World famous matador ‘El Ingles’ who was from Westcliff
YOU wouldn’t normally equate bullfighting with Essex, but the fact is there was once a world famous matador right here at Westcliff.
Vincent Hitchcock was for many years England’s only professional matador. He entertained crowds in the Spanish bullring from 1949 through the 1960s and killed over 100 bulls during his career.
He was repeatedly shaken, gored multiple times, and nearly killed multiple times.
Hitchcock, who grew up in Clifftown Parade, became known as “Vincente, El Ingles”. He saw his first bullfight when he was serving in the merchant navy. He was suffering from appendicitis and recovering in a Spanish hospital when he decided to distract himself for the day by attending a bullfight. He instantly fell in love with the blood sport and was determined to become a matador.
He enrolled in a strict bullfighting school in Seville where he learned the ropes of the traditional Spanish sport – at the time considered a popular and exciting form of entertainment.
Vincent’s first appearance in the ‘plaza de toros’ was when he was just 21, where he ended up killing two bulls in a bullring in La Linea, Cadiz. He performed in front of a crowd of 12,000 who cheered and applauded him. At the end. they carried him on a chair through the city, although he was gored and badly injured.
A report of the fight said: “They gave the twenty-one-year-old Englishman an enthusiastic welcome and at the end he was presented with the tail and ears of one of his bulls by the chairman of the arena, a coveted honor rarely granted to the matador.
Less than a week later, Vincent was training on the ranch of his friend Juan Belmonte (himself an ex-matador) when he was gored by an ox. He was taken to Andalusia Hospital with a three-inch wound in his leg that had just missed the major femoral artery.
Despite a painful and bloody start to his career, Vincent quickly returned to the ring. He would go on to perform regularly in the bullrings of Madrid, Seville and Córdoba – always dressed in the traditional pink toreador costume braided in silver, with pink stockings and a hat going up. Of course, he was never without his ‘muleta’ – red cape.
Although matadors historically wear a red cape, it is for entertainment purposes only – and to hide bloodstains. Bulls are color blind.
Despite his worldwide stardom and success in 1950, Vincent was booed in a fight in Madrid when he failed to kill his bill fast enough in the end.
Vincent was the son of a Hatton Garden jeweler from Westcliff. As a youth, he was sent to Brentwood School, but was expelled for setting a classroom on fire. He then went to Chigwell School.
Mr. Hitchcock senior and his wife, Vincent’s mother, were unhappy with their son’s choice of career and refused to see him play.
His mother once told a journalist: “A bullfighter in the family, I’ve never heard of such a thing. If we were Spanish it might be ok but we are not, we are English and I don’t want my son to stick swords in a bull for a living.
His father hoped that Vincent would become a doctor: “We were never enthusiastic about the idea of him doing bullfighting. I am proud of his courage but not of the life he chose,” he once admitted.
His parents said that Vincent was obsessed with Spain in his youth and in particular with bullfighting. He practiced being a matador at home, using his mother’s silk scarf as a cape, while his niece pretended to be the bull.
Vincent married twice and he and his second wife settled in Faversham, Kent in the mid-1950s where he opened his own bullfighting school on his sprawling farm.
He was inundated with letters from fans and young men from all over the world to enroll in his school.
It seems, however, that Vincent found it difficult to control his passionate temper, which is not surprising given his choice of career. In 1956 he was fined five shillings for being drunk on the street in London. Another time he was fined for shouting obscenities at his stepfather in public.
When his daughter was born in 1954 to his wife Jacqueline, Vincent called on the British public to borrow a matador’s embroidered cape to christen her, as was tradition with bullfighters. He had left his in Madrid.
In 1960, Vincent was eager to get back into action in the arena and he prepared for a fight in Cordoba in front of a crowd of 10,000 – his first for several months.
“My first fight will be testing time,” he said. “I had a long layoff and although I made a good comeback at the end of last season, I have yet to prove myself once again to the satisfaction of the thousands of fight fans in Spain. ”
Vincent ended up killing three bulls during the fight but was injured after being gored. In the end, he could barely speak and was covered in blood.
In 1956 Vincent published his biography “Suit of Lights” which became a big seller across the world.
Vincent Hitchcock died of cancer in 1976 at the age of 48.
Luckily, as the world has moved forward on animal welfare, some parts of Spain have now banned bullfighting, but bullfighting is still held regularly in major cities like Madrid, where bullfighting season is on its way. extends from March to October.
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