The Nelson Gym - Arthur Batty

In the 1930's GND took on an office boy, one Arthur Batty.

Arthur Batty, an old Warwickian and keen sportsman, had appalling eyesight which prevented him from playing any ball games; however he was very keen on training and physical fitness.

He was called up at the start of the war and, I believe, spent it involved with physical fitness training. When he was 'de-mobbed' he re-joined GND as Works Buyer. In the late 1940's my father was the chairman of Warwick(shire?) Boys Club and Arthur approached him to ask for some space at the works to set up a boxing ring and physical training gym.

Space was found, circa 2500 sq ft., which included a 12ft 'sparing' ring, and area devoted to weight lifting and general training. Changing Rooms and Showers were set up in the export packing case manufacturing department.

There were two interesting aspects to the weight lifting equipment that Arthur put together. The first related to the fact that whilst it had long been recognised, by the general boxing world, that weight lifting was a highly effective method of strengthening muscles, it had a downside, that it had an adverse effect on 'agility'. It had always been 'deemed' that 'agility' was a necessary pre-requisite in the boxing ring.

Arthur Batty that the two were not necessarily mutually exclusive!

The second aspect was the weight lifting equipment itself. The GND plant had been built up mainly in the second half of the 19th century. This meant that there was a large, well equipped engineering department, kitted out with a comprehensive range of machine tools and with it a large forge. There was an electricians department, and a large carpenters/joiners shop accommodating 6 x 24ft carpenter's benches accommodating 24 carpenters.

It has to be appreciated that whilst, in those days you could go out and buy specific pieces of machinery, such as steam generating boilers, steam engines, electricity generating machines (there was no national grid), some electric motors and pumps, you could not go out and buy equipment specific to the quite complex chemical engineering process of gelatine production. These had to be designed and manufactured in-house. Hence the large engineering presence which resulted in a plethora of spare shafts and pulleys et al lying around the place. Arthur collected these various pieces of kit and put together a proper set of incremental  weight lifting equipment.

At about the time the gym was established, GND used the services of William Tarver & Co., builders in Warwick to provide building and renovation services as and when required. Bill Tarver (former mayor of Warwick) employed, from time to time, the three Turpin brothers, and so they started to train on a regular basis at the Nelson gym.

One last word about 'agility'. I, in my teens, would often go up to the gym to watch on training nights. On a Sunday morning no training took place other than warm-up exercises, however, sparing in the ring was the order of the day, Frequently, I would be the last to enter the ring - but I never landed a punch on either of the brothers. I could not get near them, even in this very small ring. Their agility and anticipation to move out of the way in order to avoid my 'onslaught' was profound.

Edward Montague (Sam Nelson) Feb 2011



Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy


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from Round About Warwick


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Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy




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