Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ben Caunt

An English Prize Fighter

Ben Caunt was the other prize fighter who fought Bendigo in the infamous fight around Wolverton in 1845 1845. He appears in three Times articles in 1860 and 1861. It appears that his life had been going downhill since his prize fighting days.

In 1860 he was sued by a tailor named Mead for an outstanding bill of £28 5s 6d - a sum equivalent to about 6 months wages for a skilled working man, so not a trivial amount. Caunt was then the proprietor of a public house called the Coach and Horses in St Martin's Lane and had been for eighteen years. The pub may not have had the best reputation because we learn from the trial that there had been complaints in the past. There were suggestions that a man had been hustled and robbed in his house and of cheating at cards. And given his fighting reputation the pub also attracted ruffianly men who worked out some of their own pugilistic passions. All these accusations he strongly denied.

Nevertheless he was a man in difficulty. He had recently lost his licence, although the immediate cause is not clear from this account.

The story here seems to revolve around a certain Mr. Matchet, who was certainly a rogue, even a con man.
According to Caunt, Matchet had come to his public house to stay on returning from India with £2300. Having suitably imporessed his landlord Matchet then proceeded to by drinks all round and run up a bill of £55. It was Matchet who ordered clothes from the tailor, partly for himself, but he also managed to include a suit apiece for a mr Jones and a Mr Butler. He also threw in generously a pair of trousers for Caunt's son.

At this point Matchet disappeared, leaving Caunt with the bill. Caunt refused to pay the tailor, except for the trousers for his son and so the matter came to court.

The first jury in June 1860 could not agree on a verdict and were dismissed. At a second hearing a moth later another jury found for Mead and Caunt was stuck with the bill.

A year later his death was reported.

The Times September 11th 1861
DEATH OF BEN CAUNT

Yesterday morning, at 4 o clock, Mr. Benjamin Caunt, proprietor of the Coach and Horses Tavern, St Martin's lane, expired somewhat suddenly at his residence. The deceased, familiarly know as "Ben Caunt", had been a leading member of the prize ring, and held for some years the championship, which he succeeded i gaining after many hard-fought battles. All day yesterday Caunt was inhis business as usual, but showed some signs of indisposition. He retired to rest at his usual hour last night, and this morning he was found dead in bed, without having apparently experienced much suffering. During the last year or two Caunt has been very much affected in his mind by the loss of his licence, of which the magistrates deprived him on account of informations laid against him by his neighbours of the nuisance occasioned about his house by large crowds of sporting men who took an interest in the then pending prize fights - particularly in that between Heenan and Sayers for the championship, which Caunt himself had just resigned. When his body was discovered at 4 o'clock this morning, the time at which he was usually called, medical aid was immediately resorted to; but it was ascertained that death must have taken place some time previously, probably an hour or two.

Caunt's will was valued at under £100 so he really had little to show for his years of prize fighting. He also spent 3 months in prison in Derby for larceny when he was 22. He certainly achieved some fame but was only 46 when he died.

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