Old English Sports eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 100 pages of information about Old English Sports.
without breaking his lance, he runneth strongly against the shield, down he falleth into the water, for the boat is violently tossed with the tide; but on each side of the shield ride two boats furnished with young men, which recover him that falleth as soon as they may.  Upon the bridge, wharves, and houses by the river-side, stand great numbers to see and laugh thereat.”  Stow thus describes the water tournament—­“I have seen also in the summer season, upon the river Thames, some rowed in wherries, with staves in their hands, flat at the fore-end, running one against the other; and for the most part, one or both of them were overthrown and well ducked.”  This sport on the water was a variety of the famous quintain, which was itself derived from the jousts or tournaments, only, instead of a human adversary, the knight or squire, riding on a horse, charged a shield or wooden figure attached to a piece of wood, which easily turned round upon the top of a post.  At the other end of the wood was a heavy bag of sand, which, when the rider struck the shield with his lance, swung round and struck him with great force on the back if he did not ride fast and so escape his ponderous foe.  There were other forms of this sport, which is so ancient that its origin has been lost in antiquity.  Queen Elizabeth was very much amused at Kenilworth Castle by the hard knocks which the inexpert riders received from the rotating sand-bag when they charged “a comely quintane” in her royal presence in the year 1575.

A handsome quintain still stands on Offham village green, in Kent, although it is no longer used for the skilful practice of former days.  It is the custom to hoist married men, who are not blest with children, on the quintain, which is made to revolve rapidly.  Sometimes discontented and disobedient wives share the same fate.

Chester was famous for its Easter sports, when the mayor with his mace, the corporation with twenty guilds, marched to the Rood-eye, to play at football.  But “inasmuch as great strife did arise among the young persons of the same city” on account of the game, a change was made in the reign of Henry VIII., and foot-races and horse-races were substituted for the time-honoured football, and an arrow of silver was given to the best archer.

But Easter sports are almost finished:  however, we have not long to wait for another popular anniversary; for the famous Hock-tide sports always took place a fortnight after Easter, and much amusement, and profit also, were derived from the quaint observances of Hock Monday and Tuesday.  The meaning of the word and the origin of the custom have been the subjects of much conjecture; but the festival is supposed to be held in remembrance of the victory of our Saxon forefathers over the Danes in the time of Ethelred.  The custom was that on Hock Monday the men should go out into the streets and roads with cords, and stop and bind all the women they met, releasing them on payment of a small ransom.  On the following

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Old English Sports from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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