Home to one of Britain's greatest champions

Orange Row
Photo by Peter Crowhurst

Behind the Dorset Arms in Gardner Street exists a narrow alley that is all that is left of what was once one of Brighton’s poorest areas. Walking down this alley today and into the adjacent Pyms Gardens, you can take yourself back in time when this used to be home to fishermen with the alleyway strewn with the entrails of fish and the air putrid with the smells of rotting flesh and insufficient drainage. Nowadays Orange Row is all that is left of an area that once included Orange Row, Pym’s Gardens, Thomas St and Pimlico and was home to one of Britain’s greatest boxing champions, Tom Sayers.

Slum housing
Some of the worst housing in Brighton could be found here, an area that housed over a thousand inhabitants. Many of the houses were described as mere huts with small gardens in front. The inhabitants were mostly fisherman and it was not uncommon in the 1850’s to see girls of 10-12 walking naked in front of the houses because of the poverty of their families. The gardens in front of the houses were full of the skins and intestines of fish. Yet rather extraordinarily the area was quite free from the diseases that other such areas suffered from. Perhaps this could be put down to the ventilation of the houses for with the many cracks in the houses, there was an abundant supply of fresh air.

Diseases a daily hazard
An area like Pimlico would have been full of animals in the yards because when farm labourers moved to the town, not being able to find work in the country, they would bring with them animals like pigs and chickens. It is no wonder that the area was infested with rats and that there were often epidemics of whooping cough, smallpox, scarlet fever. With rubbish in the streets, poor guttering, open cesspools and imperfect sewers, it was no wonder that such contagious diseases were a daily hazard.

Poor and cramped buildings
Writing in the 1840’s Jenks maintained that Pym’s Gardens was the worst of the three streets in the area. It was a very narrow, badly ventilated court lined with very poor, cramped buildings. When it rained many of the ground floors were flooded forcing many of the families to retreat upstairs if they could. The houses had little furniture and the residents often had to resort to sleeping on the floor. If they had beds the whole family might have to sleep top to tail together. When the town council began its first slum clearance scheme it was this area that was to be pulled down and replaced by what is now Tichborne Street.

A national hero
One man who survived the hazards of Orange Row to become a national hero was Tom Sayers. Tom was born in 1826 and brought up in the Pimlico area of the North Laine. He was a bricklayer by trade and worked on the London Road Viaduct, which was completed in 1846. By this time Tom had already turned to prize fighting. His first fight was broken up by police for prize fighting was illegal and fights were secretly organized, with venues being known only at the last moment.

First English boxer to fight internationally
Sayers was not a big man, in fact he was only 5ft 8 ins and 112-154 lbs and had to fight men who were generally much bigger than he. He was a skillful fighter who had a strong punch. He fought for the Middleweight title of England in 1853, losing but eventually triumphing in 1857. Sayers became the last English champion before the introduction of the Queensbury Rules when in 1857 he beat William Perry. He was also the first boxer to fight an international match when in 1860 he fought the American John Heenan. Sayers seemed to have the advantage when after 37 rounds and 2 hours twenty minutes of fighting the crowd broke into the ring and the fight was declared a draw. Sayers received a special Silver Championship Belt to commemorate the fight. He retired from the ring after this fight.

Retired in 1860
Following his retirement in May 1860 Sayers lived for just five more years, dying of diabetes on November 8th 1865 at the age of 39. Such was Tom’s fame that when he died his burial at Highgate Cemetery was attended by ten thousand people.  In 1954 Sayers was elected to the ring Boxing Hall of Fame, making him perhaps the most famous of the inhabitants of this infamous area.

Comments about this page

  • No mention was made of Tom Sayers’ wife and child, although they did part, what happend to the child? My family are related to Tom Sayers on my mother’s side.

    By B. Woodbridge (15/09/2005)
  • Tom was my great-great-grandfather. There were two children, boys. The family moved to Australia and the boys married. One of them died – I think it was James. The other – Charles – had two children to whom my father was related. My father was also a bricklayer and he boxed. He made me box from an early age. I retired unbeaten after one fight when I decimated my opponent in the first round and could not see the point of boxing. Perhaps B. Woodbridge can gain a bit more info from this?

    By David Sayers (02/10/2005)
  • My Mum is from Brighton and her maiden name was Sayers. She has two sisters and one brother, who has a son named Tom Sayers, not sure how many greats, but Tom Sayers was my grandad a few greats down the line.

    By Helen Davies (04/11/2005)
  • Tom Sayers is my great great grandfather. My grandfather was Charles Sayers also called after his father. My grandad passed away a few years ago in Streatham, south east London.

