18th Century boxing match for the hand of a farm lad

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 16th February 1790.


Two of the fair sex last week actually fought a pitched battle at Waddington in Lincolnshire attended by their seconds. When it is considered that the object of their contention was a husband, it will not be wondered that the battle was long and violent, lasting not less than half an hour.  Two days after the heroine triumphantly led her happy man to the altar! – So that this may probably not be the last battle on the occasion.

Well, what a wonderful snippet of history!  But, remembering the distress we caused to some of our readers when we debunked the tale of the ‘Petticoat Duellists’, we approached our research into this story with caution.

Blog - Waddington boxing 1

Fortunately it seems that the two Lincolnshire feminine bruisers did exist and that the fight did take place; it was confirmed in several other newspapers which gave more details.

Mary Farmery and Susanna Locker were both servants and it was Mary who challenged her rival to the fight with the prize being the young man they both claimed the affections of.  The boxing match was conducted according to form and for some time the outcome seemed uncertain with both women delivering blows which felled their opponent.  But Mary Farmery must have been certain of her pugilistic abilities when she suggested the boxing match for she was named the victor.

The Female Bruisers by John Collet, 1768; (c) Museum of London
The Female Bruisers by John Collet, 1768; (c) Museum of London

The object of their affections was a young man who was servant to a farmer in the neighbourhood, and all the newspaper accounts agree that he ‘actually had the temerity to go to church with the victor.’ Sadly, it seems possible that there was no happy ending after all for the victorious Mary Farmery, for no marriage took place in the parish church at Waddington and we have, as yet, found no record of it ever taking place at all.

We don’t want to disappoint you this time so perhaps we’ll just picture Mary sweeping her beau off his feet and disappearing off into the sunset with him?

Blog - Waddington boxing

N.B. A Mary Farmery was baptized in Navenby, just a few miles away from Waddington, in June 1771, and a Susanna Locker married a man by the name of Richard Harmstone in Caythorpe, again not too far away, in June 1795.  Perhaps Susanna was luckier than Mary in finally getting up the aisle?

Sources used not mentioned above:

Derby Mercury, 28th January 1790

Stamford Mercury, 29th January 1790

Norfolk Chronicle, 6th February 1790

5 thoughts on “18th Century boxing match for the hand of a farm lad

  1. Gran. Cooper

    mary farmery married George barlow from Rufford, Notts, had eight children and died in 1863. She is my GGG grandmother.
    Granville Cooper


      1. Gran. Cooper

        Mary was born in Navenby a few miles South of Waddington in 1771, I should have said her eventual husband was born in Carlton in Lindrick in 1761, they finished up living in the Grove area near Retford,.Benjamin Barlow one of their sons was a kennelman at the Rufford Hunt, He transferred to the Middleton Hunt at Birdsall near Malton, the house he lived in is still there occupied by the current Kennelman.Benjamin is my GG Grandfather. I was born in Stockton-On-Tees.
        If you have access to the 1881 census you will find her as a visiter at what sounds a wealthy families house, 10 the Square East Retford, aged 89, where one of her daughters is a Housemaid, also called Mary Barlow
        I was aware of the report of the report of the fight in the the Lincoln Rutland & Stanford Mercury 29-1-1790 about 5 years ago, but did not know of the internet entries until a few weeks ago


  2. Gran. Cooper

    Joanne, just in case you are doing any more research on Mary, she married George Barlow in Metheringham on 28 Aug. 1792


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