Tumbling was outlawed in 1857, just one of many robust Greenwich and Blackheath activities that had a stop put to them by Victorian prudes. Which is a great shame as far as I can see, especially with the Olympics coming up – now they’re getting rid of beach volleyball as an Olympic sport, they need something a bit saucy to perk things up.
Tumbling was a naughty game played by courting couples in cheekier times. A young swain would climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich Park with his lady-love, during the madcap days of the twice-yearly Greenwich Fair, then drag her, squealing – either with delight or sheer terror – down again, going at such a pace that she’d fall over, and roll the rest of the way to the bottom, legs and skirts akimbo, affording a splendid view to all and sundry.
It was quite a dangerous activity – accidents were an occupational (or should I say “recreational”) hazard. In 1730 one lusty young wench broke her neck, another her jaw bone and yet another her leg in a single day. The Victorians, of course, took a dim view and banned it (along with the fair itself.) Presumably nowadays they wouldn’t allow it on bloomin’ health and safety grounds, but I reckon it’s high time it was reintroduced – perhaps even as an Olympic sport. Of course you’d need the proper gear – ideally a crinoline skirt and frilly pantaloons – but it could provide hours of fun and exercise for all the family. Points would be awarded for the inelegance of the tumble and the amount revealed. For “Live TV” coverage, the pantaloons would be optional.