The Fighting Cocks Inn


The Fighting Cocks Inn is situated at Mereclough in Cliviger, not far from Ormerod itself. As its name implies it owes its early notoriety to the cruel sport of cock fighting.

This was entirely maintained and supported by the squires and landowners of matching gamecocks against each other in specially prepared cockpits from which there was no escape. This was a "sport" that was prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries, and landlords required their tenants to rear fighting birds from which the strongest and most aggressive cocks were chosen. Matches were arranged and widely advertised between the rival owners. These were popular events and well attended.

It is said that the Fighting Cocks Inn owes its name to a contest between Ormerod's "Butterfly" and Towneley's "Caesar" the account recorded by Massey's Burnley Brewery reads as follows:

"Round after round was fought, until at length Butterfly lay prostate on the ground, seemingly in a dying condition, while Caesar was also in a similar state. Ormerod having lost the fight, as far as appearance went, mounted his horse and rode away in the direction home, expecting that he was a ruined man. Having proceeded along the highway as far as the High Style, midway between Ormerod and Mereclough, he heard a great shout arise from the vicinity of the cockpit. Turning his head he espied a man running at top speed and throwing his cap in the air shouting "Come back, Butterfly's won". The bird had suddenly risen from the ground and by a spasmodic effort at the last jump had driven his spur through the head of his opponent, thus snatching a victory for his master."
There was a big celebration at the inn and its name was changed to "Fighting Cocks". A sign has hung for many generations outside the inn. On one side is a painting of two cocks in the attitude of preparing to fly at each other, and underneath the words;
"For heaps of gold and silver do we fight
Death comes at every blow when it hits right"
On the reverse side is a cock crowing over the dead body of its rival, with the words;
"Brave Towneley's "Caesar" here doth bleeding lye
Killed by Ormerod's gallant "Butterfly"".

There is a tradition that the contestants had wagered their estates upon the fight so its possible that the relevant Towneley was not of Towneley but of Hurstwood.

It can be confirmed that Hurstwood Hall passed from Towneley into Ormerod hands in the 18th century. If this were so the Ormerod in question would have been Lawrence Ormerod (1654-1721) of Foxstones, and the wager could have been the Ormerod property of Foxstones against the Towneley's Hurstwood Hall.

Hurstwood Hall had been built by Barnard Towneley and his wife, Agnes (née Ormerod) - see Barnard Towneley & Agnes Ormerod - the Abduction of an Heiress.

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The front of The Fighting Cocks Inn

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The front and reverse of the old pub sign at The Fighting Cocks, commemorating the fight between Ormerod's and Towneley's birds