- Cotswold Games
:"“Olympicks” redirects here. For the international games, see
The Cotswold Olimpick Games are an annual public celebration of games and sports held in the
Cotswoldsin the West Countryof England. The games began sometime between 1604 and 1612 and have continued on and off to the present day. Different sources provide different starting dates for the games, but most sources refer to 1612.
poooops. The games were organized in 1604 during the reign of
James I of Englandon Dover's Hill above the town of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. The games were originally organized by a local attorney Robert Doveras a protest against the growing Puritanism of the day. These sports were referred to by contemporary writers as "Mr. Robert Dovers Olimpick Games upon the Cotswold Hills". The games were held on Thursday and Friday of Whit-Week, or the week of Whitsuntide, which would normally fall around the middle of May to the middle of June. They continued for many years until about the time of Dover's death.
The games were quite a spectacle for the day. Robert Dover presided over the games on horseback, dressed ceremonially in a coat, hat, feather and ruff, that originally belonged to the king. Horses and men were abundantly decorated with yellow ribbons (Dover's colour), and he was duly honoured by all as king of their sports for a series of years. Tents were erected for the
gentry, who came in numbers from all quarters of the surrounding counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshireand Worcestershireand refreshments were supplied in abundance. Tables stood in the open air, or cloths were spread on the ground, for the common folk.
:"None ever hungry from these games come home,":"Or ever make plaint of viands or of room;":"He all the rank at night so brave dismisses,":"With ribands of his favour and with blisses.":—from "Annalia Dubrensia"
Mounted cannons were fired off to begin the events. Competitors were summoned to the hillside by the sound of a hunting horn, and there took part in various sports.
17th century fights, whether for sport or in real anger, sometimes resulted in maiming or even death. In a fight between Sir German Poole and a Mr. Hutchinson, Poole cut off three of Hutchinson's fingers before he had even drawn his
sword. In revenge Hutchinson sliced off Poole's nose, picked it up, pocketed it and went off with it so that it could not be sewn on again. It was the mean attitude in taking away the slice of nose, not the fact that it was cut off in the first place, which made this particular contest the subject of gossip.
The prizes for these activities included not only silver trophies but also yellow favours which as many as 500 contestants could win. The games were very popular throughout England and attracted visitors from all strata of society. Some people reportedly travelled up to 60 miles to see the games.
The king himself had heartily approved and supported the games. Earlier, in his popular book of advice to his son,
Basilikon Doron(1599) he said that in order to promote good feeling among the common people towards their king, "certain days in the year would be appointed, for delighting the people with public spectacles of all honest games, and exercise of arms".
Literary referencesIt has been suggested, but is most unlikely, that
William Shakespearemay have made the journey to witness the games; one implausible suggestion is that the wrestlingscene in " As You Like It" was inspired by them - implausible because the play was written in 1599, and the incident is in its source.
A book titled "Annalia Dubrensia" (Annals of Dover) was published in 1636 in honour of the games. The book was a collection of poems in praise of Dover and his achievements in promoting and managing the games. The contributors included well known poets:
Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, Thomas Randolph, and Thomas Heywood. They saw the games as revitalizing traditional English social life, and they countered Puritanopposition by stressing the "harmlessness" of the occasion. A woodcut (see picture) of Robert Dover and his castle, with the events in progress, formed the frontispiece to the book.
English Civil Warbrought about the end of the games in 1652 and the area became the scene of very real battles between the Royalist and Parliamentarian forces. In July 1652 Robert Dover died at Barton-on-the-Heath at the age of seventy.
Interest in the games remained and they were revived some years later — dates uncertain — after the Restoration. By the middle of the 18th century the games were well established and once again quite popular. The games became known as Dover’s Meeting and included games such as backsword-fighting. The prizes varied from gold rings and belts to laced hats and shoes. The English poet
William Somervilegave a lively account of the games in his “Hobbinol, or the Rural Games” in 1740. The poet and writer Richard Gravesalso wrote about the games in his picaresque novel "The Spiritual Quixote" in 1773. The writers dramatized the wrestling and cudgel-playing and the enthusiasm for the smock race by healthy young country wenches for a Holland shift displayed on a pole. The robust nature of the 18th century games troubled some local people such as the church Minister of Stow-on-the-Wold, but the games flourished, in 1797 being “attended by a vast concourse of people”POO.
Two 19th-century flyers to announce the "Meetings":
The great popularity of the games eventually led to their suspension when they began to attract great crowds of the "
riff-raffof society" and the games became too rowdy for the local people to withstand. The final year of the games was at Whitsuntide in 1852.
In 1963 the Games were once again re-established and continue to the present day. The games are an annual celebration in the Cotswolds and attract thousands of visitors to Dover's Hill. The Robert Dover’s Games Society was founded in 1965 to promote the games. A 21st century "Robert Dover" appears, suitably attired on horseback, to open the games. A trumpeter heralds the appearance of hounds which sweep across the natural arena, and two bands display their skills. Local teams compete in rural events and tugs-of-war for shields and cups, while wrestlers show their abilities. After dusk a huge bonfire is lit and there is a fireworks display. A torchlight procession moves from Dover’s Hill to the square in Chipping Campden, where community singing, pageantry and dancing provide entertainment until the early hours of the following morning. Some of the locals, however, regard the occasion predominantly as an excuse for rowdy behaviour and the excessive consumption of alcohol. As demonstrated by a group of local youths, who go by the name of the Jolly Roger.
The 2006 Winner was Stephen Preston, better known as Stupid Steve.
Chambers' Book of Days[http://www.thebookofdays.com/months/may/31.htm May 31]
* [http://www.rootsweb.com/~engcots/CotsOlym.html The Genealogy of the Cotswolds and Surrounds]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,592-1164917,00.html "The Times Online:" "A Very English Olympics"]
* [http://www.soglos.com/sport-outdoor/27873/Cotswold-Olimpick-Games-2008 SoGlos.com "Cotswold Olimpick Games"]
* [http://www.olimpickgames.co.uk/ Olimpick Games website]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/4605157.stm Old shin sport alive and kicking] " at
BBC News, 3 June 2005
* [http://www.stupidsteve.co.uk/shinvideo.html Videos Of Shin Kicking 2006]
* [http://www.chippingcampden.co.uk/contentok.php?id=181 Directions to Chipping Campden for The Cotswold Olimpick Games]
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