some BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF 20th century wrestlers

George Steadman


Steadman was born at Ashby, East Westmorland on February 20th 1846. At his peak, he must have had the sort of following reserved for the likes of Pele and ‘Magic’ Johnson in more recent years. He was an all round athlete in his earlier days, ‘and the prizes he took were as often in sprinting, hurdles, and best-dressed wrestler, as much as in wrestling’. before he concentrated on Cumberland and Westmorland style wrestling. He was, we are led to believe, the epitome of ‘good old honest English sportsmanship’. As a farmer, he never made a fortune, but he won hundreds of cups, belts and medals, in a wrestling career that spanned 35 years. He began by causing a minor sensation in 1868, defeating William Jamieson, the recognised champion of the day (and weighing 16 stone), at Manchester. In 1869, he won a prize at a wrestling tournament held at the Agricultural Hall on Liverpool Road, London and went on to repeat that feat every year for the next 31 years.
In 1870, one of Britain’s earliest recorded international wrestling competitions took place. The Gascon strong man François Bonnet, his partner Dubois and someone nicknamed ‘The Serpent’, travelled to England to compete with British champion wrestlers William Jamieson and Richard Wright. ‘The first match was in Cumberland style, and the Englishmen won. The second match was in the French Classical style, and the Frenchmen won. A coin was tossed for the third round style, and the French won the toss - and the match! Then, the English champion George Steadman defeated both Bonnet and Dubois in both Cumberland and French Classical style wrestling’. However, according to ‘Reminiscences on the Life of Thomas Longmire’ by J. Wilson, ‘a greater amount of shallow barney was never foisted upon the public, and neither benefited the science of wrestling or the chief actors engaged in it’, which suggests that with so much betting surrounding the event, the results were not quite what they should have been.
Over the years, Steadman’s reputation grew both as a wrestler and a sportsman, and he was always a big ‘draw’ at Grasmere. Physically, he was quite an imposing figure. At 46, he weighed 18½ stones; stood 5' 11" in height; chest 51½"; thigh 25½"; calf 17¾". He represented his country many times in International wrestling competition, adapting to international styles, as easily as his native Cumberland and Westmorland style. In February 1892, he challenged an American Wrestling champion to 5 bouts using 5 different styles, ‘Catch as Catch Can’, ‘Graeco Roman’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Collar-with-Elbow-with-Jacket’, and ‘Cumberland and Westmorland’. Steadman won 3 of the bouts, collected the £200 stakes and the title of ‘Mixed Wrestling Champion of the World’. By the time he retired, he probably had won more money at wrestling than any other wrestler upto that time. Altogether he won at least 60 cups, 20 belts, hundreds of medals and won 17 Heavyweight championships at Grasmere, before retiring in August 1900 (as World Champion) ‘to give these younger ones a chance’. He was still wrestling in exhibitions at Grasmere in 1902, only 2 years before his death, on March 5th 1904 at the age of 59.