You are in [Events] [Bare Knuckle Fight, 1827]

The earlier fight in 1821:

The prize fight that took place on Hungerford Common on 11th December, 1821 was reputedly one of the great fight events of the age. It is said that 22,000 people gathered to witness the bare knuckle bout between Bill Neat, a Bristol butcher, and Tom Hickman ("The Gas Man"). Follow this link for all about theBare Knuckle Prize Fight, 1821.

This Prize Fight of 1827:

However, records have now been found of another, less well-known fight that took place on the common in 1827 - reported as "The Battle between Marten and Gybletts". The source newspaper – "Bell's Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle" - is undated, but lists the circulation figures for the "last three months", from which it can be judged that the fight took place on a Tuesday in April 1827. The description is graphic and detailed, and gives a wonderful insight into the bare-knuckle sport.

The newspaper makes it clear that the prize fight had to take place outside London, and was originally scheduled for Marlborough, but it was stopped by the "beaks".

From this report, it is clear that the colourful language and names associated with modern boxing came from such times, as one of the promoters of the fight was named as "Frosty Faced Fogo"!

Bob Senior kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Feb 2020) adding "... you mention my ancestor Frosty Faced Fogo. You might like to learn more about him from my website link where you will also find some of his famous poems about boxing and boxers, the perils of alcohol [he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1839!] and politics. There is no known portrait of him but a cartoon heading for Poets Corner in Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle seems to portray him at Under the section References you will find more accounts of his fights including those in Hungerford.". [It's a splendid website!- HLP]

In the event, the whole contest was broken up by the arrival of four constables - but even so the paper's correspondent still allowed himself an analysis every bit as incisive as today's commentators.

Photo Gallery:

Prize Fight 1827
Prize Fight 1827

From the Sporting Chronicle, April 1827

Prize Fight 1827
Prize Fight 1827

From the Sporting Chronicle, April 1827

Prize Fight 1827
Prize Fight 1827

From the Sporting Chronicle, April 1827



This fight ... was appointed to take place on Tuesday. By the articles, it was stipulated, that it should come off within 100 miles of London.

The men, with their backers, reached Marlborough on Saturday and Sunday nights ; and on Monday, a few, but very few, of the London Fancy also made their appearance. Bill Gibbons being on the wane, and, indeed, almost entitled to a retiring pension, was not present, but under the able auspices of Tom Oliver and Frosty Faced Fogo, an excellent set of stakes and ropes were procured. In consequence of the interference of the beaks, however, a "move" took place to Hungerford Downs.

A new ring was formed with uncommon celerity, and at a quarter to three o'clock the men threw in their castors. Marten attended by Jem Ward and Tom Oliver ; Gybletts by Ted O'Neal and Jackson, the runner. And here again the betting demonstrated, that all was upon the square, for neither party would advance a fraction beyond even betting, while the seconds and bottle-holders each betted their fogles on the result, and no less than six handkerchiefs were thus tied to the stakes.


The men, on coming to the scratch, were clearly in the very best condition, and the appearance of Gybletts, who was backed as an old one, astonished the Judges, who had no idea that he could be trained so completely "up to the mark". It was impossible for him, in fact, to have been better in the best of his days. In weight, it struck us, he was nearly equal to Marten, about eleven stone, although in height and length the latter had the advantage. He was older, certainly, but he is still in the prime of life, being but thirty-four years of age. Marten is about twenty-five.

Round 1. The position of both men was fine; and Marten stood well over his opponent. Gybletts, evidently anxious to go to work, got his toe well beyond the heel of Marten, and was ready for a spring; Marten covered his points, and got back a little. Gybletts made play with his right, and caught Marten on the shoulder. Marten smiled; but in another effort Gybletts hit him sharply on the left breast, leaving the impression of his knuckles. Marten hit out with his left, but was cleverly stopped. Sparring and good stops on both sides. .Marten popped in a slight facer, which was returned by another sharp visitation to his breast, which was still further discoloured; but these blows could make no serious impression. Marten put in a body blow with his right, but not within distance. Marten evidently endeavouring to draw his man, but without success; he was active on his legs, and kept well from mischief. Excellent stopping. At length, counter hits with the left were exchanged, and Marten napped it cleverly on the left ogle, which twinkled again [shouts from Ned O'Neal & the runner]. Gybletts put in another breast blow on the old spot, with his right ["hit higher", cried Ned, but his arm seemed too short, from the position in which he stood]. Counter hits, which told slightly on Gybletts' eye and Marten's body. Gybletts threw in another tidy one on Marten's ogle, which increased in puff, and became a little blood shot [more chaffing from O'Neal and Jackson]. Marten hit at Gybletts' body, but was admirably stopped, A short rally, in which there were slight interchanges, and Marten went down from a trifling blow on the neck. The round lasted ten minutes.