    By Simon Field (08/11/2005)
  • My sister and I are trying to trace back our family tree to Tom Sayers the Bareknuckle Champion Boxer. Our father always told us that he was a famous relative. Our Grandmother’s maiden name was Charlotte Elizabeth Sayers born 1890 and we believe her father was Charles Sayers born about 1871. We have traced a Charles Sayers, born about 1871, who is recorded as having lived at 9 Crescent Road, Clapham London. Our grandmother married in 1908, and became Chalotte E Clark later living a 6 Hazelrigge Road Clapham London.

    By Mike Clark (02/12/2005)
  • I have read various articles on the Internet detailing the family background of Tom Sayers and have found that some of the reports about his family origins differ from each another. It is known from Thomas Sayers’ baptism on 31 Dec 1826, that he was born in Brighton’s Pimlico slums. However, those parish registers give his parents as the shoemaker William Sayers and his wife Mary, and not a James and Maria Sayers which I have seen recorded in a substantial article also being published on the Internet. The parish registers also show two other baptisms of what are believed to be Tom’s two elder brothers: Charles (baptised 1817) also born to the shoemaker William (then of Spring Street) & his wife (now Maria), and James (baptised 1824) again born to the shoemaker William of Pimlico but names William’s wife as Susan. My preference is to accept the evidence of folio 601 on the 1851 census of Brighton which shows a William Sayers (a cordwainer from Storrington) and his wife Maria (from Tillington) still residing in Pimlico. I have raised these points for I have noted that a number of interested parties have Tom Sayers in their family tree, but feel that some of the reports they may have access to could mislead them when they try to trace their ancestry further back.

    By Roy Grant (local historian & member of the Sussex Family History Group) (03/12/2005)
  • Regarding the children of Tom Sayers; he had two children Tom & Sarah. Tom moved to Australia and had 3 children all of which died within 8 days of each other. His daughter moved to, I believe, Newcastle and had 18 children. There are 3 other children: James, Alfred and Charles but these children were not Tom Sayers’, there father being James Aldridge and as such were known as ‘Aldridge Sayers’. As such, anybody with the name Sayers can’t be a direct descendant of Tom Sayers the boxer. My great grandfather was Tom Sayers – but this was Tom Sayers the boxer’s nephew!

    By Dean Sayers (20/02/2006)
  • Tom Sayers is my 4 x great uncle. His brother Charles Sayers b.1817 was my 3 x Great Granndfather and he and my Grandmother Emily Mary Sayers lived at 6 Haselrigge Road (pronouced Hazelrigge) in Clapham London, next door to her sister Charlotte Sayers (their father being Charles Edward Sayers, b1871-d1928). Hope this will be of some use to Mike Clark?

    By Dean Sayers (22/02/2006)
  • Tom Sayers’ daughter, Sarah, married George Mensley (brother of Tom’s bootmaker) and they did indeed move to Newcastle, where I believe they ran a hotel. They had 10 children (not 18!) – 8 girls and 2 boys, 9 of whom survived to old age. Tom Sayers is my great, great, great grandfather.

    By Tayler Cresswell (25/02/2006)
  • My dad is called Tom Sayers and he has two children: myself and my brother Jason Sayers. My grandfather Tom Sayers (now deceased) was married to Ellen and he had a sister called Lill and a brother I believe called Danny? My grandfather’s grandad was Tom Sayers the boxer.

    By Helen (20/05/2006)
  • I have what I believe to be a newspaper “etching” of the fight by Thomas Nast. It was printed in 1897 on an American “Supplement to the National Police Gazette, London (Richard K. Fox, Proprietor),” and bears the heading “The Great Heenan-Sayers Fight; A faithful picture of the historic contest at Farnborough on April 17th 1860, with the portraits of the celebrities who were present.” I’ve also managed to get hold of a key of sorts to the picture, which mentions 270 names. As I am now downsizing my boxing collectibles, I’d be grateful if anyone can place a value on this.

    By Karl Wiggins (13/02/2007)
  • My name is Tom Sayers. I don’t know of any relationship, but I will investigate. My fathers name is Richard Henry Sayers. His family was from England. We live in Florida USA. We have many of these names in our family: Charles, Charlotte, David, William, Elizabeth. And I beat up guys bigger than me. Just kidding, only once in self defence

    By TOM SAYERS (20/02/2007)
  • I have reason to believe that my family is related to Tom Sayers. We still live in the Brighton area. I stumbled across this site while I was making my family history project for school. My grandfather Frank Sayers used to tell me we was related to a boxer called Tom. He mentioned that he was a bricklayer most of my family are bricklayers. I found a portrait of Tom and it looks exactly like my dad. I would really appreciate any more information.  Thanks

    By Jordan Sayers (10/03/2007)
  • I know that my family is related to Tom Sayers. In fact, my father has one of his medals and talks about him all the time. It would be fantastic if someone could contact me at: kaysayers@hotmail.com

    By Kayleigh Sayers (07/06/2007)
  • Oh yes, diabetes still runs in the family. Everyone has it, me included. I found that quite funny.

