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The Cockpit by William Hogarth

Cockpit, St Ives

History of the cockpit

CAS vol 2005 ‘Medieval deposits and a cockpit at St Ives,’ Cambridgeshire by Kate Nicholson describes the excavation of this site.

As well as a number of medieval pits at the site archaeologists found a ring gully whose most plausible interpretation is as a cock fighting ring dating from the 17th century. 17th century manorial rolls of St Ives refer to a plot of land known as ‘le Pitts’ in the vicinity of the Waits and in the 18th century there is reference to ‘the Cockpit.’ The lack of direct evidence of cockfighting though is not surprising.

Whether or not the cockpit existed in the early Stuart period, Commonwealth or the Restoration is not known. It had always been a popular sport but was officially banned during the Commonwealth along with horseracing. By the time of Charles II cockfighting had resumed its popularity and Samuel Pepys writes about the variety of people he encountered at such events.


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