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I've been reading Tyburn Tales, a Victorian book about the malefactors who suffered on the gallows at York. This includes potted biographies of some of the more flagitious criminals, including a murderer George Lockey:-

Lockey was a shoemaker by trade, but being of a disorderly turn of mind, had pretty much relinquished his calling for that of cock-feeder.

It would seem from this that cock-feeder is some occupation or avocation. Presumably the literal meaning is not what was intended, as one could hardly make a career out of it. Urban Dictionary has a definition, but it would assuredly not have appeared in Victorian literature. Green's Dictionary of Slang has no entry for this.

So, does anyone know what a cock-feeder did?

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2 Answers 2

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A quick search brings up "The Sporting Dictionary and Rural Repository of General Information Upon Every Subject Appertaining To The Sports Of The Field, Volume 1" (1803), which contains a relevant definition:

COCK-FEEDER -- signifies a person whose occupation it is to collect, handle and feed a pen of cocks, to fight such main or match as may be made or agreed on, by those who deposit the battle money, and are called the MASTERS of the MATCH. These find or procure the cocks, of which the feeder takes charge; and to his judgment is submitted the entire management of selecting, rejecting, feeding, physicing, sweating, sparring, weighing, cutting out, (alias trimming,) and bringing his bag and cock to the pit; where, upon delivering it to the setter-to, his function ceases in respect to that particular cock, till death has sealed his disgrace, or success proclaimed his victory.

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Can you believe how closely timed and similar our answers were? –  d'alar'cop Feb 23 at 11:05
    
@d'alar'cop Given the similarity and the years, I think it is likely that your reference was quoting my reference. :) –  hvd Feb 23 at 11:07
    
Yes, yours is plumper in the definition... but I've got usage examples!... Anyway, in all seriousness, it's downright creepy how synchronous it was. –  d'alar'cop Feb 23 at 11:09
    
@d'alar'cop So individually, we have good answers, but combined, a great one. Indeed, it was very close, I think it said 14 seconds. –  hvd Feb 23 at 11:15
    
Yes, if you hover over the "answered x y ago" it gives the timestamp - 14 seconds is correct. Anyway, whatever, if anyone in future comes here with an urge to know this trivia then I'm sure they can just read both. –  d'alar'cop Feb 23 at 11:17

" A cock feeder is a person whose occupation it is to collect, handle, and feed a pen of cocks, and to fight such main or match as may be made or agreed on by those who deposit the battle money."

http://archive.org/stream/s10notesqueries10londuoft/s10notesqueries10londuoft_djvu.txt

Also see usages here:

"A man with the familar name of Tom Jones was cockfeeder or cocker to the Herberts, lords of Montgomery Castle, and great estates in the neighbour- hood. They " delighted much n in cocking, and a great main was on with John Lloyd, who tried to get some of Herbert's cocks off Tom Jones, but could not M prevaile on him"

http://archive.org/stream/pilgrimagestool00mossgoog/pilgrimagestool00mossgoog_djvu.txt

"Thomond--Like Lord Thomond's cocks, all on one side. Lord Thomond's cock-feeder, an Irishman, being entrusted with some cocks which were matched for a considerable sum, the night before the battle shut them all together in one room, concluding that as they were all on the same side, they would not disagree: the consequence was, they were most of them either killed or lamed before the morning."

http://www.regencyassemblypress.com/Regency_Lexicon.html

"literal support of the above definition"... My great-grandfather John Ray of Finchley was a breeder and trainer of fighting cocks, but my aunt has no recollection of his being known as a "cock-foster." One of my earliest recollections is that of playing with some of the silver or steel spurs that my great-grandfather used to fasten on the legs of the cocks. WM. H

http://scans.library.utoronto.ca/pdf/3/12/s10notesqueries10londuoft/s10notesqueries10londuoft_bw.pdf

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You ought to include (cite) the relevant snippets in your answer, trawling through the links is a laborious task. For example in one of your links the term "cock-feeder" is under T for Thomand-Like! –  Mari-Lou A Feb 23 at 11:20
    
@Mari-LouA Yes, I thought of this, but I trusted in people's ability to CTRL-F: "cock" or "feeder". Also, to be honest, I didn't think they were all that useful - the definition is really good enough... that's what I was thinking anyway. –  d'alar'cop Feb 23 at 11:22
    
Well..., yes. I did that after seeing under C the term was missing! I just think it saves people the bother to check for themselves, and text is preferable to a stream of gobbledegook links. But that's my personal opinion. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 23 at 11:25
    
@Mari-LouA Lei ha ragione... I'm fixing it. –  d'alar'cop Feb 23 at 11:28
    
The other compelling reason to put the references directly in the answer is because links can go stale and them the answer is meaningless. Thanks for editing your answer...much better! :-) –  Kristina Lopez Feb 23 at 14:19

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