Herefordshire Record Office
Fight to the death at Lower Maescoed
Clodock, Newton, Lower Maescoed
The Hereford Journal of 24Th October 1821 contained a report of a ‘Death by Fighting’ at Lower Maescoed Common on Monday the 15th October of that year.
October 24 1821
Further details of this tragic case are to be found at the Herefordshire Record Office among the papers of William Pateshall, who was the Hereford Coroner at that time. The following account is from these papers.
On the evening of Monday the 15th October 1821 two young local men, servants in husbandry, Thomas Parry and John Morris met by arrangement at the house of Philip Lewis on the Lower Maescoed Common in the township of Newton and parish of Clodock for the purpose of settling by a bare fisted fight an old dispute. Many persons attended the fight so it must have been given some advance publicity. The house of Philip Lewis was probably Pool Farm.
They stripped and fought for upwards of 30 rounds for the duration of about one hour. Initially they were well matched but over the last six rounds, or so, John Morris gained some advantage. Finally he struck Thomas Parry a particularly heavy blow to the left side of his chest. Parry fell not to arise. He appeared to be in an unconscious state and was taken across the fields to the nearby house of James Pritchard, Labourer. He did not regain consciousness and died about two hours later.
On the 18th October the Hereford Coroner, William Pateshall came to Clodock and took statements from Joseph Evesham a Clodock Farmer and James Powell, Labourer, both of whom had been present at the fight. A statement was also taken from Benjamin David Williams a Surgeon from Abergavenny who had examined the body of Parry. He stated that the body was much bruised about the head, chest and other parts and that there were one or more broken ribs on the left side. He was unable to state the exact cause of death but that it arose from being beaten in a fight.
It was decided that John Morris should be charged with Manslaughter at the next County Assize. John Williams, Overseer of the Poor of Longtown, issued a warrant to David Griffiths a Constable of Ewyas Lacy for the apprehension of John Morris. On the 19th October Constable Griffiths found John Morris in a very weak state but took him into custody. However two hours later Morris escaped, no attempt apparently being made to rearrest him. John Morris made a written affidavit that he would present himself in Hereford to the General Gaol on the 25th March 1822 to await trial. This he subsequently did and spent some time in prison awaiting trial.
The Hereford Journal of 3rd April 1822 reporting on the Lent Assizes held the previous week at the Shire-Hall, records that J Morris was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment and fined one shilling for manslaughter. (At the same Assize another man was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and to be privately whipped for stealing wheat).
Statements of witnesses taken by the Hereford Coroner William Pateshall,
at Clodock on October 18th 1821
Two versions of a ‘Brief for the Prosecutor’ exist, one an early draft with much crossing out and amendments and the other a tidy version for final use.
The second version is given below.
It is not clear from the above accounts if this fight was the settlement of a private dispute or a prize-fight. It would appear that John Morris had some local sympathy. Prize fighting did not have general approval and this aspect was perhaps played down in the presentation of the case
Prize-fighting or " pugilism" was one of the first sports to have a written code of rules. In 1743, Jack Broughton created a list of rules after one of his opponents died as a result of a fight. There were rules against hitting a man when he's down, the right to a thirty second rest after going down, and a ban on hitting below the belt.. Fights were fought with untimed rounds. Each round ended with a knockdown. Death in the ring was not uncommon. In Birmingham in 1787, two fights in one day ended in death. Fighting with gloves became the accepted form in the latter part of the 19th century after the formulation of the Queensberry Rules in 1867.