Thomas Page and Timothy Buck

singlesticks

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 22nd July 2016. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

While searching for something else, I came across an interesting small article about broadsword author Thomas Page, published in The European Magazine and London Review in July, 1782.

The article was very short and concise, and my transcription of the article (in its entirety) is as follows:

Anecdotes of the Author.

Mr. Thomas Page, author of the foregoing ingenious performance, is the son of Mr. Richard Page, late a watch-maker in Norwich, and was born in the year 1713. At an early period of life he shewed a talent for the polite arts, when his father (to whom he was apprentice) indulged him in every branch of science that could tend to render him the compleat mathematician: he went through a course of experimental philosophy with the late Dr. Desaguliers, and several other eminent persons, and was for many years a pupil to the late Mr. Timothy Buck, under whom he made such proficiency, that about the year 1740, he wrote a treatise on the broad sword, which met with public approbation. He then began business for himself at Norwich, which he carried on singly for many years, but is now in partnership with his son-in-law, Mr Christian, and lives in the Upper-Market-place. It is needless to add, that a generous and discerning public resolved that his abilities should not go unrewarded, and that he is now, justly, at the head of his profession, being employed by most of the noblemen, gentlemen, &c. in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.[1]

The fencing treatise in question is Page’s work The Use of the Broad Sword, published in 1746.[2]

Timothy Buck, the man mentioned as Page’s teacher, was a successful and well-regarded English gladiator in the 18th century. He fought a gladiatorial challenge with James Miller in 1712, which he won, defeating his challenger with the backsword.[3]

Captain John Godfrey wrote of Buck:

Characters of the Masters

Timothy Buck was a most solid Master, it was apparent in his Performances, even when grown decrepid, and his old Age could not hide his uncommon Judgement, He was the Pillar of the Art, and all his Followers, who excelled, built upon him.[4]

In the early 18th century, Buck ran a professional establishment called the School of Noble Defence. Notable individuals such as James Figg attended this school to learn fencing and boxing.[5]

It is likely that Page would have taken lessons with Buck while the former was relatively young and with the latter in his middle to elder years. Although I don’t have birth and death dates for Buck (and would be very grateful to receive that information if someone can provide it!), Aylward recounts that some (unspecified) time after Figg’s last fight in 1730, a man named Rowland Bennett “boasted that he had killed old Buck, that survivor of the seventeenth century, once doyen of his profession”.[6] This does suggest that Buck was an older man by the 1720s or 1730s, during which decades Page would have been going through his teenage years.

Bethan Jenkins with the Linacre School of Defence has written an article that gives some additional information about the time and context of Page’s life.[7]

In conclusion, the excerpt from The European Magazine and London Review provides us with some interesting information about the background and martial education of Thomas Page. This gives us more of a clue as to how Page’s fencing methods fit into the wider fencing traditions of the British Isles in the 18th century,[8] and how later masters such as Roworth and Angelo may have developed their systems for fencing with the broadsword and sabre.[9]

Footnotes

[1] The European Magazine, and London Review: Containing the Literature, History, Politics, Arts, Manners & Amusements of the Age. By the Philological Society of London. Vol. II. for July, 1782. Pages 130-131.

[2] Thomas Page. The Use of the Broad Sword. Norwich: M. Chase, 1746.

[3] J.D. Aylward. The English Master of Arms. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1956. Pages 126-128.

[4] John Godfrey. A Treatise Upon the Useful Science of Defence. London: John Godfrey, 1747. Page 40.

[5] Michael Blackett. “James Figg: Pugilist Pioneer.” Pro Boxing Insider, 2nd July 2012, accessed 14th July 2016. http://proboxinginsider.com/james-figg-pugilist-pioneer/

[6] J.D. Aylward. The English Master of Arms. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1956. Page 143.

[7] Bethan Jenkins. “Contextualising Western Martial Arts: The case of Thom Page’s The Use of the Highland Broadsword.” The Linacre School of Defence, January 2007, accessed 14th July 2016. https://sirwilliamhope.org/Library/Articles/Jenkins/Contextualising.html

[8] Christopher Scott Thompson. Broadsword Academy. 1st edition, Lulu, 2012. Volume 1. Pages 106-107.

[9] Keith Farrell. Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick. Glasgow: Fallen Rook Publishing, 2014.

Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers.

I have authored Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick and the award-winning AHA German Longsword Study Guide, and maintain a blog at www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.