Bill Richmond
(1763-1829)

Died aged 66

Bill Richmond (August 5, 1763 – December 28, 1829) was an African-American boxer, born a slave in Cuckold's Town (now Richmondtown), Staten Island, New York. His nickname was "The Black Terror". During the American Revolutionary War, Richmond entered the service of Hugh Percy, later the second Duke of Northumberland, who took him to England in 1777. Some historians have claimed that on September 22, 1776, Richmond was the one of the hangmen who executed Nathan Hale. However, Luke G. Williams, in his biography of Richmond, entitled Richmond Unchained, claims that the Richmond who served as the hangman of Hale was not Bill Richmond, but another man of the same surname. Williams writes that: "The Richmond as hangman theory took root due to a coalescence of circumstantial evidence: numerous accounts of Hale’s execution feature references to a black or mulatto hangman named Richmond (for example, the 1856 book Life of Nathan Hale: The Martyr Spy of the American Revolution, refers to the ‘negro Richmond, the common hangman’); artwork of the execution published by Harpers Weekly in 1860 shows a black man holding the hanging rope; and then there is Richmond’s connection to Percy and the British military, as well as the proximity of Staten Island to the site of Hale’s execution in Manhattan. Given this series of coincidences, it seems a reasonable enough piece of speculation. However several hitherto ignored sources from the eighteenth century directly contradict the possibility of Richmond being involved. Quite simply, Hale’s hangman may have been black and named Richmond, but he wasn’t Bill Richmond. Rather, as reports in the Gaines Mercury and Royal Gazette indicate, he was a Pennsylvania runaway with the same surname as Bill who ended up working as the hangman for the notorious Boston Provost Marshal William Cunningham. The hangman Richmond absconded from his duties in 1781, Cunningham offering a one-guinea reward for his return a full four years after Bill Richmond’s likely departure for England." Later, Richmond was sent to school in Yorkshire and apprenticed to a cabinet maker in York. However, he made his career as a boxer, narrowly losing to later British and world champion Tom Cribb. After his retirement from boxing, Richmond bought the Horse and Dolphin pub in Leicester Square and set up a boxing academy. Richmond received no boxing tutoring and was entirely self-taught. Weighing between 140 and 147 pounds (64 and 67 kg), he would have been a welterweight by today's standards, yet he often fought men who were 4 to 5 stone (25 to 32 kg) heavier than himself. He had excellent footwork and quick hands, which enabled him to avoid the big punches and outwork bigger fighters (the bob and weave technique). This was demonstrated in his fight with Tom Cribb, who was unable to land a punch in the early rounds. However, Cribb's superior weight and power eventually caught up with Richmond, who lost in the 60th round. He was a friend and coach of Tom Molineaux, another freed slave who took up boxing in England and fought Cribb twice for the title of world champion. Richmond died at his home in London, England in 1829, aged 66.

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Commemorated on 1 plaque

Nick Harrison on Flickr

Bill Richmond Freed Slave, Boxer, Entrepreneur Spent the last evening of his life here with his friend Tom Cribb 17 Dec 1829

36 Panton Street, London, United Kingdom where they was