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An Original Photo of Netherton Legend Joe Darby

Joe Darby Original Photo

15 February 2016

Here at the Black Country Living Museum we were fortunate to be donated an original photo of the legendary leaper Joe Darby of Netherton (also known as Joesy the Jumper). The photo was donated in memory of the donor’s father, Keith Lockren, who found the photo in his loft in Robert Street, Lower Gornal, in 1975. He never found out how and when it came to be there.  

Joe Darby is of course a Black Country legend - he was a showman and athlete of the highest order. He had a particular talent for spring-jumping, and in 1887 defeated the world spring-jumping champion W. G. Hamlington of America at Covent Garden in front of King Edward VII no less! Hamlington travelled all the way to England in December to take on Joe, who was so confident in his ability he staked £200 on the outcome (a very large amount of money at the time!)

The photo was probably taken in the 1880s in Netherton. It shows him with weights in hand and a championship belt – the tools of his trade. Joe has since become somewhat of a legend in the region – even during his own period he was supposedly linked to the Victorian folklore creature ‘Spring-heeled Jack’ when he practised jumping over the area’s canals with a miner’s helmet! A statue dedicated to him can now be seen in Netherton, where some of his more famous achievements are highlighted.

John Beckerson, Senior Curator at the Museum comments: “We’re very pleased to add this original photo to our Joe Darby collection – some of which is currently on display at Dudley Museum. We want to remember the sporting heroes of the region and will be putting it on display in our acquisition cabinet shortly.”


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