic battles with William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson and in 1857 lasted 60 rounds of a drawn contest in his final appearance at the age of 42.
The one-hour presentation about the battle of the Bens will include a short video produced by the Palace of Westminster offering the official story about the building of the great clock that rears its familiar faces above the Houses of Parliament .
Among the audience will be Wayne Goult, a local amateur and professional boxer, representing Fenland’s Wisbech and March Amateur Boxing Clubs, as well as the regional and national boxing community.
Mr Clayton said: “Boxing was one of the great join-up sports. They go back all the way to Victorian times when youngsters were redeemed from lives of great folly by boxing clubs, many of which are still going strong today.
“It is a great tradition from London’s East End and it went all over the country that young boys, vulnerable like the army cadets, would be caught before they got into mischief by being taught self-discipline in terms of boxing and restraint in terms of their fighting.”
Admission to the ‘The Big Ben story’, which starts at 2.30pm, is included in the standard cost of entry to the Birthplace House at 7 South Brink, Wisbech, and all are welcome to attend.