Illustration of the Royal Cock Pit

Description

The Royal Cock Pit was located in Dartmouth Street near Whitehall and was the haunt of men form all social classes from the 17th century until its final demolition in 1816. In this image from the early 19th century Thomas Rowlandson depicts the raucous scenes that were still witnessed there in its final years and illustrates vividly the keen interest in the sport that was still evident. Betting men fight with one another over wagers in the crowd while others cheer as the birds commence their bloody combat.

Blood sports such as bear and badger baiting, throwing at cocks and dog fights were all accepted norms in British society during the 18th century and provided a surprisingly egalitarian past-time in a society otherwise characterised by class divisions. By the late 1700s, however, new urban sensitivities and the influence of Enlightenment ideas created new attitudes to animal welfare, resulting in a gradual decline of violent blood sports as an accepted leisure activity.

Background to the Microcosm of London collection of prints

The Microcosm of London was published in three volumes between 1808 and 1810 as a result of an ongoing collaboration between publisher Rudolph Ackermann, cartoonist and illustrator Thomas Rowlandson, architectural draughtsman Auguste Charles Pugin, engravers John Bluck, Joseph Constantine Stadler, Thomas Sunderland, John Hill and Richard Bankes Harraden, anonymous hand-colourists and authors William Henry Pyne and William Combe.

The Microcosm of London tapped into the demand for highly-coloured prints of real-life subjects that proved something of a publishing sensation during the Regency period. As such, the prints stand as a fascinating historical record of London life in the early years of the 19th century. While Pugin’s fine architectural drawings capture the size and shape of the capital’s principal buildings (both externally and from within) Thomas Rowlandson’s keenly observed figures depict the sheer colour and vitality of late Georgian society, rich and poor alike.

Full title:
Royal Cock Pit from Microcosm of London
Published:
1808-10, London
Format:
Book / Illustration / Image
Creator:
Rudolph Ackermann, W H Pyne, William Combe, Augustus Pugin, Thomas Rowlandson
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
C.194.b.305-307.

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Accumulating London

Article by:
Matthew Sangster
Themes:
Transforming topography, Town and city

Advances in print technologies, a growing consumer base and the interventions of clever entrepreneurs led to a burgeoning of prints of London in the 18th and 19th century. Matthew Sangster considers the ways in which these prints represented and organised the city, placing them onto a digital map of London to reveal the geographical and cultural patterns they trace.

Popular culture and the impact of industrialisation

Article by:
Paul Schlicke
Theme:
Popular culture

Industrialisation had a dramatic effect upon all aspects of Victorian life. Paul Schlicke examines how it led to the growth of commercial entertainment and the presence of these new cultural forms in the novels of Charles Dickens.

Related collection items