18th October 1633. Killjoys 17thc Style.

Today in 1633 saw The Book of Sports under a declaration ‘by the King’s Majesty’ [Charles I], to his subjects, ‘regarding lawful sports to be used’. It was ordered to be read, with punishment for refusal, from the church pulpit.

This followed his father’s [James I (VI)] similar publication of 1618,  but withdrawn owing to Puritan opposition concerned with strict observation of the Sabbath or Lord’s Day.

King James’ ‘Bokk'(sic) had been introduced originally to resolve a dispute between the Puritans and Gentry, mainly Catholics in Lancashire, but eventually to apply to all England.


Good old fashioned revels which Puritans abhorred.

Restrictions as to what sports and entertainment might be allowed on Sundays went against King James natural inclinations except against those Catholics who avoided church-going.

For as he declared: ‘Our good people be not disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales and Morris Dances, and the setting up of maypoles and other sports therewith used…

…also we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baiting, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited bowling’.


Book of Sports of Charles I.


However ten years after King Charles’ Declaration, in 1643, the Puritan parliament ordered that the Book of Sports be burned, a prohibition to remain until the Restoration of the Monarchy, after the Civil-War, in 1660.

One victim of the ban was the Cotswold Games founded in 1612 by Robert Dover with the aim to revive the traditional sports of the Middle Ages.

Richard Baxter summed up Puritan thinking back in King James’ reign, deprecating his ‘Book’ (issued by a mere mortal king), which allowed sports such as dancing and recreation on The Lord’s Day, as against the [Puritan] Parliament.

Phillip Stubbes was more trenchant: ‘Wakes [traditional rural entertainment], led to days of drunkennesse, whoredom, gluttony and other filthie, sodomiticall exercises’.(sic)

However most would agree with Robert Dover: ‘And let content and mirth all those attend, that doe (sic) all harmless and honest sports defend’.

Keep Jogging!



historyextra.com/Puritan Attempt To Ban Games in 17thc England.Alistair Dougall.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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