Round 2. Both men came up cautious and steady, Marten's eye swollen. Beautiful stopping - Gybletts tried at Marten's right eye, but it would not do. Gybletts put in a left-handed hit on Marten's neck; the latter, in returning;, hit over Gybletts' head as he bobbed. Marten threw in his right, and tapped Gybletts severely on the left ear, which became black and puffed. Gybletts returned on his breast. Again did the mutual science of the men, in stopping right and left handed hits, produce a general feeling of admiration. Counter hits - Marten had it on his left cheek, and Gybletts again on the left lug. Marten threw in a smart facer. Gybletts, ready, returned on his shoulder. Martin paused, and drew his man. Gybletts let fly with his left, but was stopped, and Martin countered on the centre of his smeller, drawing a copious stream of claret [shouts for Marten]. This was the first decided shew of blood. Both cautious, and good stopping. Marten hit short at the body, but in the next effort had his man on the ear. Good counter-hits, when Gybletts put in another cross-hit on Marten's left eye, and received on the cheek in return. A short rally, good stopping and getting away. Gybletts put in a smack an Martin's mouth [cheers from his friends]. Counter hits; Gybletts had another topper on the snout, and the purple stream was increased. More stopping and getting away. Counter-hits with the left hand, Gybletts cutting Marten under the left eye, and drawing lots of blood. Marten, no flincher, closed his man, and good facers were exchanged. More good fighting, when Gybletts rushed to rally, hit for hit, and Marten was hit down from a blow on the neck. This was a more decided knock-down blow than the first, and the Gyblett boys were in high spirits, but still no betting was offered, and Marten seemed as fresh as ever, although his left eye was nearly closed. The round lasted 18 minutes.

3d and last. Gybletts lost no time in going to work, and again popped in his left on Marten's sore spot; Marten's return went over his head. Caution en both sides; but Marten succeeded in planting a nobber. Gybletts hit short with his left but, in the next effort, caught Marten on the mouth. Marten still on the alert, and cautious. Gybletts, the first to fight, went in to place his favourite blow; but, in delivering he was met by a terrific counter over his right eye, close to the nose, a small artery was cut through, and the immediate discharge of blood was awful. The stream perfectly spurted from his mouth, and flowed in torrents down his breast [loud cheers from Marten's friends, and perfect silence on the part of O'Neal and Jackson]. Gybletts was evidently abroad for a few moments, but still kept steady on his guard, and stood away. Marten followed him up, and again caught him with his left without a return. Gybletts rushed to a rally with great spirit; Marten was ready again, caught him on the face, and as he was getting away, hit up with great dexterity. Gybletts broke away, and returned to his guard, still bleeding profusely, and presenting an unseemly spectacle. Sparring and stopping - Gybletts uncommonly steady. Marten went in to fight, but was met once more by Gybletts' left on his eye, which was greatly swollen and completely dark. Another spirited rally, in which the returns on both sides were loudly applauded. The men again broke away - no closing or hugging, but thorough game on both sides. Marten put down his hands to wipe them from the blood with which they were covered. More sparring - and a lengthened stop, without mischief. Marten closed in with the view of delivering another snorter, but was himself caught on the mouth. Counter-hitting, in which some of Marten's blows went over Gybletts' head, from his being shorter. Marten received three times on the cheek, and bled freely. Another pause, both men wiped the blood from their hands; Marten threw in a right-handed hit on Gybletts' shoulder, but without making much impression; the blood from Gybletts began to cease flowing. Sparring and mutual stops - Marten invariably stopping Gybletts' efforts at his right eye; that side of his mug was in fact untouched. Nothing could equal the cool and determined bravery of both men; Marten was still in good spirits, but of Gybletts' countenance it was impossible to "catch the idea", although his eyes were both good. He was, however, evidently in a ticklish state.

At this interesting moment, when all was anxious to see the end of the round, in order that the state of Gybletts' phiz might be ascertained by the application of the sponge, and when Marten's friends thought he was in a fair way to justify their confidence, a person was seen to quit the side of the ropes with a paper in his hand, as if be had been making memorandums, and almost immediately afterwards, four constables entered the outer circle, and drawing their staves from their breasts, approached the ropes, as if intending to take the men into custody. The belligerents and their seconds instantly retreated to their post-chaises, and all was at an end, to the complete disappointment of the spectators.


A more manly or scientific fight has, perhaps, never been witnessed. Both men throughout shewed unshrinking courage and determined spirit. There was no closing nor hugging - nothing unfair - nothing which indicated a disposition to escape from the consequence of an open, manly, and stand-up fight. As far as the men were concerned, they were entitled to the highest praise ; but we think the ridiculous chaffing in which some of the seconds indulged was quite absurd. It was thought that if Marten had gone in with more resolution when he gave Gybletts the first dreadful blow on the nose, the event would have been soon decided; but we think Gybletts was not quite so bad as his appearance indicated; and, indeed, after he had been washed, he declared that there was nothing the matter, and that he was as good as when he commenced. Marten, too, was uninjured, except from the derangement of his left eye; so that, in fact, it might have been still the battle of either man. So satisfied were Marten's friends that he was winning, that on the same night they stated, they were willing to let the battle-money remain, and renew the fight on a future day; but at the same time, they expressed their suspicions that there was something mysterious in the unseasonable appearance of the constables.

See also:

- 1821 Bare Knuckle Fight on the Common