13th August 1513. Games and Pastimes.
Today in 1513 a letter was written by Catherine of Aragon to Cardinal Wolsey which included the statement, ‘that all the King’s subjects were busy with the golfe’. (1)
Not all for she could hardly take cognisance of the submerged nine-tenths scratching a living or attempting a temporary relief from fleas. Games were for the upper-classes, the hoi-polloi would find enough to do, when not working, polishing their skills at archery ready for the next frontier dispute.
Whip and top 1560 style.
Grandees in their castles and palaces called for the jester,18thcentury parsons ate their way through gargantuan meals with backgammon to follow and apoplexy to follow that. Victorian ladies languished and swooned in cluttered drawing rooms once the household had been set to its accomplished tasks. The men-folk hunted and shot.
Children later when released from whatever restrictions of education or work would indulge in games often copying their elders in games of war, later cops and robbers or cowboys and indians sublimating violence into harmless opposing groups.
The streets were empty then and so the playground of children engaged in driving hoops (cycle wheels) along pavements, (hopscotch for girls), playing marbles with their beautiful coloured whorls, and cigarette cards-‘faggies’- which were flicked against walls. Then the inevitable ‘hide and seek’ often played under the dismal glow of gas-lights, not to forget whip and top.
One thing is certain streets as play areas are as obsolete as the archery butts of old, but ‘people are still busy with the golf’. Also the seer in 1531 who spoke of football as being, ‘nothing but beastly fury and extreme violence’, would be pleased to note that little has changed today.
(1) Catherine was first queen of Henry VIII.
Ref: Punch Magazine. Oct. 6th 1969. The Past of Pastimes. Vernon Bartlett. Chatto and Windus.