A cockfight was a blood sport between two cocks or gamecocks held in a ring called a cockpit. The history of the sport goes back 6000 years, having been practised by the Greeks and Romans. It acquired the name a blood sport due in part to the trauma the cocks inflicted on each other which sometimes increased by attaching metal spurs to the bird’s own natural spurs. While all fights were not to the death, the birds inflicted terrible injuries on each other. The mains (matches) consisted of fights between an agreed number of pairs of bird, the majority of victories deciding the main. Huge wagers were often made on the outcome of the match. Eventually cockfighting was outlawed by the British Government in 1849.
Although Kilkenny Corporation ceased to condone bull baiting in the 19th Century, they only relinquished this sport for the equally cruel pastime of the cock pit. It was in use amongst the citizens of London immediately after the arrival of the Normans, becoming a fashionable sport in the reign of Edward 111, 1327-1377.Was patronised by Henry V111, 1509-1547 who had a cock pit built in his White Hall Palace. James I 1603-1625 was also a patron it is recorded he attended twice a week.
It must have been known and practised in Kilkenny prior to the first record of it in 1747, August 31st the Corporation ordered that a cock pit be built and a sum of £20 be given by this city for building of same, provided a convenient place be got upon the city ground. It is evident no time was lost in carrying out this , for by January 20th the following year Mr. George Foster was paid £20 for building a cock pit, pursuant to the former order. This cock pit was erected in the Church grounds of St. Mary’s (The site of the present day Medieval Museum) A court case in 1816 brought by a Patrick Magrath, a brougemaker swore that the first match of cocks took place in the cock pit St Mary’s Church yard on February 27th of that year.
Finn’s Leinster Journal reported that there was a cock pit in John Street, where the gentry of the district were in the habit of challenging those from the adjoining counties to encounters by their feathered representatives and so frequent matches took place. The same newspaper reported in April 30th 1768 of a stag match between the gentlemen of the County of Kilkenny and Queen’s County (Laois), in the John Street Cock Pit. The match was won by the gentle men of Kilkenny, Eleven to Nine, the main consisted of twenty battles, five of which were fought each day Monday to Thursday.