Any old Books, Photos, Ephemera April 20th

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When I first moved to Carlisle in 1970 I visited the County Archives at Carlisle Castle to see what records they had of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling.

Within an arrow's flight of the castle ramparts huge crowds had gathered for the wrestling at Carlisle Races at the Swifts from 1809; the wrestling academy in Mary Street had flourished a century ago; the old Drill Hall on Strand Road had staged major wrestling matches; and the Cumberland Show in Bitts Park had one of the biggest wrestling events of the annual calendar. But, within the Archives in 1970 only two items specifically on wrestling could be put in front of me.

That all changed when Bob Horsley died in 1997 and his widow asked me to look through his papers. Bob had written under the pseudonym of Cross-buttocker in the Carlisle Journal and Clicker in the Cumberland News over a period of 29 years. I knew that he was gathering material for a book of wrestling records to cover the period from 1900, but I was totally unprepared for the mass of material stored in a floor-to-ceiling cupboard. Nor did I expect to return home with the rear of my estate car fully laden with boxes, books and files.

There were fat files of carbon copies of articles submitted to The Cumberland News; books of press clippings from 1946 onwards; a box of photographs, some of high quality and others of considerable age, including a framed photograph of Broughton Wrestlers when William Studholme was All Weights Champion in 1908; three files on the Wrestling Association; dossiers on scores of wrestling personalities and venues; a box of miscellaneous topics such as wrestling belts, women's wrestling, Cornish wrestling and so on; correspondence; old programmes and several books published in the 19th Century such as Litt's Wrestliana (1823) and Thomas Longmire's Reminiscences (1887?).

In preparation for his book he had filled a large box-file with shorthand notes dealing with sports results from 1900 to 1939. Following on from this were the year-books with all the results for the thirty years after the War and Wrestling Association championship records for 72 years.

All this material was given to the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling association, and it in turn lodged the collection in the County Archives in Carlisle Castle where it was indexed and preserved.

For many years it was possible to sit in the search room in the Archives and browse through material which was immediately to hand, but space was at a premium and the Horsley Papers were moved to purpose-built storage at Houghton. The problem then was that any searches of the material had to be planned in advance so that papers could be brought from the store to be viewed at the tables in the search rooms of the Archives in the castle.

All that could now change for the Archives have received a grant of £4.7 million to set up the County Archives in Petteril Bank House in Old Harraby. Work is due to start in 2007 and should be completed in 2009.

The main focus of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling has to be this season's events and training the next generation of wrestlers, but we also have a duty to the distinctive wrestling heritage of the area, and the new Archives development can be integral to this.

Anyone with old photographs, books and ephemera such as programmes and posters should think about depositing them with the County Archives to make the records of our sport as comprehensive as possible.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (February 10th 2011)


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