Not the worst weather for wrestling

FIVE minutes before writing this I was making my way through a blizzard, with my eyes full of snow. Not the best weather for wrestling you might think, and rightly, but there are records of wrestling on ice and in snow over two hundred years ago.

In 1785 on Windermere Lake froze solid and "a vast concourse from all parts of the surrounding country" gathered at Rawlinson's Nab for roast ox, "lots of beer", music from a Kendal band, and wrestling. "The wrestling was in clogs such as country people at the time generally wore. These primitive coverings of 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."

A special occasion such as that may be understandable, but the annual wrestling at Langwathby, which was held each New Year's Day, seems like long-term masochism.

Langwathby Rounds ended in 1870: "having sunk in social status, these Rounds were finally given up, lest some riot or other unpleasant circumstance might crop up, as did at Armathwaite, between the English and Irish navvies employed in cutting the extension of the Midland Line of railway from Settle to Carlisle". Records of the Rounds go back to the 1780s, and they may have been much more ancient, as some elements such as a "stanging" or Mummers tour round the village households have the flavour of the old pagan/Christian midwinter ceremonies. In addition, "A dance on the village green among the village girls of four or five years old, formed a pretty rural sight, even when witnessed amid the cheerless snow".

Nor was the wrestling exempt from snow. "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. It so happened that Isaac Mason of Croglin was drawn against Isaac Westmorland of Ousby. Mason - well known for his smuggling adventures and his numerous eccentricities - entered the ring wearing an old home-spun overcoat so thick and patched that it set at nought all Westmorland's attempts to clasp his arms around it. No persuasion could induce Mason to try and accommodate matters by stripping. He would not move a jot; and in the meantime his opponent was becoming quite numb and frigid with cold. At length Mason showed signs of relenting, and ultimately took off the obnoxious overcoat. Still Westmorland's arm were found to be too short and refused to meet. Continuing therefore to 'doff' what was the most cumbersome - off went the coat then the waistcoat, and finally Mason stood stripped to his 'sark' in 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!"

Nevertheless, Mason's tactics must have worked for he is recorded as the winner.

Because of treacherous roads, Carlisle Wrestling Club, now meeting on Wednesday's, postponed its Points Night for both men and boys until next week (February 4)

Kendal Academy's Points Competitions continued with wins for the usual suspects.


Kendal Academy Age Groups - Under 10 Years: 1 B. Brocklebank 2 B. Thompson 3 H. Hodgson. Under 12 Years: 1 A. Thompson 2 J. Hodgson 3 D. Bland. Under 14 Years: 1 G. Brocklebank 2 N. Bentham 3 T. Hodgson. Under 16 Years: 1 D. Parsons 2 N. Bentham 3 T. Hodgson. Under 18 Years: 1 D. Parsons 2 C. Proctor 3 T. Hodgson

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (May 4th 2011)

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