chapter  2
Origins
Pages 12

Many of the sports and pastimes mentioned by Strutt in 1801 were ancient even then. William FitzStephen in his Life of St Thomas written towards the end of the twelfth century tells of traditional Shrove Tuesday recreations when boys brought their cocks and men their boars to stage fights for the holiday crowds, whilst bulls and bears were baited by specially bred mastiff dogs. It was not all violence, however, as the boys went off to the fields after the cock-fighting to play at foot, hand or club ball as a further entertainment for the general public. In the Easter holidays water quintain was played in boats on the rivers and during summer holidays there was leaping, dancing, shooting with arrows, wrestling, casting the stone and 'practising with shields'. Winter encouraged ice sports such as sliding, sledging, curling and even a basic form of ice hockey, and all of these activities took place throughout the country in the more prosperous towns such as Oxford, York, Lincoln and Norwich and in smaller towns where weekly markets were held. In the villages rough games of football were already played, one side or even one village against the other, with the most important matches likely to be held on Shrove Tuesday; Sundays and holy days gave opportunities for football, wrestling, boxing and primitive forms of bowls. Nothing that is known in more detail about play in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was wholly missing from life in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.