The American heavyweight Champion, Joe Coburn, challenged Jem to a contest for the World Title. As an Irish American, he did not wish to fight in England and Jem had no desire to fight in a war zone (American civil war, 1861-1865). So the fight was planned to be fought in Ireland for stakes of £500 a side.

On 4 Oct 1864 a fight was organised at Pierstown, Ireland. After much arguing they could not agree on a referee and the fight was postponed. The arguing continued, so on 14 Oct the fight was cancelled. Jem returned to England. Jem’s stake money was not returned. He later sued “Bell’s Life” for the return of his stake money, claiming the cancellation was not his fault.

On 24 May at Longfield Court, Kent Jem fought Joe Goss. Neither fighter wanted this fight but were obliged to perform because their promoters had pre-sold tickets. The result was a farce which had to be stopped and called a draw. This made the fighters plenty of money but inevitably produced renewed adverse press reaction. When asked for an explanation both fighters claimed to have been injured. The most effective press jibe was a rhyme written by Sir Frank Burnand published in the very popular magazine “Punch”.

Jem Mace and Joe Goss in their last little brush

Displayed a most delicate grace

For Mace merely Goss-sipped over claret and punch

And Goss only made grim-Mace

In July 1866 Jem and Goss acted as seconds in a fight at Croxall, Derbyshire. The Police arrested the pugilists and the seconds. Legal manoeuvring delayed the trial by six months.

On 21 Jul 1866 Jem was sued in Warwick by his Birmingham tailor for £8. The adjacent newspaper clipping refers. Jem was being somewhat “economical with the truth”, although his reading skills were limited, he learned to read and write his name circa 1861.

On 15 Jan 1865 Jem and Patsy Reardon had a demonstration fight at the Alhambra circus, Portland Street, Manchester.

On 2 April Jem held a “fistic tournament” at the Theatre Royal, Bolton. The idea was to offer anyone the chance to fight 3 x 3 minute rounds against him using gloves. If they lasted the time, they received a £5 prize.

On 16 April another “fistic tournament” was held at the Theatre Royal, Blackburn.

On 11 May Jem withdrew his suit against “Bell’s Life” to facilitate his next fight.

On 7 Aug 1865 Hannah gave birth to a daughter, Amelia Martha Mace. (She was carefully named. Amelia was Jem’s sister’s name and Martha was Jem’s ex sister-in-law’s name)

On 16 Sep 1865 a fight was organised against Joe Wormald. Joe pulled out so Jem was £100 better off.

On 6 Nov a large new enterprise, the “Myrtle Street Gymnasium” was opened in Liverpool. Jem was employed as the boxing instructor.

On 19 Mar and 23 Mar 1866 Jem was advertised as a part of a “Grand Assault at Arms” at the Gymnasium.

The Manchester Guardian on 29 August 1865:


ROYAL OAK. – The King and Queen of the Gipsies from Epping Forest, and several of their tribe, will form a Procession This Day, (Tuesday). The band carriage, drawn by four greys, with 12 musicians, will take the lead; four carriages of gipsies, each drawn by a pair of greys, will follow; Jem Mace, champion of England, and the proprietor will come next; and the renowned Gladiateur, the champion of donkeys, who won the prize at the Islington Show, will be driven by his owner. Several parties having promised to join the procession in vehicles, the proprietor hopes they will follow in proper order. Route:– The procession will leave from the Royal Oak at half-past ten a.m. punctually, wet or dry, pass along Oldham Road to the Infirmary, down Market-street, over Victoria Bridge, along Chapel-street, Salford, to the Grapes Inn, up Cross Lane and Liverpool Road to Peter-street, along Oxford Road to Donley’s Wellington Hotel, Didsbury, where a halt will be made; thence to Mrs. Glover’s George Hotel, Cheadle, where the party will dine. After dinner the procession will proceed to Mr. Hunt’s, Bowdon; thence to Hardy’s Hotel, Altrincham; returning to town by Stretford Road, Deansgate, Long Millgate, and Shudehill, calling at Bill Lang’s to fill the champion cup, and thence home to the encampment at the Royal Oak.

A form of entertainment that was popular in London at this time were “gardens”, particularly the “Cremorne Gardens”. They were akin to a “Country Club” where one could stroll in privacy, drink, listen to music or partake in various sports. Liverpool was a new and growing city and Jem decided to invest his money in a similar scheme there. He leased a plot of land just outside the city and built the “Strawberry Hotel & Grounds”. It was opened in April 1866. When completed there was a horse racing course, a bowling green, landscaped gardens and athletic facilities. The gardens attracted large crowds, but the large running costs and ineffective management led to its eventual demise. The following advertisement was published on 12 May 1866. The medal was awarded by Jem to Ralph Mitchell for winning a hammer throwing competition at the grounds.

