In Feb 1861, in order to keep fit and to cash in on some of his new found fame Jem went on tour with “Pablo Fanque’s Circus”. He was paid £70 per week. At a time when a normal working man’s wage was about £1 per week, this was a huge wage. He gave sparring demonstrations, played his violin and performed a “Grecian Statue” routine. This consisted of semi-nude athletic poses copying famous statues. It proved to be very popular with the female members of the audience, for obvious reasons. Jem was a true showman; he enjoyed playing to the crowd.

He left his family running the pub in Shoreditch. At census time he was staying at the “Cock Inn” in Clayton Street, Newcastle on Tyne. (Census ref RG9/3819/71/18). He was one of 3 male residents with the landlord and his family and 4 resident female servants in their 20’s. He was clearly living in some style. A scan follows.

At the same moment, his uncle and aunt, Barney and Lurina and their family are living in a tent on Kettlesham Common and his immediate family are working at the “Old King John”. Following is a scan.

On 19 May 1861, Jem returned to the “Old King John” after his tour.

On the 18 Jun 1861, Jem fought Sam Hurst for the Heavyweight Championship of England.  The stakes were £200 a side and they fought on an island in the mouth of the Medway. Because of the crowd riots at previous fights, the Police were becoming ever more determined to put a stop to prize fighting. To organise an event of this magnitude when all the country’s Police forces were determined to stop it, required, and got, detailed military type planning on a very large scale.

Sam was nicknamed “The Stalybridge infant” on account of his perceived low intelligence. He was, however, a formidable opponent. He was lean, strong and muscular, 5 inches taller and 80 lbs heavier than Jem. The task looked impossible but Jem backed himself heavily at good odds to win, and he was determined not to lose his money. Jem danced out of reach and landed blow after blow. After eight rounds he achieved the impossible by knocking Sam to the floor where he was timed out. (Thirty seconds, with a second’s help under “London Prize Ring” rules, not the modern ten seconds without assistance). The Police arrived when it was all over and the principals had gone.

Jem later auctioned this belt to raise money for his South Africa venture. It was subsequently owned by several American enthusiasts, and was displayed in “The Ring Museum” of Nat Fleisher at Madison Square Gardens, New York.

It was sold at Padell & Weston Auction House, USA on 25 Oct 2005 for $58,500 to Thomas Mellis, an English buyer. (These pictures originated in the auction catalogue). It is now in an archive with the Sussex Ex-Boxers Association.

On 30 Jun 1861 Jem  joined the Howes & Cushing Circus for an extended tour.

1 Jul he performed in Southport

2 Jul to 4 Jul at West Derby Road, Liverpool

5 Jul in Birkenhead

6 Jul in Chester

7 Jul ….Sunday

8 Jul in Warrington

9 Jul in Wigan

10 Jul to 13 Jul in Manchester

14 Jul….Sunday

15 Jul in Staleybridge

16 Jul in Stockport

17 Jul in Congleton

18 Jul in Hanley

19 Jul in Stafford

20 Jul in Wolverhampton

21 Jul….Sunday

22 Jul in Wednesbury

23 Jul in Redditch

24 Jul in Worcester

25 Jul and 26 Jul in Cheltenham

27 Jul in Berkley

28 Jul ….Sunday

1 Aug to 6 Aug in Bristol.

Jem left the show in Bristol and he was replaced by “Blondin” the high wire act.

When you consider that this was before the days of the internal combustion engine and power was provided by traction engines, horses and human muscle, this schedule of taking down the big top after the show, packing up, moving to a new town, rebuilding and being ready to open the next day, day after day, was incredible; especially as it had to be accompanied by site inspection, getting permission from land owners, advance advertising, ticket sales and getting crowds safely on and off site. This was a very competently run organisation.

Jem then rejoined Pablo Fanque’s Circus

Between 25 Aug and 20 Oct 1861 he performed in Hyde, Glossop, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Rochdale, Rotherham, Barnsley, Burton on Trent and Derby.

This is a picture of circus owner, Pablo Fanque. He was one of a rare breed at the time, a businessman in England of African descent.

This is a publicity photograph of Jem taken in the studio of George Newbold of the Strand

This is a print from derived from the photograph. The added background is an attempt to illustrate the view from a ring set up on a Medway island. The artist has included a “prison hulk” in the background to fix the supposed site.

Jem was presented with a magnificent leather and silver commemorative belt suitably inscribed. Parts of his “welterweight” belt were used in its construction.

The “Old King John” became very busy on the back of Jem’s fame and Jem needed his wife and their children to run the Pub. Selina Hart became pregnant and Jem decided it was necessary to end his relationship with her. Selina’s family had legal connections and Jem found himself obliged to pay for child maintenance. A “once and for all” sum was negotiated, probably by Jem’s manager Bill Richardson. A legal agreement was drawn up and signed. Jem paid Selina £15. If Selina’s family had known the terms of Jem’s upcoming fight they would almost certainly have held out for a much larger sum.

In Jan 1861, in Whitechapel, Selina gave birth to a daughter who she named Frances Hart, after her mother. She was subsequently called Frances Martin after Selina married Joseph Martin. The birth was not registered, which was not uncommon with illegitimate births at the time. (The date comes from US records after Selina emigrated there).

On 27 Oct 1861 Jem and Sayers have a brawl in a Liverpool bar.

Jem used running as training. He also gambled on the results of races and used racing as publicity. The advertisement on the left appeared on 29 Oct 1861 and is for races in Sheffield

The report on the right is for  races which took place on 6 Nov 1861

Jem was capable of running a mile in about 5 min 20 sec which, although quick for a boxer, was never going to trouble the specialists of the day who were capable of running about 4 min 30 sec.

The adjacent picture of Jem was published in the Illustrated Sporting News of 20 Nov 1861.

In Dec 1861 there was a notorious court case involving Jem’s family’s landlords in Norfolk. Lord William Frederick Windham was brought before a “Commission of Lunatic Inquiry” because his uncle wished to disinherit him. However, William was clearly not insane and the case was dismissed. During this hearing, William stated that Jem’s ancestors had been tenants on his family’s estate for the past 100 years. Jem seized on this comment as proof that he had no Gypsy blood because nobility, at the time, was regarded by the masses as being honest and trustworthy and would not lie………See the “family tree” and “Gypsy Background” pages for details on Jem’s ancestry.

1861 - 1862 …… The Circus

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