Updated 30 Dec 2008
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
Wirksworth Football Play 1820
This early reference to a game of football, between
Wirksworth and Middleton around 1820, and containing traceable people,
was submitted by Rev.John Smith DOXEY (of Milnrow, Rochdale) to the
Reliquary, Vol 9,pp 93-96, for 1868-1869.
The following ballad, founded on an event which occurred in the early
part of the present century, is, I venture to think, worth of preservation
in the pages of that valuable antiquarian miscellany the "RELIQUARY",
which embraces subjects of almost every description, especially
those which bring before the eyes of the present generation
scenes grave and gay of past days, alas! never more to return.
Subjects of the latter kind, whether in prose or verse, preserving
permanently the memory of the social, political, and religious habits, the
pastimes, the diversions, and the domestic occupations, employments,
and customs of our forefathers, who trod those very paths which we
are now treading, to all sensible and enquiring minds I cannot but
feel certain, are interesting and instructive.
Until very lately little has been done to collect and hand down to
others the fleeting, because oral, ballads and songs of our country.
Happily, however, there is now a growing taste for these valuable and
interesting remains, which has called forth many collections of ballads
and songs, and it would seem, judging from the ready and extensive
sale such works have met with, that the more publications of this
nature are brought forth, the more are they sought after and read.
Much gratitude is due from us in this respect to such lovers of ancient
literature as Mr Halliewll, the late Mr Harland (whose death must
be deeply felt by all of us), the worthy editor of the "RELIQUARY",
and others, for their fostering care, and the ability they have displayed
in this branch of literature.
I am sure that all readers of the "RELIQUARY" will unite with me
in wishing that the useful work which has been begun will go on, and
that every success may attend those who, having the leisure and
abilities, devote their time to the production of works of this class,
which, while they afford pleasure, convey instruction to future
Of all the particulars respecting the present ballad, and the event
which called it forth, the folowing are, I believe, the most trustworthy.
The ballad is said to have been written by Jonathan Twigge, who was
born at Birchover, and for many years until his death resided at
Wirksworth. He was by trade a glazier, and kept for some time a
public-house caled "The Glaziers' Arms", and from all accounts was
very clever at composing squibs and ballads, which were in great
favour with the people of the lower orders. He is numbered amongst
"the eminent natives of the county of Derby", as given by Mr Glover
in his history of the county, where he is described as a glazier and
song-writer, living between the years 1748 and 1823. The contest
which is the subject of the ballad took place at Wirksworth, and
those of Middleton, a small village lying near, chiefly inhabited by
hardy and industrious miners.
The struggle, which drew to the spot all the inhabitants of both
places, so that to use a local expression - "you might have stormed
either Wirksworth or Middleton" - caused great excitement at the time,
and is still remembered by the old people. The issue being unfavourable
to the Middleton players, who afterwards complained of unfair
treatment on the occassion, great animosity was excited between the
inhabitants of the two places, which vented itself from time to time
until even lately in hard words and fights, although in many insatnces
the source of the feud was entirely forgotton or unknown. The
following, evidently written at the time of the event, possibly by Twigge
himself, which I have copied literally throughout, is taken from a
manuscript in the possession of Mr George Marsden, of Wirksworth,
who kindly gave me permission to make use of it.
It is well to add, in conclusion, for the credit of Twigge, that the
errors in the grammatical construction of the ballad may be due, not
to the composer, rude genius as he was, but rather to some illiterate
person who has written it down from hearsay or memory.
Two champions bold the other day,
Engaged a Foot-Ball Match to play,
The field was pointed out;
One, Little-David call'd by name,
Recorded in the list of fame,
A man of courage stout.
He with young Ince that very day
'Gainst Roebuck and his son would play
The Laurel for to win;
Roebuck and son likewise appear'd,
And flush'd with hope each other cheered
Was ready to begin.
