Literary Locations #8: The Rancliffe Arms

John Baird
Thu 29 Nov, 2018

Bunny's The Rancliffe Arms and a 1713 protest book made in Nottingham.

This week’s location is the land on which The Rancliffe Arms’ car park now covers.

Every year between 1712 and 1811 wrestling took place here, with a gold-laced hat for the winner. The competition’s instigator was Sir Thomas Parkyns, the second baronet of Bunny; known as ‘the Wrestling Baronet’ on account of his devotion to the sport, to which he applied philosophy, art and science. His book on wrestling, entitled ‘Inn-Play, or the Cornish Hugg Wrestler’, is probably the first book printed in Nottingham, around 1713.

Inn-Play, which was produced by the Nottingham printers William and Anne Ayscough, offers insight into the history of professional wrestling. It’s an early ‘how to…’ with all the wrestling techniques explained, in the hope that it would create a renewed interest in the sport and improve standards. Wanting to save lives, Parkyns also used the book to promote wrestling as a sensible means of duelling, in preference to guns. The book, which included a dedication to King George II, may even be viewed as an early protest book, against the use of guns.

Parkyns was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. A classicist, man of letters, architect and builder, he studied mathematics under Sir Isaac Newton, and read medicine, in order to help his poorer neighbours.

There is a monument to Parkyns in St. Mary’s Church in Bunny, the largest church building in south Nottinghamshire. This monument, which was erected by Parkyns during his lifetime, depicts the great man in wrestling pose. He is buried beneath it inside a stone he also made.


Sir Thomas in a life-size effigy, ready to wrestle. He designed the large monument himself.

Parkyns did much for the village of Bunny, including the restoration of the village hall and the building of a school, which included apartments for the master and, keeping with Parkyns’ philanthropist ways, rooms for four poor widows. ‘Introduction to the Latin tongue’ was written by Parkyns for his grandson who attended the Bunny school, and a books’ grant was given to any apprentices who went on to university.

“Parkyns employed many people and was one of the first bosses in Britain to introduce a minimum wage; some compensation for his staff who often had to grapple with him. ”

It’s said that he wouldn’t employ any man on his estate who was not a proficient wrestler.

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Thomas Parkyns

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