On 20 Feb 1860 Jem fought a middleweight, Bob Travers, on the Kent Marshes for £100 a side stakes. The Police intervened, so the fight was called a draw and abandoned after 6 rounds. The following day the fight was restaged “down river” (probably Canvey Island). Jem won after a gruelling 57 rounds. Bob Travers was black, and was a fugitive slave from Virginia, America. (At this time slavery was illegal in England but still legal, and legally enforced, in the Southern American States.) This was an important fight for Jem because Travers had previously beaten Madden, so his win produced a welcome respite to the constant press criticism.
On 20 Oct 1857 Jem was booked to fight Mike Madden. His backer, Nat Langham, was unhappy with the original choice of referee, Madden’s backer’s were unhappy with the alternative referee. The behind the scenes arguments about the referee were accompanied by riots between rival fans. The stakes were subsequently awarded to Madden.
On 13 Feb 1858 Mary Ann gave birth to another boy. He was also named James. It was common practice at the time to name a new child after a child who died in infancy, particularly if this child carried the father’s name. For the sake of clarity, he will be referred to as James Mace (2).
On 11 Mar 1858 he was bound over for 3 months for assaulting Mr Smith Landlord of the “Cattle Market Inn”.
The fight against Mike Madden was rescheduled for 10 May 1858. On the eve of the fight Jem got drunk. The following day he was in no state to fight and was forced to scratch. The boxing press had a field day. In the light of two consecutive “no shows”, they decided that Jem was a coward and trumpeted it from their pages. A large group of drunken Norfolk supporters who had backed Jem, hence losing their money, became very irate and attempted to burn down the “White Swan”. Although Jem was not present, his wife and 4 year old son Alfred were still inside. The rioters had to be restrained by the police. The experience understandably had a profound effect on young Alfred and probably played a large part in his life-long opposition to boxing.
On 29 Sep 1858 Jem fought Bob Brettle for the Welterweight Championship of England. The fight was for £100 a side stakes and was fought on an uninhabited island in the mouth of the Medway. The site had many advantages. It was reasonably accessible by train from London, it was adjacent to the Chatham garrison leading to plenty of military personnel as supporters and, being an island, it was not readily accessible to interference by the police. Probably because he was angered by the constant “cowardice” sniping, Jem was aggressive but failed to defend properly and was beaten in two rounds.
On 20 Oct 1858 he was obliged to forfeit £50 to Mike Madden for the previous fiascos. These problems probably led to Nat ceasing to back Jem and Bob Brettle, who was obviously personally aware of Jem’s ability, taking over the position. This meant a move of headquarters to Birmingham. Mary Ann and the children remained in Norwich.
On 28 Sep 1858 he was acquitted of assaulting Thomas Maxwell, landlord of the “Two-Necked Swan”, Upper Market. The magistrates considered he had been provoked. He seemed to be making a habit of assaulting publicans.
On 25 Jan 1859 Jem fought “Posh” Price near another military establishment at Aldershot Common. The stakes were £25 a side and Jem won in 11 rounds.
Jem’s name proved insufficient to draw enough customers to the “White Swan”, particularly since he was rarely there, and left its running to Mary Ann. After a year, the licence was not renewed. All previous landlords had also failed and when Jem left, the pub closed and the licence was never reissued. Basically, the village was too small to produce enough trade for all the pubs there.
Jem then moved to the centre of the working-class fight scene, London’s East End. He found a new backer in Bill Richardson. Jem always had an eye for an attractive teenage girl and while Mary Ann was in distant Norwich, he found a new companion. She was 17 year old Selina Hart, a Jewess born 12 Jul 1842 in Back Church Lane, Whitechapel. She lived with her widowed mother in a Jewish household. She worked in a local parasol factory. It was about this time that Jem learned to read and write, but he always remained secretive about the details.
On 3 Jan 1860 Jem’s father, William Mace, died from a brain haemorrhage, aged 56.
On 31 Jul 1860 Jem gives a benefit circus performance at Bristol. An advertisement is below.