    By Kayleigh Sayers (07/06/2007)
  • I think the above are wrong – my family is related to Tom Sayers, he is buried in Highgate North London. If you go to a pub in Keston, Kent there are pictures of him on the wall, my family have already done a family tree…who is Kayleigh Sayers?

    By Lee Sayers (26/06/2007)
  • Then you have a big chunk missing out of your family tree as I know my dad, one of ten children, is definitely related to him. When did you do your family tree?  I am only 20 and got cut off from the Sayers line for some time as I did not know my father till I was 17 but I know for a fact that I am related to Tom Sayers. My dad’s name is Richard Sayers, he was born in Hackney and now lives in Plumstead with a lot of his relatives. I am looking to find people I am related to. Not sure why – curiosity really I suppose. I think it’s amazing just how many people I’ve come across that relate back to Tom Sayers.   I think I am going off on a tangent here. I also have an older brother named Nicholas Sayers but, as I said, I never knew my dad till I was 17 and he still doesn’t really. Maybe that’s where we have been cut off?  If anyone can help please email me at kaysayers@hotmail.com

    By Kayleigh Sayers (02/08/2007)
  • Being interested in genealogy, I found Tom Sayers very interesting as my grandfather’s sister’s husband was related to him – he worked on the railway. Tom’s life was marred by his unhappy marriage which seems to inspire me to go into the whole story. In fact the real cause of death was not really proved, there was a rumour at the time that he was poisoned, by who??  Perhaps this could be a case for Sherlock Holmes fans! If you are interested in the subject please contact me.

    By John Gegg (11/08/2007)
  • Hi all, I am the grandson of Ethel Taylor (nee Sayers). She and my Dad have always said that she was a great niece or something like that. I am really interested in tracing my tree back to Tom and find out the line and any relatives. I boxed in the light heavyweght division for 5 years in the late 1990s by the way.

    By Sam Taylor (19/09/2007)
  • I found Helen’s comment very interesting. I don’t really know many members of my family ,but from what I have been told by my father, my uncle was called Tommy Sayers as was his father,(my grandfather) and also his father who’s wife was named Ellen. After a disagreement with my grandmother(his daughter in law) he left the house in Sunderland Tyne&wear where he was living with his son and daughter in law and left quiite a few of his posessions one of wwhich was a picture of Tommy Sayers the fighter

    By Mandy Sayers (27/09/2007)
  • I am Mark Sayers, and I don’t think I am related to Tom. Well certainly not directly. I have my male line back to 1792, but maybe it all connects past that? But it was Tom Sayers’ story that led me to trace my family tree. The curious thing is that there are an awful lot of shoemakers and leather dressers in the tree. Good luck with everyone’s research.

    By Mark Sayers (09/11/2007)
  • I have found the above correspondence fascinating – it is quite possible for lots of people to be related somehow to Tom the boxer. My gx3 grandmother was Elizabeth Sayers, reputed to be one of his cousins. I agree with the comments about the baptism records/1851 census, and James not being Tom’s father. There are so many mistaken histories on the web.
    I have tried to sort this out, but it is difficult where people have given snippets of information that cannot be connected.
    If people want to contact me with more usable info, such as detailed lists of their ancestors, including full names, addresses, occupations and dates of birth, baptism, marriage and death, I will have a go at making some sense of it all. Email me on porcupinetree@fireflyuk.net with your list of ancestors.
    It would also be great to get a dedicated page for reference on this site with authenticated research, to help out those who come after us.

    By ptree (27/11/2007)
  • Tom Sayers is my great uncle on my mother’s side. I am 47 and live in Rockville, MD, USA. I have a print of Tom Sayers. I have a cousin who researched our family tree who may know more.

    By Frank Ryan (08/12/2007)
  • This message pertains to Karl Wiggins’ comments pertaining to the Thomas Nast drawing on the Police Gazette. Is Nast’s signature clearly legible on the illustration? Have him contact me right away. Thanks!

    By A. Patrick (17/01/2008)
  • Regarding the descendants of that great fighter Tom Sayers. Back in the 1930s, my uncle Jim (who was a boxer) and his sister Suzie lived in Dalby Street, Kentish Town, London NW5, England. Sharing the same house was a family of Sayers’s who were direct descendants of Tom. His final resting place Highgate, is about 2 miles up the road! I’ve visited the grave. I’m afraid that’s all I know.

