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Tragedy on the evening train from Epsom Races

Imposing photograph of Boxer Joe Bowker full name Joseph Lord Bowker

Salford born Joe Bowker (1881-1955) was a British boxer who was world bantamweight champion from 1904 to 1905. In 51 professional fights, he compiled a career record of 40 wins, 8 losses and one draw with two no-decisions. Fourteen wins came by knockout.

British boxing historian Maurice Golesworthy wrote of him: "Indeed, there are many authorities who rate Joe Bowker as the most skilful boxer ever produced in this country. 

Source : Wikipedia

Joe Bowker is buried in Brockley cemetery and his remarkable life story as a boxer has been well covered. See this link for Joe Bowker's fighting history.

Photo taken by author.

Sadly the inscription on the flattened headstone enveloped by undergrowth in Brockley cemetery of Joseph Lord Bowker has most of its lettering missing.

For the purposes of this post , I wanted to allude to a boxing match from 1905 in which Joe Bowker defeated a legendary East End boxer called Pedlar Palmer also known as Thomas Palmer nicknamed 'Box o' Tricks'

Pedlar Palmer (1876 – 1949) was an English boxer who held the world bantamweight championship from 1895 to 1899. His story is another remarkable one and this link gives you a flavour. 

One of Palmer’s last great performances was on March 20 1905, when he challenged Joe Bowker for the British featherweight title, and also the British version of the World featherweight title, and was stopped in the 12th round of a thrilling contest.

But in April 1907 Palmer was involved in an altercation, when he took exception to a passenger's use of abusive language in front of women and children, on a train returning to London from Epsom Races, this was to be a devastating turning point in his boxing career. The original charge of murder was reduced and he was jailed for 5 years for manslaughter. The fellow passenger on the train whose life was ended so tragically was a Deptford Gas fitter called Robert Choat who died from a blow to the head. The death of a train passenger at the hands of a former World Champion boxer attracted huge publicity here and abroad.

LONDON, April 25. -- "Pedlar" Palmer, the English pugilist, who with another man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of having caused the death of Robert Choat, a Gas house stoker of Deptford, whose body was found in a railroad car coming from Epsom, after the races, was charged at the Croydon Police Court this morning, with murder.

Source : New York Times.( 1907)

What of Robert Choat of Creek road, Deptford. Unfortunately we know very little of Roberts life before this time. His widow, Mary Elizabeth Choat received £67 when probate was settled. Robert was interred in Brockley cemetery on the 4th May 1907. His grave appears to be an unmarked one.

Another fascinating cemetery link is that of the Anglican priest who officiated at Robert's funeral. The funeral service was held at St. Nicholas Church, Deptford. The Reverend Arthur Hart 1859-1918  is buried aside the outer pathway in Brockley cemetery adjoining Brockley road. He lived on Wickham road, Brockley and his probate was slightly more eye catching than Robert's at £3267!

He had quite an illuminating position as the 'Friendly Vicar' of St Nicholas parish. This insert is from a piece of research I did on his life some while ago:

Headstone of the Reverend Hart adjoining Brockley road: Find a Grave.