Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Liverpool's Last Duel

The last duel in Liverpool was fought in 1805 between Colonel John Bolton and Major Brooks, with Bolton emerging the winner.

John Bolton was born in Ulverston, Cumbria  in 1756 and traded in the West Indies before settling in Liverpool around 1790, living at 116 Duke Street (pictured below left).  A staunch patriot, in 1797 he contributed £500 to a committee set up to defend Liverpool after French troops had landed at Fishguard. He then set up his own Liverpool Volunteers in 1803 at his own expense. Becoming known as the Bolton Invincibles, they trained at Mosslake Fields on the edge of the town.

In 1804 Customs Jerker Major Edward Brooks asked for an increase in his salary. Bolton, President of the West India Association refused, allegedly saying that £700 per year was more than enough for a single man to live on. Brooks challenged Bolton to a duel on 20th December at Millers Dam on Aigburth Road. Quite why he issued such a serious challenge on this a matter is not known, but coincidentally Brooks was also from Ulverston and their feud may have been long running. After a tip off, both were arrested on their way and bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.

Exactly one year later Brooks insulted Bolton at Castle Street and a challenge was arranged that afternoon at a field off Low Hill. Darkness was falling by the time both men arrived. Both fired at the same time, Brooks missing but Bolton's shot piercing Brooks' eye, causing instant death. 

Bolton went into hiding for a short while and the inquest found him guilty of murder. However, due to public opinion being behind him and the fact he had been challenged by Brooks, he was never charged. Bolton remained in Liverpool political life until his death in 1837 and is buried in the family vault in Bowness parish church.

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