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.

4 Comments to “Tumbling”

  1. The Architect says:

    In Latvia young couples – at the Solstice celebrations – race down a hill, hand in hand and jump a fire laid at the bottom of the hill.
    This is said to further fertility – probably as the flames are warming up certain parts of the body.
    This has been done since viking times and cristianity and later russian occupation has not been able to change this.
    Not a healthy activity to try in victorian clothes, but then those pesky, nordic people around Baltic have not been known to be particularly victorian.
    Now that the Horn Fair has been brought back, what about bringing back tumbling? And it would be lovely with firejumping at the Solstice.
    Bring back a saucier Greenwich!

  2. [...] about Greenwich Fair before several times – not least including a traditional Greenwich pastime that was, like the fair itself, banned by the Victorians but I still think should be reintroduced [...]

  3. [...] since antiquity and although he does fail to mention Greenwich’s very own nutty event, tumbling, I’ll forgive him that one as it was outlawed in 1857 and no one’s bothered to revive [...]

  4. MattM says:

    Given that horses will be galloping up and down these hills during the Olympics – one wonders if H&S concerns may arise again!