All people that could leave their home,
To see the play in crowds did come,
The Lawyer and the Proctor;
Women and men of every sort,
Collected was to view the sport,
The Parson and the Doctor.
The Parson purpos'd for their sake,
A Funeral Sermon for to make,
If any one was slain;
Anf if they chanc'd to break their neck,
The Doctor ready at a beck,
To pull them in again.
The Lawyer-should disputes arise,
About the Play, or of the Prize,
Was there to make an end on't;
For whoever so'er should win,
To him it did not mean a pin,
If plaintiff or defendant.
The boys were frolicksome and gay,
Quite full of life and full of play,
They frisk'd about like kittens;
'Twas laughable the people said,
For Mr Roeuck was arrayed
In's spectacles and mittens.
To keep his fingers from the cold,
Perhaps was thirty winters old,
Their age did not agree;
David was plain and unadorn'd,
To guard against the cold he scorn'd,
And he was sixty-three.
The ball threw up the boys did run,
It was young Roebuck got the pun,
To make his work complete;
He catch'd young Ince and swung him round,
Then threw him headlong on the ground,
Exulting in the feat.
After the Ball without delay,
Towards the goal he wing'd his way,
The victory to gain;
But David who did guard the same,
Soon drove him back from whence he came,
And did his post maintain.
With pun for pun awhile they played,
Quite full of glee and undismayed,
Each side sustain'd their part;
Till once more meeting at the ball,
Young Ince receiv'd a second fall,
Which cow'd him to the heart.
No more with ardent strife he ran,
For he no more durst face his man,
But his approaches shunn'd;
He rather seemed to slink away,
For he would meet no more that day,
And at a distance punn'd.
Young Roebuck being on the watch,
Within his hands the ball did catch,
And then he did repair,
Unto the goal with all his might,
Avoiding David in his flight,
But that was deemed unfair.
Old Roebuck fierce and David strong,
From place to place did dart along
And every effort tries;
His partner was so weary grown,
It made it nearly two to one,
Contending for the prize.
Young Roebuck having got the ball,
Like lightning flew towards the goal,
For he was light and slim;
David to follow him declin'd,
For he as well might catch the wind,
As think of catching him.
So Roebuck having won the day,
It put an end to further play,
And likewise all our fun;
Yet this I'll say - To prove I can,
Had David had as good a man,
He certainly had won.*
* Some other, and very excellent, lines on "The Football Play",
have recently been printed from the original by Mr Marsden. The lines
are by John Wright, a native of Wirksworth, and exhibit much talent.
John Wright was eldest son of John and Hannah Wright, of Bolehill,
Wirksworth, and was born there May 9, 1749. His father was a miner,
to which trade the son was brought up, but eventually became a
mine agent, and died much esteemed in 1828. His poetical productions
are of great merit. [Ed. Reliquary]
John 1737 Hannah
John 1774 Grace
1828 | 1826
Catherina 1802 Thomas
Jonathan TWIGGE was from Birchover, was a plumber and victualler at the
Glazier's Arms, and wrote the above Ballad.
Sarah TWIGGE married John MARSDEN 1801 who probably founded the MARSDEN
business of printing and auctioneering in Market Place, Wirksworth,
see Marsden the Auction.
Margaret 1772 Jonathan 1780 Grace
1778 | 1823 | 1805
| | | | | | | |
1778 1781 1784 1786 1787 1790 1795
Ruth Sarah Ellen Elizabeth Elizabeth John Grace Penelope
1778 Wilcockson 1785 1793 1805
ROEBUCK and his son are mentioned in the Ballad.
"Mr Roebuck....perhaps was thirty winters old."
Young ROEBUCK (who won the game for Wirksworth) must have been
his son Richard Henry Mason (born 1803), if he was 15 when the
match was played in 1818, his father would have been 40 not 30.
Thomas 1802 Elizabeth
| | | |
1803 1805 1815
Richard Thomas John John
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