Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association

Langwathby Rounds 1785

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Are our Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestlers getting soft in their centrally heated lives? Two hundred and more years ago, when men were really men, regular wrestling took place on New Year's Day at Langwathby Rounds, at 2,700 feet on High Street, and, in 1785, on the frozen surface of Lake Windermere.

The Windermere event was a one-off occasion "during an excessively severe frost. When the ice had attained great thickness, a project was started for roasting a large ox on it." Of course, there was plenty to eat and drink and "a band of music from Kendal". "The wrestling was in clogs, such as country folk at the time usually wore. These coverings for the feet, though well adapted for sliding on the ice, were clumsy to wrestle in; nevertheless, the falls were eagerly contested, and delighted the throng of spectators. The final victor received a belt."

"The top of High Street, a mountain near Haweswater in Westmorland, seems a strange place to hold Wrestlings, Jumpings, Horse races and other sports. This mountain is 2,700 feet above the level of the sea – a breezy elevation forsooth, for such pastimes." From the workshop of Thomas Bewick, the famous wood engraver from Newcastle, comes an engraving of two wrestlers high in the hills, in the wrestling garb of the time. In his "Memoirs" he recounts a walking visit to the area and beyond to visit relatives in 1776, when he discovered his cousin "had won nine belts in his wrestling matches in that county".

The most enduring event was Langwathby Rounds "held annually in the midst of Winter and cold weather – that is to say, on New Year's Day and the day following. Wrestling formed by far the greatest attraction of these primitive gatherings; the yeomen, farmers, and husbandmen from the neighbouring hamlets being the principal competitors."

"About the year 1820, on New Year's Day, the ground was covered with a coating of snow three or four inches deep, when a curious scene took place during the wrestling…Isaac Mason Of Croglin was drawn against Isaac Westmorland of Ousby. Mason entered the ring wearing an old home-spun overcoat so thick that it set to nought all Westmorland's attempts to clasp his hands around it." Mason refused to strip and his opponent was becoming "quite numb and frigid with cold. Eventually, he took off the overcoat, then another coat and waistcoat, and finally Mason stood stripped to his sark Grasmere 2018 with my sanctuary at the ringsidein the snow with nothing on but his trousers, where his opponent managed to keep him standing until he in his turn, was nearly starved to death."

This year I, too, was nearly starved to death, at Grasmere Sports in the cold and driven rain, until the Gibson family parked their car for me to view the wrestling, and Gary Lothian revived me with Christmas cake in August. Tempus fugit. Happy New Year.

(Written by Roger Robson ..... ©All Photographs on this site are the copyright of Roger Robson, Jill Robson, Julian Richardson, Linda Scott or Webmaster. Unauthorised usage is forbidden {2018} ©)
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