Over the centuries, recreation has been a major part of life, from biblical times when David played the lyre and they had lutes, psalteries and sackbut to play.
Entertainment and sport gradually altered: in Roman times, the gladiators fought lions in the arenas and had their chariot races:then the Olympic games were instigated in ancient Greece.
Travelling players and jesters were popular; one travelling minstrel called Blondel saved his master Richard Coeur de Lion from prison in Austria; even Robin Hood had his minstrel, Allan-a-Dale.
Travelling players were popular, singing roundelays and madrigals:archers had shooting contests and knights had their jousting on horseback, with long poles.
From the Middle Ages entertainments have increased in variety. Some, like bear baiting and hare coursing, together with badger baiting and cock fighting are considered obnoxious, as was the old bare knuckle fighting.
Music became more popular: the Victorians made their own musical evenings, with harpsichords, spinets and virginals to play, each person singing or playing their own particular party piece.
Croquet was played and organised cricket was started with matches at Hambleton and then, of course, the football league was inaugurated. Rugby football became popular after first being played at Rugby School, hence the name. Horse racing prospered, the point-to-point being the forerunner when a wager was placed on who would race from one landmark to another in the fastest time. The navvies played pitch and toss, the one who tossed a coin nearest a stick being the winner and collecting all the other tossed coins. Quoits was played in local leagues, also, but this game disappeared into obscurity.
During Victorian times the music hall was very popular with a great variety of acts performing in theatres to entertain a usually receptive audience. Dancing has also been a great source of enjoyment; Morris dancing, sword dancing and country and barn dancing. People also danced to the music of large bands: foxtrots, waltzes, lancers and gavottes.
In many parts of the country localised occurrences take place: barrel rolling, pancake races, the Helston floral dance, well dressing and various ball games from one end of a town to the other, with most of the inhabitants taking part. The best known local event is the Robert Dovers games on Dovers Hill, with, I believe, a glorious shin kicking contest.
Alas, the cinema, radio and television have put paid to most of the family participation activities. When I watch the antagonistic way things are today, it is possibly a good thing, because the old-fashioned sporting rivalry, seems to have gone out of the window.
Summer 1995 Index