Monday, 4 November 2019

Tom Cribb


Although the life of the boxer, Tom Cribb, is hardly industrial history we have had so many requests for information about him through the internet - several from Australia and New Zealand - that we are publishing these notes by Sue Bullevant:

The House where he died at 111 Woolwich High Street is still here, now a sandwich shop and his son lived there after him. The Public House which he owned, (and sometimes fought in) in Oxenden Street, near Panton Street Leicester Square, London, was called ‘The Union’. It is now called ‘The Tom Cribb’ and had some of his old fight bills, etc. there. 

Several people locally have heard the story of Queen Victoria’s message to Tom Cribb asking him never to fight again.  There is also a Tom Cribb Road in Woolwich.
His tomb is still in Woolwich churchyard although the railings went in 1940 when scrap iron was 

collected for the war effort. Otherwise the statue is in good order. The words on the urn are:’Sacred to the memory of Thomas Cribb. Born July 8th 1781, Died May 11th 1848. At the base ‘Respect the ashes of the dead’ The words were recut by the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society in the 1980s as they were becoming indistinct.

Extract from Records of the Woolwich District, p.158: ......... Tom Cribb - it was under Mr. Greenlaw’s tolerant rule that the lion monument was erected to Tom Cribb, the pugilist, who died in 1848.  He was proprietor of a baker’s shop in the High Street, much respected by his neighbours for his peaceful character and has left us his posterity to keep up his good name.
{Mr. Greenlaw was the Vicar of St.Mary’s Church in 1851}

Fistina’s record of Tom Cribb’s ‘war services’ is as follows: Born at Hanham Gloucestershire July 8th 1781. Weight 14 stone, 3 lbs. (champion and presented with a belt).  Died in High Street, Woolwich, May 11th 1848. Monument erected to his memory in Woolwich Churchyard May 1st 1851. George Cribb Tom’s brother, fought and was beaten with unvarying monotony five times.

Beat Maddox near Highgate Jan 7th 1805,       
Beat Tom Blake at Blackheath, February 13th 1805,         
Beat Ikey Pig at Blackheath  May 21 1805      
Beaten by George Nicholls        
Beat Richmond at Hailsham, October 8th 1807    
Beat Jem Belcher £200 a side at Moulsey, April 8th 1807  
Beat Horton October 25th 1808        
Beat Jem Belcher, £200 at Epsom February 1st 1809    
Beat Molyneux (a black man) £200 a side and £100 Copthall Common December 10th 1810        Beat Molyneux £2,600 a side at Leicester  September 28th 1811 (presented with a cup value 80 gns)  Beat Carter (room turn up) Oxenden Street, February 1st 1820.

A lot of more detailed local information about Tom Cribb can be found at  Those who patronise Woolwich cafes might think the web address ‘readysnacks’ has a familiar ring.  Also on site is their recipe for bubble, photographs of customers and a really smashing article, plus pictures, about Woolwich Power Station, the ferry  and the legendary autostacker.  The day will come when we can order their sausage sandwiches electronically.
(not sure if this info on Readysnacks is still available in 2019 - if Chris sees this, can he give us current correct info - plus more about the bubble??)


Chris from Readysnacks (as was) sent us additional information on Tom Cribb (in November 2019).  Its appended below, as its too long to go in a comment. 

"Tom Cribb was born the son of Thomas and Hannah Cribb  on July 2nd 1781. He  lived his early life with his brothers George, Abraham and Daniel and his sisters Ann, Ester and Elizabeth, in the township of Hanham, Gloucester, near Bristol. He was Christened on the 8th July in Lawrence hill church.

 He left his home for the city of London when he was only thirteen years old, and for a time worked as a Bell hanger, under the guidance of a relative.  This work did not suit Tom who was a strong outdoor type of lad and before too long he got a job as a porter at the wharves, unloading barges. During this time he suffered two accidents which could well have ended his life, let alone any future ideas of boxing.

On one occasion whilst stepping from one coal barge to another, he fell between the two and was trapped  . On another occasion he was carrying an enormously heavy package of oranges when he slipped and fell with the whole weight of his load crushing his chest.  This caused him to spit
blood for several days afterwards. Luckily Tom had an iron constitution and was soon fit again.

