James "Jem" Mace was born in Beeston on April 8th 1831 and lived next door to the Ploughshare in his early years. Despite being from a poor family in rural Norfolk, he went on to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world. All the more remarkable since Jem was a middleweight and only 5 foot 9 inches tall. He succeeded in out-boxing heavier opponents thanks to his dancing style, clever defensive tactics and powerful, accurate punching.
Mace is commonly regarded as one of the fathers of modern boxing, helping to shape the modern gloved sport from the bare knuckled bouts which preceded it. Such fights are thoughts to have been held in what is now the Ploughshare's car park and, since they were illegal, saw Jem have his fair share of brushes with the law!
A man of many talents, Jem was at various times a violinist, a publican, professional runner, circus proprietor and racehorse owner. He was well travelled, living in various parts of the UK and the United States and touring Australia and New Zealand. Jem married three times, twice bigamously, and fathered at least fourteen children by five women.
Mace died in 1910 at the age of 79, whilst still touring the country with his exhibitions of pugilistic skill. He has a memorial at St. Marys Church in Beeston.