It was during the reign of George III, that Joseph Pullum and his wife Mare/ Mary Le Franc/Le Free (she was born 4 years after her parents had come from France) had their second child (and first son), Joseph Pullum on the February 26th 1782 in George Yard, Shoreditch. He was baptised at St. Leonard’s church on March 3rd the same year.
Although his father was a butcher, Joseph, aged 14, was apprenticed in to Abraham Sanderson, a waterman. In 1804 he was 22 and entered the race known as Doggets’ Coat and Badge.
It had started because Irish comedian and joint manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, Thomas Doggett thought that something should be done to mark the occasion of George I coming to the throne. He decided on a boat race on the Thames, to be held on the 1st of August every year. The competitors were six watermen who had served as apprentices for a minimum of six months and the prize for the victor would be a traditional watermen’s coat adorned with a silver badge bearing the white horse motif of the Hanovers.
The six contestants were chosen by ballot from hundreds of entrants. A fee of thirty shillings was paid by every competitor to the Clerk of the Watermen and Lightermen’s Hall and the race would be started by the Barge Master of the Fishmongers’ Company. The course was originally four and half miles long from “The Swan” at London Bridge to “The Swan” at Chelsea. It was a test of stay and endurance as the race was rowed in heavy old wherries against the ebb tide, sometimes taking nearly two hours.
Large crowds gathered to watch the contest and to this day the race is still held annually from London Bridge to Chelsea. It is the world’s oldest annual sporting event and Doggett’s name lives on as benefactor.
In the year that Joseph participated, the race was won by Charles Gingle, with Joseph coming second.
The following year he married Elizabeth Woster. They lived in Petticoat Lane, then Betts Street and in Ratcliff. They had seven children.
Joseph continued to work as a Lighterman ( i.e. working on flat bottomed barges) until 1823 when he was a fireman living in storey Street, Southwark.
He died aged 55 and was buried at St Saviour in Southward on 4th July 1837.
Last updated 22.11.15