Below is a press report of the event
On 20 Sep 1860 Jem fought Bob Brettle for the Welterweight Championship of England at “Clinch’s Farm”, Wallingford Grove. The stakes were £200 a side. The Police intervened and the fight was abandoned after 6 rounds. The fight was resumed the next day at Yantlet Creek, Foulness Island, Essex. This time Jem avenged his previous defeat in no uncertain terms. He won in 5 rounds by a knock out. It took Brettle’s seconds a minute to bring him round.
Jem had become famous. His backers and supporters subscribed to and awarded him a memorial belt. The following picture shows Jem with this belt.
On 13 Dec 1860 he took over the tenancy of a London East End pub, the “Old King John”, Holywell Lane, Shoreditch. He set up a boxing gym on the premises. His wife and children moved in. Mary Ann ran the pub. Jem’s sister Amelia Mace was a barmaid. Various other family members were also involved; it was a very busy pub.
Not long after opening for business, a shopkeeper who operated from 36, Bloomsbury Street, told Jem that his shop had been hijacked by the “Society for the Suppression of Vice”, and asked for help. Jem agreed, probably seeing it as a way of getting back at the religious zealots who caused him a lot of trouble by goading Police action against him. He took several pugilist friends and repossessed the shop. The Swedenborgian Church put out unconvincing propaganda that this proved Jem had joined their ranks. (Following is the Swedenborgian Church Circular)
(The major theological difference between Swedenborgians and mainstream Christian Churches is that they believe in one God and not a Holy Trinity.)
Jem had some very devoted fans, as the clip below from 1 Oct 1860 demonstrates
Jem was always looking for promotional and financial opportunities. Below is an advertisement that appeared on 30 Sep 1860.
to the Members and friends of the Swedenborg Society by the Committee.
How JEM MACE became a Pillar of the
In the 1860s, the Swedborgian Church had premises in a pleasant house at 36 Bloomsbury Street, London, which were used as a central depot for the sale of Swedenborgian publications. The manager, a Mr. William White, who proved himself to be a very successful publisher for the Swedenborgian Church, ran the establishment as a “free book shop” in that he also kept for sale publications which expressed spiritual views that were not fully in keeping with some Swedenborgians.
Such books included one written by a Rev. T. L. Harris of America, which prompted several more sectarian members of the committee of the Swedenborgian Society, a Rev. Dr. Bayley, Dr. Spurgin and a Rev. C. G. Macpherson, to oust Mr. White from the office of publisher and give him a summary notice of dismissal. As this act would have suppressed a free book shop at the Swedenborg Society, and converted it into a more sectarian depository, a majority of members of the Society arranged to meet and avert this discredit as they felt that a dismissal was in no way warranted by the terms of his agreement; and as he readily undertook not to expose any publication for sale to which the committee objected, he was practically complying with their wishes.
But just prior to this meeting, the clerical party took the extraordinary step of calling in four officers of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, to take possession of the Swedenborgian Depository and close Mr. White’s shop. These officers duly arrived , seized £5000 worth of stock and, as they might have dealt with a common bordello, closed the premises.
A general meeting of the Society was held at the Freemason’s Tavern, the clerical party - a frightful and discreditable minority - was condemned and Mr. White was triumphantly vindicated and reinstated in his office for seven years. This decision was all very well, but the officers of the Society for the Suppression of Vice were still in possession. These four gentlemen of unsavoury reputation still prevented any sale of works taking place; and the diffusion of Swedenborg’s works was entirely and ignominiously suspended.
When Mr.White’s claims were vindicated by the Society, his next step was to obtain possession of his house and property. Here our worthy friend, Jem Mace, appears for the first time upon the scene. Whether friend Mace had a pre-disposition to the tenets of the Swedenborgian church, we know not. Whether his late victory over Bob Brettle had turned his mind to higher and supernal things, it is impossible for us to say. What inducement was held out to him to become a supporter of the Swedenborgian cause, is equally unexplainable; but the fact is that, owing to some occult or other persuasive influence, the Champion of the Middle Weights displayed a ready appreciation of the Swedenborgian difficulty, and placed himself unreservedly at the disposal of the New Church. And what is more surprising, Jem immediately made himself a propagandist, and converted a number of colleagues of his to the digital doctrines of New Jerusalem. We can’t tell why it is that the Swedenborgian principles should spread so rapidly in the Prize Ring, but certain is that eight other gentlemen of Jem Mace’s fraternity, were suddenly convinced of the propriety of giving early attention, if not to the preaching, at least to the doings of the Rev. Dr. Bayley, Dr. Spurgin, Rev. C. G. Macpherson, & Co.
