Seconds out! Coulsdon’s Art Trail goes another two rounds

Royal prize fight: this picture, from the British Museum collection, shows the 1788 contest at Smitham Bottom. Prince George is in the blue jacket to the right, and there’s a gallows in the background

The Coulsdon Art Trail, which commemorates the history of an area that was once known as Smitham Bottom, now has seven finials, after the addition of one outside Coulsdon Library, the other outside Aldi.

Ding-dong: the finial outside Coulsdon Library commemorates the 1788 fight

Finials are small, stylised metal models, and have been placed at the top of signposts and lampposts in Coulsdon town centre.  The first three were unveiled in early 2021, with a further two put in place 12 months ago.

“These finials commemorate the history of Coulsdon and Smitham Bottom and were selected from a list of suggestions that were put together from a public consultation by East Coulsdon Residents’ Association,” Charlie King, one of the movers behind the project, said.

The new finial outside Coulsdon Library commemorates the visit to Smitham Bottom of George, the Prince of Wales (who would go on to become King George IV).

At the height of the Regency period, on June 9, 1788, the Prince turned up at Lion Green to watch the bare-knuckle prize fight between “Gentleman” John Jackson and the grizzled veteran from Birmingham, Thomas Futtrell. Smitham Bottom was near enough to London for the Prince to attend, but far enough away for the police not to – bare-knuckle fighting was illegal.

It was 19-year-old Jackson’s first professional fight against the undefeated Futtrell. Futtrell had won his 18 previous contests, at a time when the fighters would carry on, round-after-round, until one of them could carry on no longer. The fights drew huge crowds, and were a focus for a large amount of betting, which will have also interested the Prince.

Something to crow about: the Cock Inn sign in Sutton

Jackson and Futtrell fought for an hour and seven minutes, the younger man wearing down his opponent until Futtrell was forced to retire, exhausted.

Jackson became one of the biggest sporting celebrities of his day. After he retired from professional fighting in 1795, he on to run the Cock Inn in Sutton. It is not confirmed, but it is believed that there was rarely any trouble in the Cock Inn as long as Jackson was the landlord…

Although the inn closed in the early 1960s, the historic inn’s sign still remains on Sutton High Street; it is Grade II-listed.

A picture of the boxing match between Thomas Futtrell and “Gentleman” John Jackson by the noted 18th-century caricuturist James Gillray is in the British Museum collection.

Coulsdon’s second new finial commemorates another long lost landmark pub, The Red Lion, which stood on the site where Aldi is today.

The original pub was built in 1680, and was rebuilt in 1927. It was demolished in 2003; the supermarket was built there in 2015.

The first evidence of the pub on this site appears on John Seller’s map of 1680. Until the middle of the 19th century, it was the only building along the length of the Brighton Road, opposite Lion Green where fairs, sports and festivities took place. In the 19th century the Red Lion became a common stop for stagecoaches on their run from London to Brighton. On some days 15 or more coaches called on route these included the Royal Mail, the Comet, The Times and The Sovereign.

After the railways came to Coulsdon in 1841, and following the building of Cane Hill Hospital, the town centre shifted away from Lion Green.

Pub history: the original Red Lion Hotel was built on the Brighton Road in what is now Coulsdon in 1680. There was a pub on the site for more than 300 years

After the First World War, the Red Lion became a bus terminal for the 58 bus from Camden Town. The 1927 rebuilt pub was a much larger size, with three bars, a restaurant, function room and an off licence.

Finial in place: the Red Lion commemorated

In the 1970s it was revamped internally and converted to a Berni Inn. But during the 1990s it was allowed to become run down, until its eventual closure.

Prior to closure, the building had been taken on by Scottish and Newcastle brewers, and a planning application submitted to convert the pub into a hotel. But before permission could be granted, Scottish and Newcastle sold their hotel business.

Then, in 2008, the remainder of Scottish and Newcastle empire was split between Carlsberg and Heineken brewers. As the Red Lion was closed, it was not included in the sale and so was demolished, becoming a car park and eventually sold to Aldi.

The other five Coulsdon Art Trail finials include portrayals of Cuthraed, the Saxon warrior after whom Coulsdon is named; the greater yellow rattle, which grows prolifically on Farthing Downs and Happy Valley; the Surrey Iron Railway, Britain’s first public railway; the first cricket match on Lion Green in 1739; and Emmeline Pankhurst, who spoke on Votes from Women in April 1911 at Smitham Parish Hall.

Coulsdon Art Trail and the finials have been put together by East Coulsdon RA with additional donations from individuals and businesses of Coulsdon.

Charlie King said, “We are now collecting for the next two finials, and welcome donations.”

If you would like to donate please contact East Coulsdon RA on

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