    By Lewis Pollock (11/02/2008)
  • Tom Sayers was my grandfather’s great x 3 removed grandfather – my grandfather was called Peter Charles Hill.  My grandfather’s mother I believe was called “Rose / Rosetta Hill”.  Both my grandfather and great grandparents died in the West Midlands.

    By G. Wylie (20/02/2008)
  • Hello all namesakes, my name is Gary Sayers and am living in Bristol, England. Very curious to know if I may be connected to Tom Sayers! My grandfather never knew his dad (now deceased) so the family line is a mystery on my father’s side and I am very curious! By the way, my six year old boy is called Tom Sayers. Can any one contact me if the Sayers name has any connection to Bristol, England? E-mail garysayers@fsmail.net

    By Gary Sayers (21/02/2008)
  • There is someone named Tollis with quite a few of Tom Sayers’ family members in her tree. It might be worth Googling Tollis Sayers and Brighton to check this out. I have a Richard Sayers (c1780) married Anne Back and produced Ann Sayers (1810) in Brighton in my line. They link, I believe to Tom. I also have surnames Hammond, Wiseman and Thomas.

    By Jill (11/03/2008)
  • Another Tom Sayers was baptised in St Nicholas Church 27 July 1832. Mother was single mum Ann Sayers.

    By Jill (11/03/2008)
  • Mandy, if you want further information, email helen_hills@btinternet.com and I’ll try and help.

    By Helen (12/03/2008)
  • My mother is related to Tom Sayers and, since she is 92 years old, knows about the children (grandchildren). They went to school together and she has photos of them. She would be glad to answer any questions.

    By Muriel Mauz (14/06/2008)
  • This is so amusing that we all have a story, so here is mine. My father Robert Earl Sayers, just passed away at 93 last year and had done a lot of family history in the past. This is what he had discovered. William Sayers married Sarah who had Philip, Richard, Henry, Thomas, Henry (who my father is related to) and immigrated to Ontario, Canada. Thomas married Philadelphia Whiler, they had 7 children, one of whom was Peter, married to a Hannah, who had 10 children one of which was Thomas Sayers born 1826 in Sussex, England. If you would like any other info on the other children’s name I would be happy to share what info I have.

    By Sandra Cook (04/08/2008)
  • Can anyone help me? I am one of 3 sisters, Gay, Lee and Kim. My father is Robert Cranstone and my mother is Patricia Cranstone. On my mum’s side, maiden name was Sayers, my mum’s mum and dad were Albert (Bert) Sayers and Lilian Sayers. I was told Bert my grandad use to nickname himself Valentine, and this was linked with his grandad Thomas Sayers who was a bare knuckle fighter. I stumbled on this site and saw a few people who may be linked to me and wondered if anyone could fill in the gaps. I am struggling as my mum doesn’t like to talk of the past and doesn’t want to bring any of it up as she was estranged from her brother and sister, but whether it was one sister and one brother I am not sure or if there was others – a Tommy was brought up which I think is her brother but not sure or this could be her sister’s boy. I would love to get to the bottom of this – what is a confusing tangled mess. If anyone out there knows me or my family please get in contact. I am afraid I have no birth death or any certificates and have only started recently to find out more about my history and family that I have not met yet. So I think Tom Sayers was my great great grandfather? And why ‘Valentine’?

    By Sue Cranstone (15/08/2008)
  • It would seem large families are in the Sayers blood; I am the son of William Alan Henry Sayers who has 10 brothers and sisters, from eldest to youngest – Valerie, William, Anthony, Christine, Raymond, Sally, Gerald, Rosie, Richard, John. It states that Tom died of Diabetes which is a common problem within my family; also pictures of Tom do have a striking resemblance to my Grandfather William. I am embarking on a project to make a documentary about this forgotten hero and find out if I actually am a distant relative. So if you want to be involved or have information then please e-mail me craig@craigrock.com

    By Craig Sayers (29/08/2008)
  • Contributors to this page might be interested to know that a new book on Tom Sayers has just been published. ‘The Lion and the Eagle’ by Iain Manson (that’s me) is published by SportsBooks of Cheltenham at £14.99.
    I have plenty to say on Pimlico, and on Tom’s tangled and miserable home life, but please be aware that my book will not help anyone trace their ancestry. My focal point is the Sayers-Heenan prize fight of April 1860.
    Just one comment about ancestry. Dean Sayers (above) is correct in saying that no one with the name Sayers can be a direct descendant of the boxer (unless, of course, one of his female descendants happened to marry a man called Sayers) since the offspring of Tom’s only son died in childhood. However, anyone with the name Sayers might be descended from a brother of Tom’s.

    By Iain Manson (24/10/2008)
  • I have just been talking to my mother about Tom Sayers. She has been telling me he was my grandmother’s grandfather. Some of the family where fishermen in Brighton as well as bricklayers. Their surname was Chapman. One of the relations was an opera singer and went to live in America.

