Road in Southwark.
Although established as a boxing venue in 1910, the actual building dated from 1783 as the Surrey Congregational Chapel by the Reverend Rowland Hill - who reportedly opted for the unusual, circular design so that there would be no corners in which the devil could hide.
It was used as a chapel for 75 years after which its lease was not renewed and the congregation moved to another site.
The person responsible for overseeing the chapel’s final conversion was Dick Burge, a former English middleweight champion from Cheltenham. The former place of worship had become a warehouse.
Dick and (his wife) Bella Burge enlisted the help of local homeless people to clean out the building and transform it into a state fit for presenting boxing to the public.
The Ring opened on 14 May 1910, with the Blackfriars
arena soon staging events four to five times a week, and the name from the circular shape of the building. The term "boxing ring" is not derived from the name of the building, contrary to local legend/
Not forgetting the help they’d received from London’s homeless, Dick and Bella set up a soup kitchen which they ran from the building during the quieter daytime hours.
As the First World War began, Dick enlisted with the First Surrey Rifles but died of pneumonia in 1918. 2000 mourners attended his funeral at St Marylebone Church. Following the ceremony, Dick’s body was taken to Golders Green for cremation.
On his deathbed, Dick had asked Bella to ensure that she kept their business going. She thus became the world’s first female boxing promoter. The pioneering promoter soon earned an affectionate nickname; ‘Bella of Blackfriars
So successful was The Ring under Bella’s leadership that, in 1928, the Prince of Wales decided to pop by and enjoy an evening’s boxing at the Ring; the main fight that night being between two highly regarded fighters; Manchester’s Len Johnson and Birmingham’s Jack Hood.
In 1932, The Ring added wrestling to the bill along with the odd Shakespeare play, performed by the local Bankside
Players drama group.
By the late 1930s, The Ring began to experience fiscal problems which soon became so tough, Bella was forced to pawn her jewellery and other valuables in order to pay the venue’s staff. Sadly, her stoic attempts would prove to be in vain. At the height of the Blitz, one night in October 1940, The Ring suffered a direct hit. The 18th century building, which Bella had steered to greatness after a promise to her dying husband years before, was wiped out.
The Ring bombsite remained in tatters until the 1960s when a modern office block named ‘Orbit House’ was constructed over the ruins. Orbit House became home to the India Office’s library and archive (now housed in the British Library).
In the first decade of the 21st century, Orbit House was in turn demolished and replaced by an ultra-modern structure called ‘The Palestra’. Palestra is an Ancient Greek term denoting a public arena for wrestling. The futuristic office complex is now part of the administration for Transport for London.