Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling returns to Carlisle Racecourse

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After a long lapse, Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling is returning this year to Carlisle Racecourse, twice.

Last year wrestlers from Carlisle Wrestling Club, immaculate in their traditional strips, put on an exhibition in the pouring rain, which left them as muddy lumps. Despite the difficulties, the wrestlers have been invited again, and this time there is a plan to make it into an open competition, probably in March. The other Racecourse wrestling event will be as part of the Cumberland Show which is heading for higher ground this year at Carlisle Racecourse. The arrangement of the Show, main Ring and all, will no doubt be now entertaining the committee, not used to having fencing and permanent buildings as part of the showfield. For the wrestling, however, there is a perfect answer: the saddling enclosure. That ring is perfect for wrestling, wide and flat. And it even has raised banking on one side to ensure a better view. The new ring would also free the wrestling from its previous main-ring slot which was always late in the day, when farmers were rushing home to milk and do-up. Of course, this perfect ring would not be suitable in March as it would then be periodically full of horses and big hats.

The picture is a political cartoon of 1813. Under the fine bellies of the battling candidates is a racing scene down on the Swifts by the River Eden, finishing post and allThe picture is a political cartoon of 1813. Under the fine bellies of the battling candidates is a racing scene down on the Swifts by the River Eden, finishing post and all

Carlisle Racecourse was first a venue for wrestling in 1809 when horse-racing was in the doldrums at the old Swifts Racecouse down by the River Eden. A purse of 20 guineas was given for wrestling and the crowds flowed back: The wrestling became so attractive, that even the horses were deemed a secondary object. This project set up Carlisle as the Mother Ring of the region, and wrestling continued there for more than a century. Machell's book on Grasmere Sports concludes with photographs of the winners of the wrestling at Carlisle Racecourse in 1909 and 1910. The wrestling tradition does not seem to have continued once the Racecourse moved to Blackwell; but now it will return, perhaps for another century.

Young wrestlers hoping to take part in the European Espoirs Championships should attend the first training session this weekend at Currock House. Our Breton friends are unhappy that we seem unable to take wrestlers to the Brittany Backhold Championships in Guipavas on Saturday, 27 th February this year after several years of keen participation. If anyone is able to go, please contact me (016974 73559) immediately, to see if we can rescue the situation.

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

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