John Gully

John Gully (21 August 1783 – 9 March 1863) was an English prize-fighter, horse racer and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1832 to 1837.

Early life

Gully was born at Wick, near Bath, the son of an innkeeper who became a butcher in Bath shortly after John's birth. Gully worked for his father and inherited the business on his father's death. In 1805 the business failed and as a result, Gully was imprisoned for debt.


Gully was visited in prison by a friend, Henry Pearce, a well-known prize fighter who was nicknamed "the Game Chicken". An informal match was arranged between them, which took place in the prison; as a result, Gully's debts were settled.

On 8 October 1805, Gully was again matched against Henry Pearce, before the Duke of Clarence (later William IV of the United Kingdom) and numerous other spectators. After fighting twenty eight rounds, which occupied an hour and seventeen minutes, he was beaten. In 1807, he twice fought Bob Gregson, the Lancashire Giant, for two hundred guineas a side, winning on both occasions. The foremost prizefighting reporter of the period, Pierce Egan, recorded their battle of 14 October 1807:[1]

‘Gregson’s strength was manifest to his opponent, who endeavoured to ward off its potent effects by his thorough knowledge of the science, and Gulley put in another dreadful facer, which made the claret fly in all directions, when Gregson fell' (Boxiana, vol. I)

Horse racing

Gully became the landlord of the Plough Tavern in Carey Street, London. He retired from the ring in 1808, and took to horse-racing. In 1827 he lost £40,000 by backing his horse Mameluke (for which he had paid four thousand guineas) for the St. Leger Stakes. In partnership with Robert Ridsdale, in 1832, he made £85,000 by winning The Derby and St Leger with St. Giles and Margrave.

In 1844 in partnership with John Day, Gully won the 2,000 Guineas with Ugly Buck, and two years later he took the Derby and The Oaks with Pyrrhus The First and Mendicant. In 1854 he won the Two Thousand Guineas with Hermit, and in the same year, in partnership with Henry Padwick, the Derby with Andover.

Political and business interests

Having bought Ackworth Park near Pontefract, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for the Pontefract constituency from December 1832 to July 1837.

In 1862 he purchased the Wingate Grange estate and collieries. A street in Wingate, County Durham is named after him.

Gully died at Durham on 9 March 1863 aged 79. His body was returned to Ackworth where he was interred with his daughter.[2]


Gully was twice married and had twelve children by each wife. His daughter Mary married Thomas Pedley. Their son was engineer and cricketer William Pedley.

John Gully in fiction

Gully makes a notable appearance in Royal Flash, in George MacDonald Fraser's The Flashman Papers series of books, and was played by Henry Cooper in the 1975 film version.

See also


  1. David Snowdon, Writing the Prizefight: Pierce Egan's Boxiana World (Bern, 2013)
  2. Miles, Henry Downes (1906). Pugilistica: the history of British boxing containing lives of the most celebrated pugilists. Edinburgh: John Grant. pp. 182–192. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Valentine Stafford-Jerningham and
John Savile, Viscount Pollington
Member of Parliament for Pontefract
With: Henry Valentine Stafford-Jerningham, to 1835;
John Savile, Viscount Pollington, to 1835–1837
Succeeded by
Richard Monckton Milnes
William Thomas Stanley-Massey-Stanley
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