Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Sport - blood sports

RED HOUSE, BATTERSEA. A favourit place for shooting-matches, on the Surrey side of the Thames, nearly opposite Chelse Hospital. Pigeons are sold (to be shot at) at l5s. the dozen, starlings at 4s., and sparrows at 2s. The general distance is from 21 to 40 yards. At 21 yards a first-rat shot will back himself to kill 19 out of 21 pigeons.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

Pigeon shooting is very popular in the neighbourhood of London, the principal rendevous for crack shots being the Red House at Battersea.

Francis Wey, A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties, 1935

click here for Henry Mayhew on costermongers and rat-killing
 in London Labour and the London Poor

click here for Henry Mayhew on costermongers and dog-fighting
in London Labour and the London Poor

see also James Greenwood in The Wilds of London - click here

see also James Greenwood in Low-Life Deeps - click here

    To approach a cockpit, even in the long-ago sixties, required a certain amount of discretion, and so it came to pass that the sporting team broke up into twos and threes, and by a series of strategical advances by various routes, arrived within a few minutes of each other at the unpretentious portals in Endell Street. Descending into the very bowels of the earth, the party was considerably augmented by his Grace of Hamilton's contingent, and within half an hour, the spurs having been adjusted, and all preliminaries arranged the two champions faced one another in the arena.
    Ten minutes later it was a piteous sight to see the brave old champion Sweep attempting to crow, although he seemed aware he had received his quietus. Suffice to say that Hastings won the wager, and the party hurried eastward, leaving the brave old bird like a warrior taking his rest.

'One of the Old Brigade' (Donald Shaw), London in the Sixties, 1908 

    Our first visit was to Turnham's, a pot-house in Newman Street, where extensive arrangements had been made for some badger drawing under the personal auspices of Bill George. In later years this canine authority developed into a trusted dog-provider to the nobility, and resided in the vicinity of Kensal Green; at the time of which I write his transactions in dog-flesh were of a more miscellaneous character, and, as he once told me with pride, a letter addressed "Bill George, Dog Stealer, London" would reach him without delay.
    Our next move was to Jimmy Shaw's, but whether it was to Windmill Street or to a new house he took when his old place was demolished (next to the stage door of the Lyric Theatre) I cannot recollect.
    Here rats in sackfuls were awaiting us, amongst other a rough-haired mongrel terrier, which not long previously had performed the astounding feat of killing 1,00 rats in an incredibly short space of time.
    To see 1,000 sewer rats not long in captivity together in a pit, after having seen each one counted out by an expertrat-catcher diving into a sack, is something my enlightened twentieth-century reader will never again see in London.

'One of the Old Brigade' (Donald Shaw), London in the Sixties, 1908