The Spring & Langan Championship Fight at Worcester



Championship Fight at Worcester 1824The greatest of the county matches, and one of the greatest prize fights of all times, took place on Pitchcroft on January 7, 1823; when Tom Springs and Paddy Langan fought for the Championship of England. Spring, a native of Warwick, was the reigning champion, and had been challenged by Paddy Langan, the 'Irish Champion', Langan, aged 25, had made a tour of Lancashire, and his skill and courage had won him many backers. Warwickshire badly wanted to stage the fight, offering 150 guineas aside, but Worcestershire easily outbid its neighbour, and of more importance, Worcestershire magistrates were ready to ignore the law.   

40,000 on Pitchcroft

The match was arranged to take place on Pitchcroft, with the use of the grandstand, for stakes of 300 sovereigns aside, and handbills were circulated. So great was the demand for seats that wagons and temporary stands had to be used, and cost an extra 10 shillings. All accommodation around Worcester was snapped up. The city was agog with expectation, which turned to alarm as the Severn rose and flooded Pitchcroft, almost postponing the event. 

On Wednesday, Janaury 7th, 1823, the day of the fight, it was estimated that 40,000 were on Pitchcroft, and most had been in position by 8am. By 10am, the stands were grossly overcrowded  and before the fight started part of the temporary stand had collapsed. Later, the remainder collapsed, killing one and seriously injuring many. The fight was stopped to get the injured out of the wreckage, and over to the infirmary.

The First 32 Rounds  

At 12.35 Spring arrived with Tom Crip as second, from Croome Court, where they had been staying as guests of Lord Coventry. Most of nobility of the Midlands were present, including three peers, but Langan was nowhere to be found. Because of legal difficulties, the two boxers had not been displayed. Langan's name was called, but it was not until 1 pm, that Langan stepped into the ring to the roar of his supporter's cheers. Spring was taller and more muscular, and half- a-stone heavier.

The fight started at 1.40 with Lord Deerhurst and Sir James Musgrave as timekeepers, and Col Berkeley as umpire. The rounds in those days were not of equal length, and the first four rounds were 10 minutes each, and were taken up with sparring, in which Langan was cleverly stopping the champion, and aiming at his wind. In the 3rd round Langon was down, and in the 4th they were both down, but the betting was still 50 to 5 on Spring. In the 5th round, Langan came back strongly and Spring was down. In the 9th Spring was thrown heavily, to return next round to punish severely. So the battle swayed each way with much rolling and wrestling.

84 Rounds   

So the battle continued with much wrestling and hugging, with vicious bursts from both men, Langan still trying for Spring's wind. Both men were exhausted, but Langan landed a tremendous blow to Spring's head, which left him staggering about blindly. The champion's backers  were now very worried, for it looked as if he could not last, but he gathered his strength and came back incredibly, and dominated the fight. In the 84th round Langan fell bleeding and exhausted, and the organisers, worried as to the consequences of such punishment, called on his seconds to take him away. Langan violently protested, 'Clear the ring. I have not given in, l can fight for another hour'. His seconds however, he gave in. It was 4.15, and Tom Spring was carried away in triumph.

Both men were medically examined, and were fit again in a few days. Though Spring won, many of his supporters lost their bets, as Spring had been expected to win easily in shorter time.    

After the Fight

When Mr. Justice Park presided over Worcester Assize two months later, and dealing with a calendar that included a prize fight at Bromsgrove, where a fighter named Levi Brown had died from injuries received in the ring, he took the opportunity to admonish all concerned with the Worcester fight; especially as the extra stands had taken three days to erect, and that many of the chief county magistrates were officiating at the fight.

Tom Spring was born Thomas Winter February 1795 at Fownhope in Herefordshire and died at the Castle Tavern in Holborn, London August 1851, he fought 13 prize fights lasting a total of no fewer than 420 rounds, between 1812 & 1824, winning 12 and loosing just one . 

Tom's Record

  • October 1812:  Hereford Fair won over 15 rounds against John Hollands
  • June 1814:  Mordeford, Herefordshire Beat George Hands over 11 rounds
  • September 1817: Moulsey Hurst Won over 29 rounds against Jack Springer
  • April 1818:  Mickleham Down. Beat Ned Painter over 31 rounds
  • August 1818:  Kings Ditton. Lost over 42 rounds to Ned Painter
  • May 1819: Crawley Down. Won over 71 rounds against Jack Carter
  • December 1819: Wimbledon Common. Beat Ben Burn over 11 rounds
  • May 1820: Epsom Down. Won over 18 rounds against Young Bob Burn
  • June 1820: Moulsey Hurst. Beat Josh Hudson over six rounds 
  • February 1821: Hayes. Won over 25 rounds against Tom Oliver
  • May 1822: Hinckley Down. Beat Bill Neate over eight rounds
  • January 1823: Worcester. Won over Jack Langan
  • June 1824: Chichester. Won over 77 rounds Jack Langan