    By Phil Easen (14/12/2008)
  • What a great thread! Idling away time here in New York I came across it while thinking about Tom Sayers. My mother, Patricia Sayers Jensen (74, nee Sayers Farnsworth, born Bakewell, Derbyshire) has always maintained a link to Tom, though she has no idea how/why etc. She has a number of framed prints of Tom, and that’s about it. Anyway, fascinating reading, I’ll keep checking in!

    By Hayden Vann Jensen (07/03/2009)
  • Well here is a twist. For 5 generations we lived with a Barnardo home boy James Thomas Sayer. He always claimed his grandfather was the boxer. I have just started the search. I know he had family that came to see him – from England, I believe. He left behind a picture of his mother (Grace), a bible with an inscription, and a picture that people left when they came to see him. He was a good and faithful friend all his life. He never married and is buried in our family plot . Any one remember a visit to Ontario Canada?

    By Barbara Ross (24/03/2009)
  • Those who think they might be descended from Tom Sayers might find something of interest if they google genforum “the brighton boy” and rootschat “thomas sayers”.

    By Iain Manson (12/04/2009)
  • My Gt Gt Grandmother was Elizabeth Sayers. Her cousin being Tom Sayers linked by their Grandparents. My Gt Aunts Nance and Olive Guy often visited the grave of Tom in Highgate during the 1930-50s when they lived in London. I also have a photo of myself taken at his grave side.

    By Jacqueline Settle (29/04/2009)
  • Hi! What a great Thread! Note for Sandra Cook (04/08/2008). I have been researching my family tree and your past history links directly to mine! Peter Married Hannah and they had a number of children including Charles Sayers. Charles married Sarah and had a son called Ernest. Ernest married Emily and had Archy. Archy married Bessie and had a son called Colin. Colin is my father! Obviously, there were other children in all the marriages, but this is the direct link to my family!

    By Linda Sayers (29/06/2009)
  • This made interesting reading. The Sayers family is very big for certain. My Grandfather passed onto me photos of Tom, boxing medals, paper cuttings, photos of his funeral and family, and subsequent grave. His name was Charles Harry Sayers, Chaz H. for short. My understanding is that Tom’s direct lineage moved to Australia then to New Zealand. The family is big here too.

    By Greg Sayers (15/08/2009)
  • I’m also related to Tom Sayers on my grandfather’s side, he was an uncle somewhere along the line I think? My grandad is deceased so I was never able to find out much about our relationship with him but this has made interesting reading as my grandad was not from a large family. Or maybe he was and never knew it! He was called Donald Charles Francis and he and his parents lived in Dorking, Surrey all their lives.

    By Natalie James (18/09/2009)
  • My Dad, known as Jack Sayers, was actually named Thomas Jack Sayers. He was known as Jack because his Uncle was Tom Sayers, the bare knuckle boxer. I do not know any more.

    By Gill Baulcombe nee Sayers (24/11/2009)
  • Tommy Sayers was my Great Grandfather, he was my grand mother’s father, (Maud Mary Sayers who married my gran father Harold Albert Garner). My mother was the eldest daughter of them Winifred Maud, who then married my father Sydney Cecil Rhodes, who was my Mum’s Dad. My Father was a by-product of  Cecil Rhodes’ brother John.

    By Raymond Garner/ Rhodes (03/12/2009)
  • I have just read some of the comments about people with the surname Sayers. I would be greatful for some history about the Sayers family, as my parents come from London. It would be nice to know if there are any relations in Brighton.

    By Gray Sayers (05/01/2010)
  • A note for Gray Sayers. My name is Lynda and I posted a comment in 2009. My family originates from the area of Henfield, Hurstpierpoint, Clayton and Keymer. However, I know that at least three ancestors emigrated via marriage to Canada and the USA and four went to London. I can verify that from 1881 (possibly before) my family moved to Brighton. It would be nice to know your history. contact me please and we can ‘speak’

    By Lynda Sayers (11/01/2010)
  • My paternal grandmother was a Sayers. Her ancestors lived in various parishes in Sussex. I am interested in (a) the origin of the Sayers name (b) the distribution of Sayers thoughout Sussex (c) gathering Sayers family trees as I’ve embarked on a one name study for the old county of Sussex (d) the naming of Sayers Common. (Am not aware that we have any connection to the famous boxer). Some people on my Sayers lines moved to London and also to Bristol in the late 1800s. I was very close to my Sayers grandmother and her two brothers and two sisters. No known diabetes, but great longevity.

