English Heavy Weight Boxing Champion (1765-1766): Huguenot Descendant
Tom Juchau, born in 1739 in St Giles, London, was the son of a Calvinist, Charles Juchau, a baker, who came to London from Deux-Sevres (Poitou) around 1710. Charles (1688-1756) settled in St Giles, Holborn (Soho) and married Elizabeth Sibley in 1725 at Fleet Prison.
Charles left his home in the Beausaiss-La Motte locality following the continued oppression of Calvinists and the economic disaster of 1709/10 winter, the coldest in Europe for 500 years. Widespread famine and starvation followed as well as a record death toll in most regions of France. It is not known whether religious and/or economic imperatives promoted Charles’ migration.
Tom became a Pavior (men responsible for the paving and maintenance of London streets) in his early teens and by his mid-twenties took up bareknuckle boxing as a sideline with the hope to build his wealth through prize fighting.
Boxing, the bare knuckle form, was started by James Figg in Tottenham Court Road in 1719 and continued in various formats until the last bareknuckle fight was recorded in the USA in 1892 when the new Marquess of Queensbury boxing rules were adopted.
Figg was the first English champion from 1719 to 1730. Among his successors was Jack Broughton, who drew up a clear code of rules for bareknuckle fighting and is known as the Father of the English School of Pugilism. He was the English champion 1736-1750 and is the only champion boxer to be buried at Westminster Abbey in 1789.
A boxing match, often under the patronage or sponsorship of a nobleman who offered prize money to the winner, would last until the opponent went down and yielded. Rounds were of varying length and separated by a break of usually 30 seconds. After Broughton’s reign English championship matches were haphazardly arranged and returned to a more organised format around 1780.
Until 1771 when a championship fight took place at Epsom Downs, boxing matches were held in crude amphitheatres or rings in places like Smithfield, Southwark, St Albans, Hyde Park and Guilford. Championship fights took place when challengers were encouraged by prize money. It was known that betting on fights was common and led to some results being fixed.
Tom Juchau and his brother, Phillip, took up boxing around 1762-63, a common sideline for Paviors whose heavy working conditions produced hardened, tough and robust men.
Tragically Phillip, when fighting in a local non-championship fight, was killed in 1765 while boxing James Warren, a butcher, at Moorfields for a 10 pound prize. His death occurred when thrown to the ground and received a fatal knock to his head.
Tom challenged a Charles Cohant for a prize fight of 50 guineas in June 1764 at Guilford where he won after a 47 minute contest.
In August 1765 Tom challenged George Millsom for the Championship of England which he won in a 70 minute contest. His aggressive, ferocious style of fighting earned him the nick name of the “Disher’’ – a tag used by his contemporaries. More generally, in his local area of Shoreditch, he was known as Tom the “Swiss” because many thought his surname had Swiss origins. (I would love to know how his surname was pronounced by locals-author).
In May 1766, again at Guilford, he defended English his title against William Darts, a Spitalfields dyer, for a purse of 1000 guineas (prize 500/1000 guineas?). He lost following a 40-minute match. It was a bitter and tough fight. Darts held his title till 1769, then lost, but regained it and held it to 1771. Over his boxing career Tom had over a hundred fights.
Tom or Thomas married Elizabeth Archer in 1759. While working as a Pavior and engaging in boxing matches, he successfully raised a family of 11 children. It was rumoured that an area in Shoreditch, where he lived, was named, for a time, Juchau Place. He led a humble life following retirement and died in 1806 at his home in Bateman’s Row, Shoreditch and outlived his eight siblings.
In accounts of Huguenot exiles there is justifiable pride in the way in which they went from exclusion to inclusion and made successful lives in their adopted countries. Charles died before his son gained his boxing crown and it would have been wonderful to know what he thought of his champion son.
Sent in by Roger Juchau
Juchau H, Juchau Family History Files, (H Juchau, Orange, 2016 and Ancestry.com)
Juchau R, Light After Darkness: Exiles: Charles and James Juchau, (Cilento, 2016)
Rawson M, The Bare-Knuckle Legacy of Boxing, (Sports Illustrated, Feb. 1961)
Tom was the grandfather of James Juchau (1814-1897) who came to colony of NSW, Australia as a juvenile convict in 1830. James is the great, great grandfather of the author.