'A collection of BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF CELEBRATED ATHLETES OF THE NORTHERN RING'

taken from 'NORTH COUNTRY SPORTS AND PASTIMES' published in 1893

langwathby rounds

 

LANGWATHBY, like its twin-sister Melmerby, is strictly a rural village, made up of snug homesteads, dropped here and there in picturesque confusion. Crossing the bridge from the Penrith side, and coming in sight of its modest church and spacious green, the most familiar sounds which formerly fell upon the ear were the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, and the barking of dogs. The pastoral stillness which once prevailed, however, is now abruptly broken by the shrill whistle of the passing train, the snorting and screeching of engines, and the heavy thuds which resound from the "shunting" and reloading of railway waggons immediately above. This old-world village, with few chances and changes to record, has found a native bard to plead feelingly for the obscurity which the dim past has wrapped around its history.

O ! spot of all the land alone

Unsung, unheard of, and unknown ;

Dim background of life's busy stage,

Scarce named in local history's page.

Neglected spot ! what hast thou done,

That, ever since the world begun,

Thy name proscribed hath seemed to be,

In legend, tale, or minstrelsy ?

That e'en no rustic bard hath owned thee,

And thrown a wreath of song around thee ?

However much the paucity of general incidents may be felt in reviewing the past history of this Cumberland village, it is pleasing to note that Langwathby and Melmerby vie with each other in antiquity as promoters or "handers down" of local athletic pastimes. The famous Adam Dodd, "the Cock of the North," lived and died at Langwathby Mill, which place is still or was recently inhabited and owned by the same family. The last Adam Dodd of that ilk, was killed half a century after the death of the first Adam, on his homeward journey with horse and cart from Alston, while turning a sharp angle of the road a little above Melmerby.

Langwathby Rounds, unlike those at Melmerby, were 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. The sports took place, as a general rule, in a field close to the village which belongs to Mr. John Hodgson ; but on some few occasions they were held on the opposite or western side of the river Eden . The prizes given were of small value, but great honour. During the latter part of the last century, a narrow leathern belt of meagre appearance, or a pair of buckskin breeches, was almost the only trophy given for wrestling. In the year 1816, when James Robinson won, a couple of guineas was the full amount offered; and this sum, we suppose, was never exceeded till many years after the King of Mardale and the Bishop of Lichfield's brother had carried off the principal prizes.

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 arms were found to be too short, and refused to meet. Continuing therefore to "doff" what was 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 !

Among other minor prizes at Langwathby, a pair of garters was given to the boy who proved himself to be the fleetest runner. About forty years since this prize was carried off by a youth of the village, who afterwards became a successful rower, and, as one of the athletes of Queen's College, Oxford , won the silver oar twice in succession.

A dance on the green among the village girls of four or five years old, formed a pretty rural sight, even when witnessed amid the cheerless snow. At the conclusion of these jocund rounds, each little maiden was presented with a bright ribbon such mementoes being popularly spoken of as fancies. And while the procession of fiddlers and villagers were marshalling in order, it was no unusual thing to hear an aged dame calling from her cottage door : "Noo, honies, run an' git ytrz fancies J"

The boys' race and the leaping usually succeeded the dancing on the green ; and by the time these pastimes were concluded, daylight had either gone or was fast fading away. Owing to darkness setting in thus early, lanterns were frequently in great request among the rough-spun frequenters of the wrestling ring.

Following close in the rear of the New Year's pastimes, came the ancient custom of slanging on the Twelfth Night. A procession of young fellows dressed in fantastic garbs as clowns, accompanied by one in woman's attire, and preceded by a couple of fiddlers paraded the village streets. Calling in rotation at the various houses on their way, the "woman" commenced operations by sweeping up the fireside with a besom, which she carried for that purpose, and then the leading clown delivered a ludicrous speech to the inmates of the house. One Brunskill, shoemaker and rustic humourist, is still remembered as being by far the cleverest clown who figured at these Stangings. To his credit let it be mentioned that his mirth was always kept well within the limits of decorum and decency.

The Langwathby Rounds continued to flourish after the Melmerby ones had passed away, beingkept up for full twenty years longer, and consequently extended over a still greater period of time.

The more intelligent dwellers at this hamlet give it as their opinion, that so long as the Rounds continued to be of a secluded character, and were almost entirely taken part in by the villagers and the rural population, living under the shadow of Crossfell or Hartside, things generally went well and smoothly ; and that it was reserved for these latter days to open up new roads, offer larger prizes, and introduce a greater influx of "riff-raff" and unruly characters from the towns, after which period the annual gatherings became more and more degraded by tolerating unseemly abuses. About the year 1870, having sunk in social status, these Rounds were finally given up, lest some riot or other un- pleasant 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.

The following is as full a list of the winners of the wrestling at the Langwathby Rounds as we have been able to collect together, from a variety of out-of-the-way and other sources.

About 1788, Adam Dodd of Langwathby Mill, won several years.