Around this time moves were being made to institute a “World Championship”. The following poster, dated Oct 1864, of Jem, Sayers and King illustrates this.

This is an illustration from the Illustrated Sporting News of 11 Aug 1866.

During 1866/1867 Jem had an affair with Adah Isaacs Menken. She was a multi-talented, part-coloured American actress who was appearing in theatres in London and Birmingham at the time. She was the sex symbol of the time, and was internationally famous. She had multiple marriages and was notoriously free with her favours. Her most famous role involved her appearing on stage, apparently naked, tied face-up on to the back of a horse, which was both erotic and dangerous. To Victorian audiences this was incredibly scandalous.

Her real name was

Adah Berthe Theodore.

When she completed her English tour she went to Paris, where she later died.

To find out more about her click here to go to the links page.

On 1 Jan 1867 Jem and the principals from the aborted Croxall fight the previous July finally appeared in court at Derby. They were all found guilty of “Riot and Assault”, imprisoned for 1 month and “bound over to keep the peace” for 12 months with a surety of £40. A copy of the court record follows.

Jem left “Strawberry Hotel and Gardens” in the hands of management and moved to London. He took a smart house in the desirable area of Chelsea. In 1867 Jem’s first wife died unexpectedly from appendicitis, so her children moved to live with Jem and Hannah. To add to the family, on June 15 Hannah gave birth to a daughter Hannah Ada Mace. Jem probably sought to please his wife by naming the new born after her mother but rather spoiled the effect by using his mistress’s name for the second name. It was the name Ada that was normally used, presumably to distinguish her from her mother.

On 16 July 1867 the Marquis of Queensberry donated three silver cups to be awarded to the winners of annual amateur boxing competitions using a newly published code of rules. This event signalled a new era in boxing.

On 11 Aug 1867 the Royal Victoria Theatre, London holds a benefit for Jem.

Ned O’Baldwin challenged Jem. He was 8 inches taller, 3 stone heavier and 9 years younger than Jem.. Jem accepted the challenge and a fight was organised for 15 Oct 1867 with £200 a side stakes.

The Police were determined to stop prize fighting so they arrested Jem, his two cousins, Pooley and Augustus, and his principal second, Bos Tyler the day before the fight, and charged them with “Conspiracy to cause a breach of the peace”. Jem was bound over to keep the peace for two years with large sureties. This meant that if Jem engaged in a prize fight in England any time in the next two years he would lose the surety and would be imprisoned. The fight was called off. This effectively ended prize fighting in England and accelerated the exodus of prize fighters to America.

With professional boxing effectively banned Jem earned money touring and performing.

From 18 Dec 1867 to 24 Dec he gives his “Grecian Statue” show at Barrington’s Circus,

Commercial Road, Peckham.

On 12 Jan 1868 at Franconi’s Circus, London Hall, Manchester.

In Feb he is with the Great Allied Circus in Nottingham.

During the Summer he is in Ireland at the Monstre Japanese Circus, Dublin.

In Dec 1868 at Wear Music Hall, Sunderland.

On 4 Dec 1869 at Southminster Music Hall, Edinburgh for 12 nights.

On 18 Jan 1869 at South London Music Hall.

On 31 Jan Marylebone Music Hall was cancelled (indisposed)

On 15 Feb at Whitebait Music Hall, Glasgow for 6 nights.

On 8 May 1869 Jem boxed an exhibition bout against an amateur.

On 28 May 1869 he received this cup in the adjacent picture for winning a mile handicap running race.

With options and money running out in England, Jem disposed of some of his English assets and on 2 Sept 1869 he set sail for America with his sparring partner Pooley and a new business partner Fred Abrahams, leaving Hannah and the children in England.

Jem sailed on this ship from Liverpool via Queenstown, Ireland to New York

She was launched 8 Nov 1866,

Maiden Voyage 20 Feb 1867

Gross tonnage 2,391

Length 332 ft

Beam 39.4 ft,   single screw

She was operated by “Inman Lines”. Their ships were the fastest and most prestigious on the North Atlantic at the time.

They arrived in New York on 15 Sep 1869.

1864 - 1869 …… The End of Prize Fighting in England Adah Menken Strawberry Hotel and Grounds

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Jem and Joe Goss’s fight was reorganised for 8 Aug 1866 with some important differences which would have long term consequences for the sport. The ring would be 16 feet instead of the previous 24 feet (to make avoidance tactics harder) and seconds were to leave the ring during fighting (to avoid sharp practise). This time Jem trained hard. The fight took place at Purfleet, stakes were £200 a side, Jem won in 21 rounds.

The press were fulsome in their praise of the fight, but the authorities finally prevailed and this became

The Last Prize Fight in England

This is a contemporary press picture of the Mace v Goss fight.