Streets of Norwich – Swan Lane (Jem Mace)

As a follow-up to my post about Swan Lane.

On the side of Turtle Bay is a sign marking that Jem Mace, “the father of modern boxing”, was the landlord of the White Swan public house. That building was demolished in the mid-nineteenth century, with the replacement structure now being the home of Turtle Bay.

Jem mace.jpg

James Mace was born on 8 April 1831 in Beeston, near to Dereham, the fifth of eight children of blacksmith William Mace and his wife Ann. He got into boxing young, which at that time was usually bare knuckles, as boxing gloves weren’t required until 1867. Originally he was interested in a career as a musician, and it’s said that this dream ended when three youths smashed up his violin for no reason in Great Yarmouth, which was also said to have fuelled his anger.

Mace became the Heavyweight Champion of England in 1861, the English Middleweight champion in 1863 and the World Heavyweight champion in 1870. It was this fight that was perhaps the most important of his career, fought in Kennerville in Louisana (a place I’ve been when I stayed at the Kenner Econolodge, as it’s now effectively all part of New Orleans). The prize fund for the winner was £3,000, which is around £200,000 in today’s money, so this was a huge event.

Mace owned the White Swan from 1857, during which time he managed in 1858 to be fined a sizeable sum for using bad language to a woman. It’s not clear when he left, likely not until the early 1860s when the building was taken down. He died on 30 November 1910 in Jarrow, County Durham, certainly an eventful life….