Games in the year 1600 (Snippets 25)


Blind Man’s Bluff, by Francisco de Goya, 1789.

In 1600, Samuel Rowlands published one of his earliest collections of poems, under the slightly gruesome title The Letting of Humour’s Blood in the Head-vaine.  He was not a popular poet in his day, but his work has proven valuable to those interested in social history as it throws light on English society and culture at the time.  The 4th “Satire” in this collection has a handy little list of 16th and 17th Century pastimes, in the form of a challenge to a rival:

I have a restitution in my minde:
For though your beard do stand so fine mustated,
Perhaps your nose may be transfisticated.
Man, I dare challenge thee to throw the sledge,
To jumpe, or leape over ditch or hedge;
To wrastle, play at stooleball, or to runne;
To pich the barre, or to shoote off a gunne;
To play at loggets, nine holes, or ten-pinnes;
To try it out at foot-ball by the shinnes.
At ticktacke, Irish noddy, maw and ruffe;
At hot-cockles, leap-frog, or blindman-bluffe;
To drinke halfe pots, or deale at the whole can;
To play at base, or pen and inck-horne Sir Jhan;
To daunce the mirris, play at barly-breake;
At all exployts a man can thinke or speake,
At shove-groat, venter-poynt, or crosse & pile,
At beshow him thats last at yonder stile;
At leaping ore a midsommer bon-fier,
Or at the drawing dunne out of the myer;
At any of those, or all these, presently;
Wagge but your finger, I am for you, I.
I scorne (that any younster of our towne)
To let the bow-bell Cockney put mee downe.

A lot of those games are still played today (although I’m not sure what ‘football’ is exactly – certainly something I’m not very familiar with), but here’s a quick run-down of some of the less obvious games:

  • Loggets: a stake is hammered into the ground and then players take turns to throw pieces of wood or sticks at it.
  • Nine holes: balls or marbles are aimed through a hole in a board at nine holes in the ground, arranged three-by-three.
  • Ticktacke: noughts and crosses.
  • Noddy: a card game, which was a precursor to cribbage.
  • Maw: a card game played with 36 cards.
  • Ruffe: Another card game.
  • Hot cockles: Not just what happens when have your laptop on your lap for too long, ‘hot cockles’ was a similar game to blind man’s bluff.
  • Drinke halfe pots, or deale at the whole can: drinking games.
  • Barley-Break: basically, ‘tag’ or ‘it’ with one person at a middle base trying to catch two others.
  • Shove-groat: a forerunner of shove ha’penny
  • Cross and pile: gambling on heads or tails
  • Drawing dun out of the mire: not quite as disgusting as it sounds.  A wooden log represents a dun horse, and the players have to attempt to lift or drag it with rope.  Basically a simple test of strength.

There are also one or two games in the poem that I cannot find any explanation of, apart from them being ‘some sort of a game’.  Perhaps readers can fill in some of the gaps in the comments section!

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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