On 11th December, 1821, those of a sporting inclination would have enjoyed attending one of the great fight events of the age when 22,000 people gathered on Hungerford
Common to witness a bare knuckle prize bout between one of the "Bristol Boys", one Bill Neat, a butcher of that city, and Tom Hickman ("The Gas Man").
Neat weighed thirteen and a half stone and at 5 feet eleven and a half inches was 2" taller and 10lbs heavier than his opponent. However, among the betting fraternity,
Neat was the favourite at 5 to 4 against. Some £200,000 is said to have been wagered on the outcome.
William Hazlitt, the critic and essayist, came down from London especially for "The Fight", which was subsequently to feature in one of his essays of the same name
which was published 3 months later. Hazlitt describes the journey down from the metropolis, first by the Brentford coach, and then on the Bath Mail to what he calls the Crown Inn (but is believed to be
The Dower House) at Newbury.
After an early shave at a local barber's shop, he and a friend then walked the 9 miles to Hungerford Common, where they found a multitude of people, carts, gigs and
carriages surrounding the ring.
The rules of the contest were according to the Pugilistic Club, which allowed wrestling, throwing, tripping, holding, butting and hair pulling as part of
the contest. Rounds only ended when a man was knocked or thrown to the ground. Half a minute was allowed as a break between rounds.