Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 3/Cockfighting at Manchester and Liverpool

Part III: Sports and Games; Cockfighting at Manchester and Liverpool.


The inhuman practice of fighting cocks appears to have been very prevalent amongst the upper classes in Lancashire during the last century. Almost every town had its cockpit; and not a few places and streets derive their names from this once so-called "national sport." In the "Manchester Racing Calendar," from 1760 to 1800, there are the following "Rules for Matching and Fighting of Cocks, which have been in practice ever since the reign of King Charles II.

"1. To begin the same by fighting the lighter pair of cocks which fall in match first, proceeding upwards towards the end, that every lighter pair may fight earlier than those that are heavier.

"2. In matching, with relation to the battles, it is a rule always in London, that after the cocks of the main are weighed, the match-bills are compared.

"3. That every pair of dead or equal weight are separated, and fight against others; provided it appears that the main can be enlarged by adding thereto, that ne battle or more thereby."

In accordance with these rules a "cock match" was fought "on the 15th of April 1761, and the three following days," which "consisted of twenty-eight battles," and was won by a Mr Diconson. The same gentleman was a competitor in the following year, when twenty-five battles were fought, and victory again declared in his favour. In 1772 "the ladies' stand" was first erected; and there was a "cock match" on the 13th of June, at the close of the races, "between the gentlemen of Yorkshire and the gentlemen of Lancashire," when the former were victorious in "twenty-two battles and nine byes." Subsequent matches are recorded in 1790, 1791, 1793, 1798, 1799, and 1800, at which the Earl of Mexborough, Sir Peter Warburton, William Hulton, Esq., Sitwell Sitwell, Esq., and Windsor Hunloke, Esq., appear as competitors. "The cockpit in Salford" is announced as the place where "the mains are to be fought."

In Liverpool similar sports were popular; for in 1790 "the great main of cocks between Thomas Townley Parker, Esq., of Ceurden, and John Clifton, Esq., of Lytham," is announced as "to be fought on Easter Monday, the 5th day of April, and the three following days, at the new cockpit in Cockspur Street—to show forty-one cocks each. Ten guineas each battle, and two hundred guineas the main." The doings of these four days are still matter for conversation amongst the old retainers of these two county families; and from what we have heard, it is well that the law has interfered to put a stop to such scenes of drunkenness, debauchery, and inhumanity.