Blue plaque for bare-knuckle fighting MP

A bare-knuckle boxer who settled his debts with a prize-fight in prison and went on to become Pontefract's MP has been honoured with a blue plaque.

Friday, 2nd June 2017, 11:17 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:41 pm

John Gully will be remembered with the plaque in Ackworth Park, which he owned in the 1830s when it was a stately home.

The plaque has been installed by Ackworth Heritage Group in memory of Gully, who was born in Bath in 1783.

Pauline Lockett, chairwoman of Ackworth Heritage Group, said: “John Gully’s is the third plaque we have put up.

Sign up to our daily Wakefield Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“He was an important man and a character Ackworth is proud of.”

John Gully was the son of a butcher who went to jail over unpaid debts after inheriting his father’s business.

In prison it was prize-fighting which enabled him to pay off the outstanding monies.

In 1805 Gully fought Henry Pearce, a match attended by the Duke of Clarence, despite the sport being outlawed.

Gully was beaten after 28 rounds, but went on to become a dreaded fighter who made “claret fly” in all directions, a report from the time said. Gully retired from fighting in 1808, became a pub landlord in London and began training race horses.

Racing brought him mixed fortunes. On one occasion in 1827 he lost £40,000 in a single day when his horse Mameluke ran in the St Leger Stakes .

But Gully went onto have successes which included the Two Thousand Guineas in 1854.

Gully was married twice and had 24 children, 12 with each wife.

He sat in the House of Commons as Pontefract MP between 1832 and 1837 after buying Ackworth Park.

He also owned the Wingate Grange estate and collieries in Durham and was buried in Ackworth after his death in 1863, aged 79.

On Tuesday, heritage group members gathered in Ackworth Park to unveil the blue plaque.