Liverpool of our Grandfather’s days 1913
Occasionally cases crop up of some obscure people indulging in the forbidden sport of cock-fighting. The culprits nearly always labourers or miners and we are horrified at the idea of such a cruel game being relished.
Yet we only have to search the annals of the 18th C to find that cock-fighting was a highly popular pastime not only among the lower classes but among the sporting gentry.
In the Liverpool museum we may see presented some fine game-cocks, formerly the property of the 11th Earl of Derby, who was one of the gentleman keenest upon the sport, and who kept his own trainers and feeders.
One of the birds has attached to its legs artificial spurs, which made the fight more cruel and effective.
Two sets of spurs and several tickets of admission to the local cockpits are exhibited in the Liverpool room of the museum.
Being hollow they form a kind of protective armour to the natural spurs, but are far more deadly weapons. One set is two sharp carved spikes, attached to the bird’s legs by leather bands, the others are of finely tempered steel made by ROGERS, Cutler to the king, like small razor blades, it is revolting to think that these were affixed to the birds that they might hack and maim each other for the better excitement of the spectators.
There were regular cockpits reserved for the sport – one was at Aintree, another, was in Cockspur St, leading off Pownall Square, right in the heart of Liverpool. This was in full swing between 1745 and 1790, the Aintree one was much later, one of the tickets showing 1834.
It is a topographical irony that both these sites became the sites of places of worship later.
Excitement and betting were keen at these contests, high stakes being placed on the birds. The practice was widespread, even the poorer men and boys keeping and training birds for the purpose, the cockpits were frequently the scenes of great disorder, brawls and fights.
The sport is forbidden by law, although, it is secretly indulged in, even today.
Copyright 2002 / To date