A new convert is always considered more than usually zealous, and it is to this circumstance that we ascribe the success of the mission with which Jem Mace had been good enough to charge himself. On the Monday morning following his own conversion, he appeared at the doors of the Swedenborgian Book Depot, in Bloomsbury Street, with eight most interesting, proselytes behind him. By this time Mr. White had politely intimated to the four gentlemen of Holywell Street odour, in possession, that he had been sufficiently gratified by their presence and attention, and felt disposed, chiefly by way of variety, to be relieved of their captivating company. They, however, declared that, in addition to their personal affection for Mr. White, they were constrained, by a sense of duty, to continue their friendly attentions to his property; and they put it to him, as one favourable to liberty of conscience, whether their sincere convictions should not be respected. Mr. White replied that he was moved more by sanitary than by psychological considerations, humanely intimated that their long continued confinement might be prejudicial to their health, and took one by the arm and offered to introduce him to the fresh air. This the worthy agent for the Suppression of Vice resolutely declined. Whereupon Jem Mace, who was hovering about the door, seeking occasion to evince the reality of his attachment to the cause, politely stepped in with his eight proselytes, and so effectually seconded Mr. White’s operations, that three of the gentlemen in possession were plunged over head and ears into the atmospheric bath outside No. 36, before they had time to comprehend the situation of affairs. At this point one of the four, who was armed with a cutlass, dodged down and rushed to the rear of the premises. Jem Mace, and a portion of his brother converts, immediately went in pursuit of the interesting refugee. He was found in a back room mounted upon a table, flourishing his cutlass in a most repulsive and unfriendly spirit. However Jem, who was by this time considerably advanced in the faith, had heard that there were angels in the New Jerusalem Church, and merely regarded the figure on the table as a celestial visitant brandishing, under some mistaken impression, a flaming sword in the Paradises of Swedenborg; and it occurred to him that a display of that muscular Christianity, which the Rev. Mr. Kingsley has made so popular, would be just the consistent and efficacious thing. Nothing discomfited, therefore, he darted upon the celestial with the sword one of the scrutinising and experienced glances of the P.R., and took the measure of his man laterally and longitudinally. Then, taking off his coat he said, “Here, Dillon, hold this”, and, turning up his sleeves with a deliberate and workmanlike air, walked up to the astonished celestial on the table, and putting his left arm behind him as a token of temporary reverence to the wingless seraph before him, and placing his right hand on his breast, with maidenly coyness, Jem said to the angel of the Vice Society, “just touch me here!” There is no saying what passes in an ultramundane breast. It might be sublime pity, or carnal dread - but the sword moved not. Jem walked round the Apollyon of the parlour, and looking up with moving pathos, again entreated one touch of that Ithuriel spear to animate his latent muscles. Angels, like women, are lost when they hesitate. The celestial on the trencher evidently regarded Jem as an ugly customer, and foreseeing that, on the first touch of his sword he should be doubled up and knocked into the smallest corner of to-morrow, he faltered, and faltering was undone, and shortly found himself enjoying, outside the house, the circumambient air with his late companions.
We have not crowded all the details of these proceedings into our compressed narrative, but the substantial facts, and the spirit of those facts, we have rendered. We need scarcely add that, under the able ministry of Jem Mace and his faithful eight, the sale of Swedenborg’s works has since gone on uninterruptedly at No. 36.
SWEDENBORG SOCIETY 36, Bloomsbury Street. 1861
On 5 Nov a benefit was held at “St Helen’s Gardens”, Birmingham
On 14 Nov a benefit was held at the “Two Bells”, Rochester
On 16 Nov a benefit was held at the “Shakespeare Inn”, Marefair, Northampton
The following newspaper article refers to the stay and paints an interesting picture of the private lives of the Prize Ring stars.