On this day … 12 February 1689

Cock fight in 18th-century London

Thomas Bellingham’s diary entry included the following, ‘Ye 12th. A windy day. Great cock fighting. Sr Tho Stanley lost every battle …’

This is the first of several references in the diary to cockfighting. Bellingham was witness at another bout the following day. He doesn’t say where the bouts took place, but the ones he witnessed in May of that year were on the marsh, probably at Swansey’s Inn at the Ashton end.

The following March found him in the coffee house in Mainsprit Weind, witnessing cock fights in company which included Lord Brandon, the lord lieutenant of Lancashire, William III’s representative in the county.

Mainsprit Weind is named for the cock fighting that took place there, as John Bannister, the Preston window cleaner, explains in chapter three of his Street Names of Preston:

The individual contests or bouts were known as “mains” and the lane or wynd that led to the cockpit is now known as Main Sprit Weind. The spelling on the 1684 plan is Mins Pitt Wynd, other spellings are Mainspritt Wynd (1655), Minspit Weend (1702) and Main Spit Weind (1830). It is the intrusive “r” that has misled many researchers as to the meaning of the name, which is merely a misinterpretation of Mains Pit Weind, literally Cock Pit Lane. In the 17th century, it was alternatively known as Dundee Lane after John Graham, Viscount Dundee, a Royalist who was honoured for his efforts in the suppression of the Covenanters.

There would have been several cock pits in the town and Old Cock Yard and New Cock Yard are two places where they have left their traces with the names. There was another on Stoneygate.

‘Sr Tho Stanley’ was at this time a young man of eighteen (he had succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his father when he was aged one). He went on to serve as MP for Preston from 1695 to 1698. His son succeeded his distant cousin as the eleventh earl of Derby.

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