Tom Cribb also served a term in the kings navy which probably helped to further toughen his already hardy constitution. He returned from the navy in 1804

Tom Cribb won his first public fight which was against George Maddox at Wood Green near Highgate on 7th January 1805.   The following month he beat Tom Blake to win a purse of forty guineas, quite a small fortune in those days.  In July of the same year, Cribb suffered one of his rare
defeats at the hands of George Nichols In the following years Cribb had fights with such names as "Ikey Pig" ,  "Jem Belcher" and several others. Full, round by round, commentaries on Cribbs most important fights can be found in a book published at the time , called "BOXIANA", by Pierce Egan, published in 1812.  You may be able to find a copy in a good reference library, or you can buy a
reprinted edition from Nicol Island publishing in Canada. You will find a linI to then further down the page. much of the information in this article has come from the said book.

Tom became British champion in 1809 after the retirement of the previous champion "John Gully"

Also in 1809 on the 12th of December, Tom Cribb married Elizabeth Warr, at St Pancras old church. The couple eventually went on to have seven children.

Cribb will best be remembered for his two fights with the Black American champion Tom Molineux, In 1810 he fought Molineux for 32 rounds and in the end his opponent had to retire from sheer exhaustion.  The following year they met again and this time Cribb was able to dispatch Molineux in
the 19th round, after breaking the Americans jaw.  Before embarking on this second battle with Molineux,  Cribb was taken away to Scotland with a Captain Barclay to improve his stamina and lose some weight.

The Champion arrived at URY on the 7th of July 1811, weighing sixteen stone. The good life in London had made him fat and breathless.  He spent the first two weeks with nothing more energetic than long walks and a little shooting. On the third week his walks were lengthened and sessions of running and exercise were introduced.  Cribb spent about nine weeks in training and by the time of his second match with Molineux at Thistleton gap, he was in the peak of condition and almost three
stone lighter. Molineux later confessed that when he saw the condition of Cribb he completely despaired of winning the fight.

During his time in Scotland, Tom Cribb was occasionally employed in a little sparring at Stonehaven, he also gave lessons in the "Pugilistic arts" . It should also be mentioned that at all times Cribb showed a most charitable, gentle and amiable disposition, he was not one to brag of his achievements.  On one occasion whilst walking in Aberdeen, he was accosted by a women in great distress, Tom was so moved by her sad tale that he gave her all the silver in his pockets. She rrmarked "Ye are surely not an ordinary man".

After the Molineux fights, Tom Cribbs place in Boxing history was assured. During the following years there were more fights and many exhibition matches before the rich and famous.

On July 19th 1821 George IV was crowned King at Westminster Abbey and 18 of the leading boxers of the day, including Cribb were chosen by the King to be ushers and pages

Tom Cribb  had a less famous brother, also a boxer, his name was George Cribb.  He is known to have had about five fights, but lost them all .

Did you know, that bare knuckle boxing was illegal in england, even though it was patronized by the rich and royal ..

In Vincent's records of Woolwich & district, another Woolwich fighter is briefly mentioned.  His name was Joe Burke, a butcher from Woolwich. apparently he lost a fight with  the Champion Jem Belcher in November 1801.

After Cribbs retirement he led a quiet life returning to his old trade  as a coal merchant and then as Landlord of the Kings arms, which was on the corner of King street and Duke street, London.  There is also documentation of Cribb running another pub called the "Union Arms" on Panton street
Piccadilly, I am not sure if he ran both or if one of the records is incorrect, apparently he ran into financial difficulties and had to hand over the pub to his creditors sometime in 1839

Tom Cribb Spent the last years of his retirement living with his son and daughter in law above their Bakers Shop at 111, Woolwich High Street......This building still stands to this day and the upper floors have changed little since Cribb's time. The ground floor is now a Chinese takeaway.

On his death bed, Tom was visited by a fellow pugilist, Tom Spring. It is said that with his dying breath Tom suddenly sat up in bed and punched the air, uttering his last words "The actions still there but the steams all gone".    His death certificate gives cause of death as diseased Pylorus and Marasmus.

Tom Cribb died on the 11th May 1848 and was Laid to rest in St Mary's Churchyard, Woolwich. A large stone lion monument was erected in his honour which can still be seen today, Although it has been relocated to a different spot in the graveyard .."
by Chris Mansfield.

Thanks Chris - and how about the recipe for bubble?

1 comment:

Chris Mansfield Photos said...

The Readysnacks cafe web page closed when the Cafe closed in 2005..
My only website now is which has thousands of local photos old and new