By HOGARTH, William, Mr Ardesoy”, 1756 

[A trio of items relating to The Royal Cock Pit]: [The Cock Pit]; Rules of cocking; [and] Admission ticket for a cock pit.

Social & Political
  • Author: HOGARTH, William, Mr Ardesoy”
  • Publication place: The City of London
  • Publisher: The Pit. St James’ Park
  • Publication date: May 4 1756.
  • Physical description: 1. [The Cock Pit]Etching with engraved lettering.Dimensions: Sheet: 410 by 575mm; Image: 308 by 370mm.2. Rules and Order of CockingManuscript on vellum, red ink, triptych illumination depicting three pairs of cocks in fighting garb above manuscript rules, set within red ink border.Dimensions: 275 by 300mm.3. Admission ticket for a cock pit, c1795.Silver, Dimensions: Height: 37mm.
  • Dimensions: 410 by 575mm (16.25 by 22.75 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 18180


The Royal Cockpit was built in the late seventeenth century on the south side of St James’s Park, off Birdcage Walk. It was demolished in 1816.

Cockfighting was enjoyed by all levels of society. Hogarth shows the blind Lord Albemarle Bertie (c1720-1765), brother of the Duke of Ancaster, in a crowd that includes a butcher, a chimney-sweep, a sow gelder, a black footman, a coachman and a jockey; women were not admitted. James Boswell, a young Scot in London, saw the sport as a peculiarly English pastime. On 15 December 1762 he went to the Royal Cockpit:

I was sorry for the poor cocks. I looked round to see if any of the spectators pitied them when mangled and town in the most cruel manner, but I could not observe the smallest relenting sign in any countenance… Thus did I complete my true English day, and came home pretty much fatigued and pretty much confounded at the strange turn of this people…”.

The sheet of rules is remarkably specific: Rule number 12 explains the shadow over the pit in Hogarth’s print:

Should any man make a wager and lose, but not pay his dues and make another wager, he shall be put in a basket and hung up to the eaves of the main [fighting area], where all men shall see him, and there shall remain till the end of the session, when he shall be cut down and banished from the main”.

Season tickets to places of entertainment were commonly made of some durable material, often copper alloy, silver, or even gold. The obverse of the silver ticket here is engraved with the name Lord Milton”. The cockfighting owner of this ticket was probably Joseph Damer, 1st Lord Milton, later Earl of Doncaster (1715/19–1798). Milton employed the architect William Chambers at his house in Tyburn Lane (now Park Lane) in 1769–1771, and at his country seat at Milton Abbey in Dorset, 1771–1776; the architect described his patron as this unmannerly imperious Lord, who treats me as he does every body, ill” (Colvin, p.237). Milton’s son, John Damer, married the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer, and in 1776 he shot himself after he and his two brothers had contracted a debt of £70,000.” (British Museum, London 1753’) 


British Museum, London 1753’, 2003. 


  1. Paulson 206
  2. O’Connell, S. London 1753’: 5.21, 5.22, 5.23, British Museum Press, 2003.

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