    By Carole Stanford (28/01/2010)
  • This subject justs gets more interesting as it goes on! Thomas was a very popular name for the Sayers family – I can personally take it back to 1680. It does not mean that everyone named Sayers is directly descended from Thomas Sayers the boxer. However, within my family tree, I can prove that I am directly descended from a Thomas Sayers who was a Prize Cock/Chicken Fighter in Keymer, Sussex. So maybe fighting is within the Sayers Blood somewhere! What do you all think?

    By Lynda Sayers (03/02/2010)
  • I am descended from the Sayers family on my Dad’s side. I changed my name by deed poll to Sayers – my great great grandmother was Jane Sayers the cousin of Tom Sayers. She was born in 1834 her father was James Sayers. My father Alan Wright – who sadly died on 15th May 1994 – had just written a book about Tom Sayers which was published in May 1994. I have all his work that he did tracing the family tree and lots of photos, etc. Love the connection with the SAYERS!

    By Allison Sayers (06/02/2010)
  • Maybe it’s just the Six Degrees of Separation theory at play, but I’m drawn to wonder if indeed everybody isn’t descended from the pugilist, Tom Sayers. It is to me a very curious thing, but I can vividly recall an occurence more than fifty years ago in my grandmother’s house – she showed me a faded and yellowed newspaper clipping, depicting (I think an ‘etching’ – but maybe a copy of a photograph of) a boxer, in classic ‘pose’. She told me that this was Tom Sayers, the All England bare-knuckle champion and that he was her (I think she said) uncle. She was a ‘gentle-lady’ and I have forever felt she had absolutely no incentive to claim relationship to a tough-boy, if it wasn’t the truth. Her maiden name was Sarah Nash, she was born in NZ in 1890 but her father’s family originated from Edmonton / Enfield. I have recently made some inroads in researching the Nash’s but have yet to discover any link at all to Tom Sayers. However, it gets curiouser; my wife had a grandfather (born in Wing, Hertfordshire, and came to NZ by himself, as a fifteen year old) who throughout his life also claimed that he was directly descended from the same Tom Sayers. He was adamant that his mother, one Susan Giles, was one of Tom’s granddaughters. Now, I know that boxing was THE English sport – and notwithstanding that Tom Sayers was a ‘hero’ of his time, it just seems strangely coincidental that both sides of my family lay claim to him. Does anyone who has done a little work on the family tree recognise anything at all in those names of ‘Nash’ and ‘Giles’? I’m just very curious. Thanks for wading through my saga.

    By Ed Eyre (in New Zealand) (19/02/2010)
  • Those with an interest in Tom Sayers might like to know that an event is being organised in Farnborough for Saturday, 17th April, the 150th anniversary of his great fight with John Heenan. What it will amount to is not entirely clear, but details may be had from Farnborough Public Library on 0845 603 5631.

    By Iain Manson (24/03/2010)
  • Has anyone got a true family tree history for Tom Sayers up to his birth. I’m trying to trace some family ties and it would be very helpfull, i.e. grandmother, mother and their sisters and brothers, thanks.

    By Russell Crispin (23/05/2010)
  • After reading all of the above, I believe that I can extend my family tree on my Dad’s side! I have always been told from a very young age that Tom Sayers was my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather: I have a family tree and he is at the very top. Great to see names like Mary and Jack appear in the above comments as these have all been family names for many generations in our family. My middle name is Mary, my aunty is Mary again on my Dad’s side. I am so interested in finding so much more out about Tom. My Dad, uncles and even my Nan when she was alive have all told me many stories about this great bare-fist knuckle fighter over the years. My Dad even says there is a commerative plaque on, under or near a railway bridge in Welwyn Garden City. I think this is going to lead me to find out so much more. If anyone wants to contact me please feel free natasha.oakes@ntlworld.com  Oakes is my married name, but Ellis is my maiden name.

    By Natasha Ellis (27/08/2010)
  • My grandmother was a lady named Hetti Sayer who originated from Southampton. Was born in the 1880s and always told me that Tom Sayer was her uncle. I am now 69 and was told about the stories of Tom Sayer before I was 10 years old. I was told about him being a bricklayer and was told about his 50 round fight with a gypsy named Mendosa. Also there is supposed to be a plaque on the Welwyn Garden viaduct. Have looked for it but have never found it as yet. My father, named John Henry Ellis (Jack), who lived in Southall, Middlesex, was a heavyweight champion of the north district of the Gaslight and Coke company back in the 1920s-30s. Was also a boxing booth fighter. Since researching today I find that Tom Sayers owned a circus for a short while (about a year) - sold it at a great loss then became a clown for a while which is amazing as my own daughter Natasha is also a clown – Pippa. How about that then - not only fighting in the genes but clowning as well! Hope this infomation helps all the other family members. Please contact me.

