On this Day 17th September 1886

Wrestling with Apathy in the Fields of Penzance

Promoting Cornish wrestling in the United States (private collection)The weather’s perfect. So – where were the crowds? Mr Polglase had lent his field, out in the pleasant countryside of Treneere. Granted, it’s a bit of a pull up there from the Quay – especially after the top of North Street. It’s still all rough ground here, where the rope walk used to run – although not for long. Fine terraces are all the go in this part of town; and soon we shall have a fine street here. Houses with eight rooms, the gas laid on, water closet and what have you. Houses right the way through to Mr Polglase’s land.

"For the encouragement of light-weights”, the announcement ran, “it may be stated that Hancock and Pearce are debarred from entering”. Maybe folk found this a disappointment; considered that wrestling without the top men would present no spectacle at all. But did the absence of Hancock and Pearce have a deleterious effect on the standard of play at Treneere? It did not. The men were up to scratch; certainly as good as we’re accustomed to. “Quite up to the average witnessed at previous matches this season, with general satisfaction….. given”. The laurels of victory – and, more to the point, a full £8 – went to Peter Carlyon of Breage. Under the close eye of the sticklers, he threw Arthur James, who had travelled over from St Stephen, and William Lucking of Charlestown, then he bested Thomas Stone of St Austell for the prize. Mr Stone, he had to content himself with a £4 purse. Would you not call that a clear victory for granite, against the softness of clay?

Cornish wrestlers under the "close eye of the sticklers". (courtesy of the Morrab Library Photo Archive)

Cornish wrestlers under the "close eye of the sticklers". (courtesy of the Morrab Library Photo Archive)

There was £2 for Harry Vellanoweth, of Camborne, in third place, and even £1 for the Redruth man who came in fourth.

The winners – ay, and the losers, and plenty of bystanders who had placed their bets - went down to Mr Corin’s establishment, the Farmer’s Arms at the top of North Street, for the prizes to be given out.

So –where were the crowds? Some blame the choice of a Friday, and consider Saturday, the end of the working week, a better choice. Well, we shall see. Tomorrow, in Goldsithney, there will be more wrestling on the old fair field. And down at the Farmer’s Arms, the players were all joshing and challenging one another, looking forward to another chance at a prize. But the Breage man, Carlyon? He’ll be hard to beat.


Cornishman Thursday 16th September 1886 page 4 (announcement) 23rd September 1886 page 4 (report)

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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Sally Corbet

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