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HS2 work could unearth remains of UK’s ‘first black sporting star’

Former slave Bill Richmond was known as the 'Black Terror' in the ring

23 February, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Bill Richmond

MORE than 200 years ago a former American slave dominated British boxing rings and became the country’s first black sporting superstar.

Bill Richmond, who died in 1829, was a pioneering pugilist who led an extraordinary life, according to his biographer, who believes work on the HS2 project is about to unearth the boxer’s remains.

More than 60,000 bodies believed to buried at St James Gardens are due to be exhumed throughout the spring and summer as part of the HS2 work.

Richmond’s biographer Luke Williams said: “I believe that Bill Richmond – a former slave who went on to become a famous boxer and the first black sports star in history – is probably buried in the gardens. Richmond is listed in the burial records of St James Church, Piccadilly and this means he was probably buried in St James Gardens, which was the overspill facility for this church.”

He added: “The opportunity to locate Richmond’s burial place and see if his remains, if any, can be found, so they can be preserved and reburied for the benefit of future generations, is one that should not be missed.”

He added: “I spent 12 years researching and writing Bill’s biography, Richmond Unchained, which was published in 2015. Bill is considered one of the most important figures in black British social and sporting history and featured recently in the TV programme Black and British: A Forgotten History.”

Richmond began life as a slave owned by the Rev Richard Charlton in Staten Island, New York, and was sent to England by Earl Percy, a commanding general of the British forces in New York.

Known as the “Black Terror”, he went on to become one of British boxing’s most accomplished and respected fighters in the late 18th and early 19th century. In his later years Richmond ran a boxing academy in London, where he died on December 29, 1829, aged 66.

 

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