About 1809, Paul Gedling, Culgaith, 1st; Isaac Dodd, Langwathby Mill, 2nd. (Dodd broke a blood vessel in the wrestle up, owing to which both men left loose; the prize, of course, being awarded to Gedling. Isaac Dodd farmed Barrock Gill, near Carlisle , for many years after this event.)

1816, James Robinson, gamekeeper, Hackthorpe.

1817, Thomas Peat, Blencow, ist; George Robinson, Langwathby, 2nd. (Robinson of Hackthorpe, and Joe Abbot of Thornthwaite, also wrestled.)

1818, Thomas Richardson, Hesket-new-Market, known as "The Dyer," 1st; John Dobson, Cliburn, 2nd.

About 1820, Isaac Mason, Croglin.

About 1824, John Holmes, King of Mardale.

About 1826, John Bowstead, yeoman, Beckbank. (Bowstead was one of the Bishop of Lichfield's younger brothers.)

1829, Joseph Thompson, Caldbeck, 1st; Milburn, 2nd. (Thompson was only an eleven stone man ; while Milburn stood six feet two inches, and weighed nearly sixteen stones. Thompson also distinguished himself by throwing Ireland and Bird, both good wrestlers.)

About 1830, Matthew Dixon, Penrith.

About 1831, George Bird, farmer, Langwathby.

1832, First day: Thomas Dobson, SleagilL Second day : William Warwick, Eamont Bridge .

About 1833, Richard Chapman, Patterdale, 1st; Benson of Hunsanby, 2nd.

About 1834, Richard Chapman, Patterdale.

1835, George Bird, farmer, Langwathby.

1836, Robt. Gordon, husbandman, Plumpton.

1837, George Bird, farmer, Langwathby.

1838,

1839, Moore, shoemaker, Melmerby.

1840, Thomas Morton, The Gale, Melmerby.

About 1841, John Spedding, husbandman, Skirwith.

1842, Thomas Morton, The Gale, Melmerby.

About 1843, Anthony McDonald, Appleby.

1844,

1845, First day: J. Shadwick, Lazonby, 1st; John Robinson, Langwathby, 2nd. Second day : William Buck, Temple Sowerby , 1st ; John Buck Temple Sowerby, 2nd.

About 1846, Anthony Me. Donald, Appleby.

1847, First day : Anthony Mc.Donald, Appleby, 1ist; John Shadwick, 2nd. Second day : Joseph Halliwell, Penrith, 1st; John Shadwick, 2nd.

About 1848, Joseph Halliwell, Penrith.

1849, William Buck, Temple Sowerby , ist; John Shadwick, 2nd.

About 1850, Anthony Mc.Donald, Appleby.

1851,

1852, (Anthony Mc.Donald won seven times in all, some of which were second day's prizes.)

About 1861, First day : John Wilkinson, Little Strickland, 1st; John Salkeld, Melmerby, 2nd. Second day: Thomas Threlkeld, Langwathby, 1st; Isaac Dodd, Langwathby Mill, 2nd.

1862, First day: William Jameson, Penrith, 1st; T. Salkeld, Great Salkeld, 2nd. Second day : J.Brunskill, Penrith, 1st ; W. Watson, Winskill, 2nd.

About 1863, William Jameson, Penrith.

1864, First day: John Wilkinson, Little Strickland, 1st; John Atkinson, Little Salkeld, 2nd. Second day: Isaac Lowthian, Plumpton,1st; Philip Lowthian, Plumpton, 2nd.

About 1865, First day: Isaac Lowthian, Plumpton, 1st; Thomas Sisson, Temple Sowerby , 2nd. Second day. John Howe, Ousby, 1st; William Cheesebrough, Langwathby Hall, 2nd.

About 1866, First day: Andrew Armstrong, Plumpton, 1st; Isaac Lowthian, Plumpton, 2nd. Second day: Adam Slack, Skirwith Hall, 1st; James Errington, Aiketgate, 2nd.

1867, First day: Adam Slack, Skirwith Hall, 1st; John Cheesebrough, Langwathby Hall, 2nd. Second day: George Steadman, Drybeck, 1st; Ralph Pooley, Longlands, 2nd.

About 1868, First day: Ralph Pooley, Longlands, 1st; William Cheesebrough, Langwathby, 2nd. Second day: Ralph Pooley, 1st; John Cheesebrough, Langwathby, 2nd. Nine-and-a-half stone prize: Joseph Hodgson, Langwathby, 1st; John Errington, Aiketgate, 2nd.

1869, First day : Joseph Hodgson, 1st; William Cheesebrough, 2nd. Second day : Saunders Gedling, 1st; William Cheesebrough, 2nd. Ten stone prize : Robert Me. Crone, 1st; Thomas, Holmes, 2nd.

1870, George Steadman, Drybeck, 1st; William Pigg, Sceugh Dyke, 2nd. Ten stone prize: Samuel Brownrigg, Clifton , 1st ; Robert Gordon, Plumpton, 2nd.

This was the last Round held at Langwathby. There was only one day's sports.