Charles Morton, the landlord of the Tiger’s Head always seemed to be on the look-out for sporting events, particularly those that involved gambling, that might bring in customers. The blog has covered distance running, sprinting and hurdling and horse racing before. So it is of no great surprise that live pigeon shooting, common in Victorian Britain, was tried out at the Tiger’s Head over the winters of 1843 and 1844.
It was a sport that had a ‘not quite respectable’ reputation – there were sometimes reports of those operating the traps being bribed to pull out the tail feathers from an opponent’s bird to make it fly erratically and hence be much harder to shoot.
The picture below is of the sort of ‘trap’ that was probably used – this one is in the Ryedale Folk Museum – several would be lined up in a row. They would have a lever connected to a rope at the side – once ready the shooter would shout ‘pull’, the rope was pulled and the pigeons escaped into a hail of shot.
In February 1843, ‘The Era’ noted ‘A goodly muster of shooters attended at Morton’s, the Tiger’s Head, Lee Green, where several sweepstakes and matches were excellently contested’ (1). The second reported shoot was the following year, although sadly for Moreton, poor weather seems to have restricted the turnout for the meeting during the second week in January 1844 (2).
Two weeks later another shooting match was advertised for up to 10 people with 10 shilling entrance fee, 7 pigeons each, for a silver cup prize (3). In the end only 6 participated, including an appropriately named Mr Bang – the cup being won by a Mr Luffman (4).
There were no reports in subsequent years of pigeon shooting at the Tiger’s Head, while the poor turnout amongst the competitors may have had a bearing on this, the changing neighbourhood with the area around Lee Green with new housing being developed on Lee Road and Lee Park was probably as significant a factor though. Horse racing, the Lee Races which the blog covered a while ago, met a similar fate during 1844 too.
Moreton though had troubles of his own which may have distracted him from his business – his father, also a publican working then in Blackfriars, had got into serious debt after an employee stole from him and he took his life in 1844. The inquest was at the Tiger’s Head.
- The Era (London, England), Sunday, February 19, 1843; Issue 230.
- The Era (London, England), Sunday, 14 January, 1844; Issue 277.
- The Era (London, England), Sunday, 31 December, 1843; Issue 275
- The Era (London, England), Sunday, 21 January, 1844; Issue 278 (including press cutting)
Photo of the (Old) Tiger’s Head in its original incarnation is from the information board by the Leegate Centre at Lee Green.