Ben Caunt (1815-1861)
Heavyweight Champion of England
He was a big man with a big chest, a booming voice and an international career in bare-knuckle boxing. ‘Big Ben’ Caunt’s name has lived on since he was finally laid out, in St. Mary Magdalene’s churchyard.
Born in nearby Newstead, he grew up in Hucknall. His first recorded knockout was one of his own relatives in 1835. Once spotted, his reputation, like him, just grew and grew. By the age of 19 he stood 6ft, 2 1/2” (1.89m) tall and weighed 14st 7lbs (92kg).
He found fame and a close rival from nearby Nottingham, Bendigo William Thompson. Like Ali and Frasier in the 20th century, ‘Big Ben’ and Bendigo would meet three times and share the title between them. But for Ben there were no gloves and no time limit; and each meeting was a ding-dong battle. Their first bout in 1836 lasted 22 rounds with Bendigo the winner, ‘Big Ben’ got his revenge in 1838 but this time it took 76 rounds; finally losing in 1845 over 96 rounds.
In between these grudge matches ‘Big Ben’ defended his title in London and toured the USA. In retirement he became a pub landlord in London. Towards the end of his life, tragedy struck when a fire at the pub claimed the lives of his two children. Martha and Cornelius now rest with Ben in the north side of the churchyard.
His fame was such that ‘Big Ben’ became a by-word for anything big and loud. One possible origin for the name of the most famous chiming bell in the world. When Big Ben strikes it recalls ‘Big Ben’ in his pub calling ‘Time’.
You can find out more about Ben in church and visit his grave which sits in the shadow of the north transept.