18 March 2021

“Good Old Knowle” – The wrestling craze in Bristol and the South West c.1900

On 25 January 1905, the weekly periodical Bristol Magpie promoted the “special engagement” of English wrestling champion Tom McInerney.

During his week-long residency at Bristol’s Empire Theatre, he invited local “British Wrestlers” to take him on in twenty-minute bouts. There was a tantalizing £50 prize for any man who successfully gained a fall from him in the first fifteen minutes.

This challenge was gladly taken up by Fred Luffman on 28 January. He was a tailor by trade who had experience of fighting in America before he settled in the Bristol neighbourhood of Knowle.  

Bringing together an unusual mix of themes, including theatre, sport, masculinity and civic pride, this talk uses the encounter between McInerney and Luffman to explore two questions.

First, what was the significance of wrestling to the social and cultural life of the South West in the years leading up to this bout at the Bristol Empire?

And second, how was the national “wrestling craze” during the first decade of the twentieth century realised at the local level?

Speaker: Dr Nick Havergal was awarded a doctorate in Theatre Studies at the University of Bristol in 2020

This is a UWE Regional History Centre talk in partnership with M Shed seminar series.

How to take part

This free, online talk will be held over Zoom. Please book your place below. Details of how to join the session will be in your registration email. Please check your spam folder if the email does not arrive. Bookings close at 2pm on Thursday 18 March.

Although this talk is free, we would be grateful if you could consider making a donation.

Please visit the Zoom website for guidance on joining meetings. Please allow extra time before the talk begins to make sure everything is working correctly. It’s up to you whether you turn on your video but all guests will be muted once the talk begins. You are welcome to ask questions in the chat box throughout the talk.