New Street Inns and Cockfighting

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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Twelve large inns catered for the trade in the Cornmarket in olden times, and four of them were in New Street. They were the Greyhound (later called the Old Greyhound), the New Greyhound, the Swan, and the Pheasant. The Old Greyhound was the prinicpal place of departure for Carrier carts. No less than nine carts left the Greyhound for outlying places on Saturday afternoons, around 4 o'clock. It must have been a very busy place, for there were carriers at the other inns too. As with other inns around, there was great storage space, and stabling for a large number of horses. In the early 19th century the trade was so brisk that the New Greyhound was opened almost next door.

The Swan, now called The Swan with Two Nicks, dates as an inn from 1764. The building however, dates at least from 1551, when an Edward Elcox, a clothier, had a lease of it. In 1780, it was known as the Little Swan, and in 1826, we know there was stabling for 40 horses. In 1865, the veterans of the Battle of  Waterloo held a 50 years anniversay of the great battle at the inn.

The Pheasant, now called The Old Pheasant, was a somewhat superior inn, for it had a bowling green at the back which was reserved for members of the Corporation. It was made in 1787, and gave the name to Bowling Green Walk. There was at that time little or no building outside the Walls, in Blockhouse Fields. The Pheasant also, with the Star and Garter in Foregate Street, was the principal inn for cock fighting, with ample accommodation for spectators, and it is said, for 80 horses.

Cock fighting was a very popular sport all over the country, from the small local pub gathering to the major events known as 'a main of cocks'. A 'main' at the Pheasant was usually a contest on a grand scale between gentlemen of two competing counties, involving 41 battles, with a stake of 10 guineas for each battle, and 200 guineas for the odd one. Some cock fights lasted two to three days. The more modest contest of local competitors involved 21 or 31 battles, with the stakes varying between two to four guineas, and 100 guines for the 'main'. In the major events, the cocks had to be available for the 'weighing in'  on the day before the contest. It was not until 1850 that cock fighting was made illegal, though the sport went on, but moved to country inns where it was easier to hold the 'main'. The methods of concealment were elaborate. One remains, partly concealed, at the King's Head Inn, at Ombersley. At Cradley, in the north of the county, the contestants actually held their cockfights in the church.ew