|Where:||Winchelsea, East Sussex in Castle Street|
|When:||Boxing Day 26th December|
Every Boxing Day the residents of Winchelsea play a game in the street using a representation of a Frenchman’s Head. The custom began hundreds of years ago, when the French were the traditional enemies of the English and Winchelsea was right at the forefront of the defence of the realm; as a crucial port it was besieged in the fourteenth century by (yes, you’ve guessed!) the French. Like many popular sports, it was suppressed by the authorities amidst complaints about disorder, but happily in 1999 the game was revived and has been an annual fixture ever since. At 11 o’clock a small crowd gathers to watch 3 teams compete for possession of the Head so they can give it a hard kick and put it in goal at the end of the street – apart from this there are few rules and play is rough, fast and furious and rather like the Shrove Tuesday and Borders ball games (see separate articles, mostly in February and Shrovetide tables on this site). After about half-an-hour it’s all over for another year, hopefully with only a few bruises from the scrum.
This event appears to be little known outside Winchelsea but is part of a long tradition of street games – and if you’re from the South East it’s the only example for many miles (unless anyone knows of more?).
Click here for more: http://www.winchelsea.net/community/game.htm
Thanks to Valmai Goodyear for sharing info on this one!
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