Saturday, 25 February 2012

25th February 1812: Wanted man Pierce Cook committed to Derby Gaol for questioning

On Tuesday 25th February a framework-knitter, Pierce Cook, who was wanted for robberies in Derbyshire that had taken place at the end of December 1811, was committed to the County Gaol in Derby. He had apparently been apprehended in London.

The Norfolk Chronicle of 29th February yields some fascinating details about Cook which seemed to have eluded the more local newspaper. Describing him as "the famous runner", it goes on to say he had "lately challenged Molineaux, the bruiser, to a pugilistic encounter".

Molineaux was Tom Molineaux, the famous black American boxer, a former slave who had won his freedom for winning a boxing match against a rival plantation to that of his owner. He made his way to England in 1809 and was trained by another former slave, Bill Richmond. On 28th September 1811, he had faced a rematch against the English champion, Tom Crib, in front of 15,000 people at Thistleton Gap, Rutland, which had left Molineaux beaten, with a broken jaw.

Two months later on the 19th December, he was sparring again at the Fives-court in London, having parted with Richmond, and the Times of 20th December 1811, carried a description of a anonymous challenger that could well have been Cook:
"The next set-to was a novel one, betwixt Molineaux and an athletic Nottinghamshire man, who gave very unfavourable specimens of wapping talent. Molineaux rallied him with quickness, and had the match his own way."

We may never know if this was Cook, and since he was wanted for a burglary in Derbyshire that took place but 4 days later, this may indeed not be him on this occasion, unless it was an alibi he should have used in less than a month at Derby Lent Assizes.

As reported in the Derby Mercury of 27th February 1812, and the Norfolk Chronicle of the 29th February. The papers disagree about the date Cook either left London or arrived in Derby. The former says he was "brought to this place" on "Tuesday last" (i.e. 25th February), whilst the latter says Cook was "yesterday ... sent off", with the date of the column in that issue being 27th February. I have chosen to go with the date of the local publication.

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