SE4418 : John Gully's Graveyard

taken 9 years ago, near to High Ackworth, Wakefield, Great Britain

John Gully's Graveyard
John Gully's Graveyard
This small private graveyard, at the eastern end of St Cuthbert's Churchyard, Ackworth, is the resting place of John Gully and some of his family. There is no access to the small graveyard, which is locally reputed not to be hallowed ground, from St Cuthbert's Church or the Churchyard.

John Gully was born in The Rose & Crown Pub, on the Chippenham Road, seven miles out of Bristol, on 21st August, 1783.

When he was a teenager, John Gully attended Lansdown Fair with his father and brother, where he witnessed a bare knuckle boxing match. The victor was a man known as sixteen string Jack, who weighed in at around 18 stones. He had just beaten an opponent called 'The Flying Tin Man of Bath' and boasted that he would send anyone else from Bath home in a cart if they so much as had the courage to challenge him.

John Gully, after consulting with his father and brother, threw his hat into the ring and fought Sixteen String Jack. It was the unfortunate Jack who had to be taken away in a cart, having been battered beyond recognition by Gully.

His bare knuckle fighting was to continue.

Gully took over running a shop his father owned after his death. His business head was not as good as his fists and he ran up hundreds of pounds worth of debt.
This resulted in him going to the Fleet Prison as a debtor, a Hell Hole of a place, from which many never regained their freedom.

It was Gully's good fortune that another famous bare knuckle champion boxer named 'The Game Chicken Pearce', found him in the Fleet and secured his release after him serving only a year.

After his release, he was taken to a training camp in Egham in Surrey, where he trained to fight Pearce. Pearce won, but after his retirement, Gully was recognised as the best fighter in the country, that reputation being confirmed when he beat the main contender, a Lancashire man called Bob Gregson in a fight at Six Mile Bottom, near Newmarket on 14th October, 1807, that fight being witnessed by a crowd consisting of The Duke of York, Lord Byron and many other eminent dignitaries. Gregson had been a formidable opponent, 29 years old, standing 6 feet one inch tall and weighing in at 216 lbs to Culley at 24 years of age, standing 6 feet and weighing 192lbs.

The fight was a vicious one, lasting 36 rounds, with both Gregson and Gully being on the verge of death. Gregson recovered more quickly than Gully and demanded a re match, which took place on a private estate owned by Sir John Sebright, near Woburn, on 10th May, 1808. Over 20,000 people came to watch the fight. Roads were blocked by people and carriages and the authorities thought that the French had invaded, so turned out the Dunstable Volunteers, bayonettes fixed, to repel the invaders.

The Woburn fight lasted 28 rounds and one hour and a quarter and Gregson was beaten. Gully took five days to recover, but incredibly, he fought another fight 5 months later against Tom Cribb for the Championship, which he also won.

Several large offers were made to him to continue his fighting career, but at 25, he retired, starting his business life running a pub called the Plough Inn, becoming a bookmaker (who reputedly had such esteemed clientèle as The then Prince of Wales) and made enough money to become 'respectable'.
He became a racehorse owner and in 1812, a bet on one of his horses earned him £40,000, which he used to buy the Ackworth Park Estate, just south of Pontefract in the West Riding of Yorkshire and Hatton Colliery in County Durham.

He has become a man of substance and in 1832, became the Member of Parliament for Pontefract. In the year he was elected, his horse, St Giles, won the Derby and netted him another £60,000.

He was a respected Parliamentarian, who took his position seriously and strongly supported many reforms. He was regarded as intelligent, strong willed and quick witted, despite his lack of education and inauspicious start to his adult life.

After his retirement from politics, he led the life of a Country Squire in Ackworth . His horses won the Derby twice more, Pyrrus in 1846 and Andover in 1854.

Gully bought shares in Hetton Colliery in Durham, whilst still living in Ackworth Park and was the owner of a colliery and estate in Wingate, County Durham. He eventually moved to Cocken Hall, near Durham City, to be closer to his business interests.

He died in Durham on 9th March, 1863 and was brought back to Ackworth in Yorkshire to be buried in ground which in his own words, "No man would ride roughshod over."

It is said that half the carriages in Durham and Yorkshire attended his funeral.

The burial ground where he lies is now a distressed area, fenced off with a rusty wrought iron fence, a poor memorial to a larger than life character.

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SE4418, 36 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Sunday, 12 July, 2009   (more nearby)
Monday, 13 July, 2009
Graveyard   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 440 180 [100m precision]
WGS84: 53:39.4310N 1:20.0876W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 441 180
View Direction
West-northwest (about 292 degrees)
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