Updated 30 Dec 2008

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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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 generations.

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
          1749             1752
          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.

1750               1748             
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
1881             1807

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