FATAL PRIZE FIGHT 19/3/1838
A coroner’s inquest was held at Barkway, in Hertfordshire, on the body of William Phelps, alias Brighton Bill, killed in a prizefight with Owen Swift on the previous Tuesday.
The battle took place at Melbourne Heath; a place where the counties of Essex, Cambridge, and Hertford nearly join, and so near the road-side, that the stage coaches drew up in order that the passengers might witness the brutal exhibition. It had been publicly known for several days that the fight was to take place ; but none of the magistracy or their myrmidons interfered to prevent it.
A crowd of three thousand persons was collected. The deceased pugilist killed a man in a prize-fight some time ago, and he was himself the third whom Swift had killed. Bets were offered on the ground, that neither of the combatants would survive many days; and Swift was so dreadfully beaten that his recovery was thought doubtful. Altogether this was one of the most savage “pieces of sport” that had disgraced the country for several years.
The jury found a verdict of manslaughter against Owen Swift, principal in the first degree; and against Samuel Evans, Francis Redmond, Richard Curtis, — Brown, as principals in the second degree. And they added—their deep regret and concern, that the magistrates of the adjoining counties did not interpose to prevent a breach of the peace so notoriously expected to take place for some days previously; and also for the fact of a prize-fight having taken place at the same spot about twelve months before, without their interference.
(See also Simon Byrne which contains references to this case and the fact that the two fights led directly to the First Rules of Boxing)