|The celebrated Cotswold games were instituted in 1610 at a place which, although just outside this Parish and in the Parish of Weston Subedge, was go close to, this town that there, was none nearer rendering these games of more concern to Campden than any other place. Consequently they can hardly be passed over in silence in a history of Campden. The originator was one Rob. Dover an attorney, of Barton-on-tbe-heath, and the meeting took Place on the Thursday of Whitsun week annually on a plateau on the last spur of the Cotswolds, between Campden E. and Weston Subedge W. The exact site was between Kingcomb-lane, on the border of this Parish, and the brink of the hill; but most of this ground has been enclosed and cultivated for the last 50 or 60 years. In honour of the founder of the games, the whole hill was dubbed Dover's Hill, and the cognomen remains to this day. Dover preside as master of ceremonies at each annual meeting, riding on a cob and wearing old hats, ruffs and coats discarded by King James I, in order to lend greater solemnity and give some semblance of royal Patronage to the proceedings. This discarded apparel was obtained and given to Dover by Mr. Endymion Porter, of Aston Subedge, a neighboring village, which gentleman was a servant of the King. The meetings quickly became celebrated far and near, and were numerously attended. Old English competitive sports and games, together with dancing, were indulged in. They were immortalised in a small collection of poems, published in 1636 entitled "Annalia Dubrensia," written by Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, and about thirty other eminent persons of their time, mostly entitled to the patron of the games, by means of which
"Coteswold, that barren was, and rough
Is Tempe (1) now become--Coteswold no
Pan may go Pipe in barren Malvern chase,
The fawns and satyrs seek some other
Coteswold is now th' epitome of mirth,
And joy, presaged erst, is come to birth.
Olympus's mount, that e'en to this day fills
The world with fame, shall to thy Cotes-
Give place and honour. Hercules was first
Who those brave games begun; thou, better
Dost in our anniverse most nobly Strive
To do in one year what he did in five " (2).
"On Coteswold Hills there meets
A greater troop of gallants than Rome's
E'er saw in Pompey's triumphs! beauties
More than Diana's beavie of nymphes could
On their great hunting days."
During the Civil War the meetings were discontinued--men's minds were filled first with politics and later with the sadness of lost friendship and anguish of Personal loss. Politics and war were in, and contentment was not. In the meantime Dover died, and although the meeting was revived after the Restoration, it did not regain its former notoriety. Apparently the meetings were continued until last century, (1800's) in the early part of which the games seemed to recover some of their prestige, although Rudge says in 1803 they were thinly attended. The late Rev. Canon Bourne, the rector of Weston, had in his possession several announcements of the meeting, one of which reads:
Dover's Antient Meeting, 1812.
On Thursday in Whit-week,
On that Highly-renowned and universally admired spot called Dover's Hill, Near
Chipping Campden. Glos. The sports will commence with a grand match of Backswords for a purse of guineas, To be played by 9 or 7 men on a side. Each side must appear in the ring by 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Or 15s. each pair will be given for as many as will play. Wrestling for belts and others prizes. Also Jumping in bags and dancing. And a Jingling Match for 10s. 6d. As well as divers others of celebrated Cotswold and Olympic games, for which this annual meeting, has been famed for centuries.
T. Chamberlaine, Steward.
R. Andrews (3), Clerk.
|Another more explanatory announcement runs:
Dover's Meeting, 1821. On Thursday in the Witsuntide Week. Upon that highly-celebrated spot called Dover's Hill, Near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. The Sporta of this antient and distinguished meeting will commence with A match of Backswords by men for a purse of Twelve Guineas, To be played for as shall be agreed upon, and to begin play at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. To be succeeded by Wrestling for liberal prizes. Also Dancing, Jingling, Bowling, and Running in Sacks, With an endless variety of the renowned Olympic Games and Manly Diversions, which are too well known to require a description.
And on Friday the sports will commence with a Pony Race for a Handsome Prize, To be run for by Poneys not more than Twelve Hands High; the best of three Heats; not less then three to start; to start precisely at four o'clock in the afternoon. To be followed by Backsword Playing, Together with a multiplicity of Athletic Exercises and the noted Cotswold Sports, which have been peculiar to this meeting for centuries.
No person will be permitted to erect a Booth on the Hill, to sell any sort of beverage, without previously paying fifteen shillings to the Conductors of the Sports. A main of Cocks will be fought each morning at Mr. Thos. Smith's, Hare and Hounds (4) Inn, in Campden, between the Gentlemen of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, to begin at ten o'clock. Also good Ordinaries. Plays, Balls, and Concerts each day as usual. On Saturday a Wake will be held in Campden, with variety of amusements.
Chipping Campden, April 23rd, 1821.
William Chamberlain and Co., Conductors.
The meeting at this time occupied two or three days, and from the amount of toll for booths, it is evident that much money was spent. In early times it is said that people travelled sixty miles to, attend the sports, and as late as 1826 an authority states that the meeting was a great holiday for the lads and lassies for 10 to 15 miles round. The booths were erected against the shade of Weston Park, to the south.
In later years the subscriptions must have been numerous, for the meetings in the twenties somotimes included a £50 stake for horse racing and a silver cup for wrestling. Backsword, or single stick, as it was called in some places, was practiced by two men, who each endeavoured to break the other's head, and by skilful men the duel was sometimes prolonged for 90 minutes. At this meeting twelve couples would frequently play, the prize being a guineas a couple, 18s. going to the victor and 3s. to the vanquished.
Jingling was played by about eight men entering a ring all blindfolded but one, who had bells in his hands, which he kept ringing by running about the ring. If he were caught within a certain time by one of those blindfolded, the captor gained the prize, but if the jingler escaped the others until the time expired, he won the prize.
Morris dancers attended--spruce lads sprigged up in their Sunday clothes, with ribbons round their hats and arms, and bells on their legs. They were attended by a jester, caled the Tom Fool, who carried a large stick Wit a bladder tied to one end, with which he buffeted about, and made room for the dancers. Then one of the finest looking fellows of the Party carried a large plum cake with a long sword run through the middle of it, so that the cake rested on the hilt. On the point of the sword was a large bunch of ribbons, with streamers of divers colours flying; and when the cake-carrier saw a favourite lass or anyone that extended bounty to them, he treated the person to a slice of the cake. Much innocent fun and mirth were engendered at these games, and although some are considered brutal now, it is doubtful if anything has been gained by their abolition, for so long as war continues, it is idle, and in fact self-destructive, to discourage the combative spirit in any way.
One can hardly doubt that the immortal Shakespeare attended these meetings sometimes in their early days, and it is possible that some of the scenes in his comedies were taken from them, such as the wrestling scene in "As You Like it."
The last meeting took place about 1852, When the enclorure of the open fields of Weston was completed and the greater part of the plateau at the top of the hill was divided into enclosures awarded to the various owners of rights in the open fields.
(1) A beautiful valley or place
(2) The Greek Olympian games took place every five years
(3) Landlord of the old Eight Bells.
(4) Now the Lygon Arms