Welcome to Dover’s Games
On Friday, June 1st 2012 Robert Dover’s Games celebrated a historic 400 years. To celebrate this historic anniversary year, the event ran from 2 pm to Midnight. A 20th Century Robert Dover opened the Games in front of his Castle around 7.30 pm as usual and there was new entertainment on the hill in the afternoon primarily designed for children but with plenty for adults to do.
The surprise of the Games was the world premiere of the Olympic Welcome Songs by Eliza Carthy, Robert Hollingworth, I Fagiolini and a 150-strong choir led by Richard Stephens. It was preceded by a folk concert featuring Mawkin, Beth Thornton, Bethany Weimers and the Robbie Boyd Band.
The evening brought traditional sporting events like the Shin-Kicking and Tug-of-War together with the upper-level favourites in the arenas. At 9.45 pm the Scuttlebrook Queen lit the beacon, fireworks coloured the sky and then there was the usual moving Torchlight Procession to the Square in Chipping Campden where dancing in the Square concluded the evening at midnight.
Background to Dover’s Games
The present Games continue the spirit of the original Games, dating from 1612 when they were first organised by Robert Dover (1582-1652) ‘with leave from James I’. They were held on the Thursday and Friday of Whitweek and included horse racing, coursing, jumping, wrestling, backswords, pike drill, and country dancing. Robert Dover, a lawyer, presided over events ceremonially dressed in James I’s clothes, and a feature of the hillside was Dover’s Castle mounted with cannon to begin the events.
The Games were popular with people from all ranks of society, and William Shakespeare may well have attended them.
The Games were called Olimpick and were compared with the Greek Olympics (776BC-394AD). The title was used thereafter, long before the present series of Olympic Games, which date from 1896. The Civil War ended the original Games, but they continued after 1660 for nearly two hundred years. Known as Dover’s Meeting, they included wrestling, backsword fighting, dancing jigs, and a smock race for a Holland shift. Vivid accounts of them in the 18th century were provided by William Somerville and Richard Graves. The Games were suspended in 1853 with the enclosure of Weston sub Edge and in 1929 Dover’s Hill became National Trust property. The Games were held again in 1951 to celebrate the Festival of Britain and were fully revived with the founding of Robert Dover’s Games Society in 1965. In 1982 the British Olympic Association recognised the Games as part of its pre-history.
If you would like to know even more, please visit their website at www.olimpickgames.co.uk