    By David John Ellis (27/08/2010)
  • Amazed we all are! Am finding out much more about Tom Sayers. In my first comment above all the info I had was still quite hazy, but now, having spent the last 2 days researching more about this great man, I have found out so much more. I see even my Dad, David Ellis, has added a comment. So it seems that Tom Sayers was in fact my great, great, not sure how many times great uncle. For me personally I was blown away by the fact that Tom invested his money into a circus after retiring from bare-fist knuckle fighting, as I myself have always had this interest in the circus and clowns! I myself am a clown, I have entertained large crowds for the last 10 years in the entertainment business. Tom even ended up with his own circus and became a clown himself. As for the family, we would like to contact anyone who knows of the late Hetti Sayers? I believe she may have been named Harriett, Hetti for short? If anyone has any info please contact me on my email natasha.oakes@ntlworld.com

    By Natasha Ellis (28/08/2010)
  • Tom Sayers has a ‘blue plaque’ on 257 Camden High Road, London, NW1. It marks the place where he died.

    By Russ Ellis (29/08/2010)
  • I have a print of this match. A relative of Mr Sawyer once tried to buy it off me but I was reluctant at the time. I still have it as well as a second print that names all the people at the match and I am now trying to sell it and would be grateful for any suggestions.

    By Kelly (27/09/2010)
  • I collect 18th/19th century boxing memorabilia. If anyone has any items of Tom Sayer’s photos, medals ,cdvs, cabinets etc. Please contact me, I would be willing to buy or trade. If you’re not intersted in selling, I would be interested in just viewing what you have (scan). Thanks: aaroncerin@aol.com

    By Aaron C (29/09/2010)
  • I would very much be interested in ANY information anyone may have about Tom Sayers, whatever it may be, or any belongings they believe used to belong to Tom. I’m going to be working on a project, if I find the time, going to put a lot of time into it, and who knows, it may be huge, may not. Drop me an email if you want to help.

    By Danny Sayers (07/11/2010)
  • Hello to all. My name is Gwynneth and I am 4x great niece of Mr Tom Sayers. I discovered this page whilst trying to trace records of Charles Henry Sayers, born 1846-1893 and Mary Anne Sayers born 1857-1882. My grandmother has been tracing our family tree for around 17 years now, and we are unable to find any death certificates / records for the couple of any kind. They were from a town called Cwm near Ebbw Vale, South Wales. If anyone could help us with this information, my grandmother’s life story would be almost complete, and we would be most grateful. Mr Tom Sayers retired in 1860, and at the age of 39, 5 years later, in 1865 he died of diabetes and tuberculosis. My email is:-xxgillette3xx@hotmail.com   if any of the info could be found or you have information then please email. Thank you.

    By Gwynneth (29/11/2010)
  • According to the 1851 census, Thomas a boxer, aged 25 married to Pamela 25 nee Steer, born Ealing, with son Thomas 1 and daughter Ann 3. Pamela died Dec qtr 1860 Brighton 1861 census shows 3 children, Sayers Thomas 11, Ann 13 and Mary 5 with Ann Coppard 69 a widow described as their aunt. Would suggest this information would be an accurate guide for anyone researching the family. Thomas not with his children in 1861.

    By Judith Sayers (14/08/2011)
  • I am related to the said Tom Sayers. I own a sampler worked by Caroline Sayers in 1834 – was she his sister? Stories about Tom have been passed down by word-of-mouth. My Mother was Ellen Margaret Harvey nee Davis; her mother was Victoria Ellen Davis nee Attree [born at Gold Bridge Cottages, Langton Lane, Sayers Common] and her mother was Mary Jane Attree nee Wickham; and her mother was the said Caroline Wickham nee Sayers. . . So, was my Mother’s, Mother’s, Mother’s, Mother, Tom Sayers’ sister, or what? I’d be grateful if any reader could shed any light on Tom Sayers’ near family.

    By Trevor Stanley Harvey (14/05/2012)
  • With reference to my published comment of 15.05.2012, I will be grateful if any reader could email me: trevorstanleyharvey@tiscali.co.uk

    By Trevor Stanley Harvey (18/05/2012)
  • It is true that there are no descendants of Tom Sayers called Sayers. Tom had a son, also Tom, and a daughter. His wife had other children but Tom was not the father. Tom’s son emigrated to Australia and died in the 1930s. He had, I think, 4 children who all died in infancy. Tom’s descendants all derive from his daughter Sarah. She married Tom Mensley and moved to Newcastle. My grandma was Rosina Stebbings, whose mother Rose was Sarah’s daughter. My grandma married Joseph Powton and my mother Joan Brown was their eldest daughter. I am Tom’s great great great grandson.

