The Huthwaite Amateur Boxing Club is commonly remembered from having a previous Peacock Hotel gymnasium. Some senior past patrons of The Workpeoples Inn did vaguely recall another unidentified gym being earlier given room upstairs. When names discovered from press reports plus featured photos determined those two clubs were run by the same team, additional memories authoritatively recounted by Mr Colin Barber, confirmed more detailing to present a fuller history behind this Huthwaite Boxing club.
When allocating an upper room of The Workpeoples Inn for club use in various sports and fitness training, the premises likely still resembled this photo fronted by its original owner Mr Robert Wright. Equipping what could be considered the first Huthwaite gymnasium, the group descriptively titled themselves The Huthwaite Weightlifting and Boxing Club
Fuller title covered inclusion of wrestlers and general body builder training. But a shorter title more often focused upon the promotion and training given its professional boxers.
Prize fighting did of course begin with ancient bare knuckle contests, and Nottinghamshire still pays homage to Ben Caunt as the widely famed Heavyweight Champion of England. Boxing contestants adhered to later rules and regulations defining skillful sportsmanship, although some Huthwaite club members would no doubt have accepted a simpler cash booth challenge long offered by many travelling fairgrounds, either with or without gloves.
Earliest dated evidence so far for identifying active club membership, is from local press featuring a look back in time. Officials firstly named in 1922 are Steve Fox, Jimmy Rock and John William Richards.
Holding a place in both groups is a young Ernie Barnes, whom, between 1923-1926 professionally fought six contests. Shown again c1925 in the company of Reg Moorhouse, these were two names that grew widely associated behind this clubs emerging success.
The fact Ernie did become club manager, alongside Reg. as trainer, is confirmed by 1932 press reports. Their clubs contended wins that August only intimates results from making undated progressions, claimed across several branches of physical culture. When all three Huthwaite club entrants gained favourable ten round point results at that Sheffield boxing tournament, mentioned are George Frost (Huthwaite heavy weight), Walter Weaver (Tibshelf bantam weight) and Fred Cadman Jones (Stanton Hill).
Just a few weeks later, boxing club members aroused local interest and further publicity by putting up several exhibition bouts at a Huthwaite Carnival. Wrestling and muscle displays also given by Mr A. England and Reg. Moorhouse allowed the club trainer to demonstrate his fitness, plus wider variety of physical activities still being catered for under the fuller descriptively titled Huthwaite Weightlifting and Boxing Club.
Extracting just a few recognisable names recorded from the website boxinghistory.org.uk, identifies some of the Huthwaite club members who fought professional matches. John Smith jnr did correct the figure given his father, and notes his Grandfather is also among later club photos.
|Professional Huthwaite Club Boxers|
|Ernie Barnes||1923 - 1926 = 6|
|George Laitt||1933 - 1935 = 5|
|George Briggs||1923 - 1928 = 3|
|Joe Bingham||1928 - 1931 = 17|
|Young Hipkins||1929 - 1930 = 4|
|Billy Keeling||1929 - 1933 = 3|
|Dick Jones||1929 - 1934 = 8|
|Young Hallam||1932 - 1939 = 5|
|Lawrence Keeling||1949 - 1949 = 2|
|Colin Barber||1953 - 1956 = 34|
|John Smith||1967 - 1970 = 14|
|Jack Cotes||1969 - 1971 = 18|
Inspecting a 2003 Workies pub refurbishment tempted some past patrons back from a dwindling generation. Mr George Woodward was one who mentioned the relative quietness, which evoked their long past recollections of often hearing a heavy thud of dropped training weights onto the club floor above. Bar room customers were otherwise unaware of sober club training privately going on upstairs, which would include other referenced boxing names like :- Alf Frost, Ernie Hallam, George Laitt, Charlie Yates, Tommy Cope (Mansfield) & Billy Strange (Stanton Hill).
Any doubts concerning the clubs renaming and moves were answered by Colin Barber. He'd pro boxed from Sutton before joining this relatively well equipped gym, noting the Workies clubhouse door was opened every night by Ernest Barnes. Professional experience led Colin to help out with training others, before taking official posts of secretary, then treasurer.
