Wrestling is a distinct Cornish tradition that survives to the present day.
The history of Cornish Wrestling goes back so far it is lost in the midst of time. The first mention of Celtic Wrestling appears in the ancient book of Leinster, referring to the sport being included in the Tailteann Games which date back to at least 1829 BC. We know Wrestling was established in Cornwall before the Roman invasion and that the Cornish meetings on Halvager Moor were held during the dark-ages.
The Cornish contingent with Henry V at Agincourt (1415) marched under a banner depicting two Wrestlers “in a hitch”. The banner needed no words; the pictures of the wrestlers was enough to let anyone know the men of Cornwall were behind it.
During the famous meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France (on the Field of the Cloth of Gold) a team of wrestlers representing the English king defeated the champions of France. This contingent, which humbled the French team, consisted entirely of men from Cornwall. Godolphin the chief wrestler had received the Royal command direct to bring his men to uphold the king’s honour at Calais.
Wrestling is our national sport in Cornwall, a direct living link with our ancestors handed down through an un-broken chain, from father to son, brother to brother and friend to friend for over 3,000 years.
Many times, Cornish Wrestlers have displayed their prowess before a royal audience. King Charles II believed that the Cornish were “masters in the art of wrestling” after attending a tournament at Bodmin while on his way to the Isles of Silly. It was during his reign that Tomas Hawken of Cubert threw Lyttleton Weynorth, who claimed to be the champion wrestler of “all England”.
Richard Carew, famous for his survey of Cornwall (1602) said that at about 1590 even their Breton neighbours did not match the Cornish in the art of Wrestling. Men from all walks of life took part in the sport. One of the best known wrestlers of the 17th century was Richard Stevens, the head master of Truro Grammar school; inventor Richard Trevithick was another. In the 18th and 19th centuries for which information is more readily available, we see records of tournaments that ran for a week to find the standing men to contest the semi-finals and finals on the Saturday and Sunday. With crowds of upwards of 10,000 for such finals or big name challenge matches, large sums of money often changed hands