    By Robert Brown (30/09/2012)
  • Tom Sayers was a mate of my great, great, great grandfather, Tom Cribb. Tom S acquired the Silver Championship Cup and Lion skin belt from my great, great, great grandfather. I would love to see them one time. Please can anyone point me in the right direction?Many thanks, Mark Cribb 07718914068.

    By Mark Cribb (07/11/2012)
  • One of my family members has Tom Sayers World cup. They did have his boxing shirt but it was thrown away many years ago. If you want a photo contact me.

    Editor’s note: Perhaps you could scan the photo and send me a copy and I can put it on the website for everyone to see? Mail me at: jennifer@mybrightonandhove.org.uk

    By Alan Wardle (08/11/2013)
  • Does anybody know anything about the Henry Sayers who wrote “Fights Forgotten: A History of Some of the Chief English and American Prize Fights since the Year 1788”, published early 1900s? Is he any relation to Tom, or is this coincidental?

    By Cathy (17/12/2013)
  • Hi Robert Brown – Sarah Sayers, Tom’s daughter, married George Mensley. They had 10 children, 9 of whom survived into adulthood. Your great grandma Rose (I think she was Rosina Mensley) was the sister of my great grandma Edith. Sarah had 2 sons – John and George Mensley, the rest all girls. Sarah’s brother Tom married an Australian woman, Annie, and had 3 children who all died of scarlet fever – so sad. Tom and Annie moved back to England not long afterwards. Tom died in London in 1936 about a month after Annie died. Regards, Tayler Cresswell.

    By Tayler (03/01/2014)
  • My dad did our family tree and found out I’m related to Tom Sayers. I’ve got a bit if his look and also have big knuckles like he did! I enjoyed the programme “Fight club. A history of violence”. It was about him.

    By Paul Sayers (27/01/2014)
  • I’m not sure but my dad’s name is Thomas Sayers and he grew up in Paddington and my father actually looks the spitting image of Tom Sayers and my dad’s father was a small man who was a legend in his own right. He was a desert rat and during WW2 they used to get him to fight Africans who were much bigger than him and knock them out with very little effort earning the lads money. I can prove any relationship but I’ve always been told that we are related though I have no evidence.

    By Len Sayers (26/08/2017)
  • I have found out that I am the great, great, great, great, granddaughter of Tom Sayers and am looking to connect with other family members. I am curious about some of the above information as it does not match the information I have researched. MY line is that Tom and Sarah Henderson had a son called Thomas G. Sayers. He married and Eliza Parker and they had a son called John. W. Sayers. John married Susan Abbott and had a daughter called Ethel Sayers. Ethel married Ellis Mitchell and had a son called Arnold Mitchell. Arnold Mitchell married Marjorie Cochrane and had a daughter called Judith Mitchell….Judith is my mother. I am trying to contact authors of some of the publications which have been written about Tom Sayers and I visited Highgate Cemetery last week.

    By Melanie Mitchell (12/10/2019)
  • in reply to Melanie Mitchell:

    I’m sorry Melanie but it looks like you don’t have Tom Sayers (the pugilist) in your tree. Tom had one son, also called Tom.

    Tom Jr emigrated to Australia where he married and had three children. Tragically, all three children, while at primary school age, died within the space of eight days after an outbreak of scarlet fever.

    There is an horrendous amount of misinformation, both on the internet and in printed matter, surrounding the family life of Tom Sayers (the pugilist) and there is plenty of it in this thread above. But the tragic story surrounding the death of those three children is indisputable.

    Tom Sayers (the pugilist) did marry Sarah Henderson (in 1853), after the birth of their two children, Sarah Jr (b.1850) and Tom Jr (b.1852). But it appears that your tree deviates after this as Tom Jr married a lady called Annie O’Brien out in Australia and they remained together until their deaths in the 1930s.

    By David R (30/01/2020)
  • I was always told by mum that Tom Sayers was a distant relation of ours. She also told me that Sayers Common which is very close to Brighton was named after him.

    By Jane Tomblin (07/04/2021)
  • Jane,sorry but it is highly unlikely that the place is in any way connected to Tom Sayers. According to ‘Place Names Of Sussex’ by Judith Glover, the place name is derived from it being connected to Walter le Saghier of Poynings [1327].

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (08/04/2021)
  • Hi, I’m Kristy Sayers from Australia. I have a Thomas Sayers in my family. (not the boxer). Thomas emigrated to Australia and married Jane Hixon. He was born in 1874 and died in 1919. I can’t find anymore info on the Sayers side. It seems that Thomas was a repetitive name. I am currently working on my family tree but when I look on the Sayers side I don’t have much luck. I am from Queensland and most of my family are from the central QLD area. I would love to find out more info. If you have any at all that may help please email me kmsajb11@gmail.com

    By Kristy Sayers (15/01/2022)

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