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Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling


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A traditional form of wrestling in north-west England and southern Scotland, and parts of north-east England, known for its uninhibited and little-regulated form of combat. Wrestlers are male, the contest is fought on grass, over the best of three falls, and in the world championships the contestants must wear white long-john pantaloons. Traditionally, in the 19th and 20th centuries such contests were a source of cash gain and local status. Organized championships were first held in 1904, and the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association celebrated its centenary year in 2006, by which time aspects of the sport were not just organized in local academies, but coaching was provided and public sector facilities made available for training. In the mid 20th century, as observed by anthropologist W. M. Williams in his case-study village of Gosforth (a rural parish in West Cumberland), the wrestling was still very traditional in form and organization. Though Gosforth had its own Wrestling Academy, re-established in 1946 after a 20-year gap, the skills of the local style were still orally transmitted and learned by practical demonstration. Wrestling prowess guaranteed more prestige than proficiency in football or cricket, and though practised in Gosforth ‘almost entirely’ by farmers' sons and farm labourers, a keen interest in the activity was ‘shown by people of both sexes from all occupational and social levels’ (see W. M. Williams, The Sociology of an English Village: Gosforth, 1964).

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