The clubs widely acclaimed success at training boxers had begun to attract around 30 weekly regulars. Limited space demanded a bigger room. Fully adopting their frequently used shorter title could be seen focusing future commitment. In a highly competitive sport, however, there may have been other reasons beyond gaining a snappier ABC title, behind officially renaming the Huthwaite Weightlifting and Boxing Club. Active members were already commonly identified coming from Huthwaite Boxing Club, so inserting amateur status must have opened new doors. One appeared very shortly after. Mr Barber recalled landlord Bill Wright then offered them free private use of a larger room at his neighbouring Peacock Hotel. Year given was 1960 when the newly named Huthwaite Amateur Boxing Club moved into a relatively spacious old stone outbuilding aside the public house, fully utilising its upper level.
A Huthwaite Amateur Boxing Club thus continued their successful run privately training in the Peacock Hotel clubhouse. Upper floor of that outbuilding was reached via a rear external staircase, located aside entry into Boots Yard. They boasted a well equipped gym, and even managed to squeeze in a small boxing ring. Giving opportunity to gain sparring experience among the ropes did restrict floor space, as my father remembered from beginning fitness training here. He knew his grandfather Elliott had trained with this club, but like other joining members, they all seemed unaware of its previous era.
By staging boxing tournaments, often at Sutton Baths, they soon raised money to provide all club house amenities. Claiming good facilities run by two ex pro trainers, Barnes and Barber attracted boxers from even further afield, including several international fighters. Naming those in the photo, Mr Barber mentions Wally Swift and Percy Lewis, noting Bill Wright never charged them a penny throughout their stay of almost six years while becoming nicknamed the "Fighting Peacocks".
They were long gone when I recall the higher two storey structure from the lower level converted into an outdoor toilet block. My earliest webcam did manage to at least capture final sight of the building just prior 2000 demolition. Safety became the issue first demanding earlier removal of a disused upper floor once offered club use. This old dilapidated barn was in sad state after brewery refurbishment last extended internal pub facilities.
Grateful as the club were for the free use of that Peacock Yard building, their present headquarters were acquired 1965, by simply answering a press ad for someone to take over and make good use of an existing building called the "Woodlands". Addressing was certainly taken from previous siting atop Strawberry Bank. It was erected by Huthwaite Urban Councillors in precaution to serving as a Smallpox isolation hospital. Never having been used, this corrugated prefab was relocated 1934 to provide their Welfare Park storage facilities.
Adopting this spacious building did demand a new zinc roof and full repaint. A small price to pay for far superior size. This easily accommodated all training equipment with creature comforts, plus a full sized ring. Jack Dallison was credited setting corner posts in concrete, and they apparently remain unmoved.
The relocated Boxing Club corners Columbia Street off Sutton Road. A once secluded site behind Huthwaite Public Library backs onto a Welfare Park Bowling Green. Attempts to clean up this vandal prone area began exposing the badly weathered condition of the club house from year 2000, showing little improvement from brief or passing visits 25 years before.
Modern machine equipped gyms opened elsewhere catering for masses seeking a fitness regime. Presenting this clearly neglected exterior afforded little motivation for enticing or even keeping such membership. Despite appearance however, and largely based upon past repute, training here always continued the disciplined art of boxing. By stabling numerous local youngsters, many have shared in this clubs undeniable successes in amateur tournaments. And they generally offered thanks to one motivating person.
Mick Riley took up interest in the sport around year 1950. The ex miner from Kirkby-in-Ashfield won his own collection of trophies by adding six area titles to five divisional titles in a National Coal Boxing Club. His involvement and undying passion went on to span 60 years, after next committing half a century to running the Huthwaite ABC as its well respected trainer, so readily and frequently acknowledged assisting youngsters.
Mr. Riley had suffered serious health problems through latter years. Though determined not to give up what he'd devotedly lived for, some may argue that dogged single handedness struggled to keep up a proud club reputation.
Reported membership fell into the 1990's. Outwardly it clearly showed signs of long neglect and lack of investment. Often noting locked doors, eventually it seemed vacated altogether. Until 2007, when a fresh coat of paint at least gave good impression someone still kept a future vested interest.
According to Chad May 2008, Mick's rekindled efforts finally gained reward from a dozen or more registered boxers. The Huthwaite professional boxing promoter Scott Calow shared pleasure seeing a club resurgence.
Encouraged with a good number of potential and very talented amateurs, these did eventually require several fully qualified assistant coaches. Mr. Calow is himself a pro manager and trainer, who had kept up an interest among Huthwaite amateur boxers.
Following the death of veteran Mick Riley, Scott took over Huthwaite ABC affairs since year 2010.