Sports and pastimes of old time
vsed in this Citie.
LEt vs now saith (Fitz Stephen) come to
the sportes and pastimes,
Of sports and
pastimes in
this Citie eue
rie thing hath
his time, a
time to weepe
a time to
laugh, a time
to mourne, &
a time to daunce.
Eccles. 3.
séeing it is fitte
that a cittie should not onely be commodi
ous and serious, but also merrie and sport
full: whereupon in the seales of the
Popes, vntil the time of Pope Leo,1 on the
one side was Saint Peter fishing with a
keye ouer him, reached as it were by the
hande of God out of heauen, and about it
this verse. Tu pro me nauem liquisti, suscipe clauem. And
on the other side was a cittie, and this inscription on it, Aurea
. Likewise to the prayse of Augustus Cesar, and the ci

Sportes and pastimes.
tie, in respect of the shewes and sportes was written,
Nocte pluit tota redeunt spectacula mane, &c.
All night it raynes, and showes at morrowtide returne again.
And Cesar with almigtie Ioue hath matcht any equall raigne.
But London for the shews vpon Theaters, & Comical pastimes,
hath holy playes representations of miracles,
Stage playes.
which holy confes
sors haue wrought, or representations of tormentes wherein the
constancie of Martirs appeared. Euery yeare also at Shrouetuse
day (that we may beginne with childrens sports, séeing we al haue
Cock fighting.
children) the schoole boyes do bring cockes of the game to
their Mayster, and all the forenoone they delight themselues in
cockfighting: after dinner all the youthes goe into the fieldes, to
play at the ball. The schollers of euery schoole haue their ball (or
bastion) in their
Ball play.
hands: the auncient and wealthy men of the Citie
come forth on horsebacke to sée the sport of the young men, and to
take parte of the pleasure in beholding their agilitie. Euery Fry
day in Lent a fresh company of young men comes into the fielde
on horsebacke, and the best horsemen conducteth the rest.
Exercise of war
like feates on
with disarmed
march forth the citizens sonnes, and other young men with disar
med launces and shieldes, and there they practise feates of warre.
Many Courtiers likewise when the king lyeth néere, and atten
dants of noble men do repayre to these exercises, and while the hope
of victorie doth inflame their mindes, do shew good proofe how ser
uiceable they
Battailes on
would bee in martiall affayres. In Easter holidaies
they fight battailes on the water, a shield is hanged vpon a pole,
fixed in the midst of the streame, a boat is prepared without oares
to be carryed by violence of the water, and in the fore part thereof
standeth a young man, readie to giue charge vpon the shield with
his launce: if so be he breaketh his launce against the shield, and
doth not fall, he is thought to haue performed a worthy déede. If
so be (without breaking his launce, hee runneth strongly against
the shield, downe hee falleth into the water, for the boate is vio
lently forced with the tide, but on each side of the shielde ride two
boates furnished with young men, which recouer him that falleth
as soone as they may, Upon the bridge, wharfes, and houses,
by the
Leaping, dan
cing, shooting
riuers side, stand great numbers to sée, and laugh thereat.
In the holy dayes all sommer the youths are exercised in leaping,
dancing, shooting, wrastling, casting the stone, and practizing their

Sportes and pastimes.
shieldes: the maydens trippe it with their Timbrelles,
and daunce
as long as they can well sée. In winter euery holy
Fighting of
Boars, bayting
of Beares and
day before
dinner, the Boares prepared for brawne are set to fight, or els
Bulles and Beares are bayted.
When the great fenne or Moore (which watereth
The More
there was no
ditch by the
wall of the
on the yce.
the walles
of the citie on the North side) is frozen, many young men play vp
on the yce, some stryding as wide as they may, doe slide swiftly:
others make themselues seates of ice, as great as milstones: one
sits downe, many hand in hand do drawe him, and one slipping on
a sudden, all fall together: some tye bones to their féete, and vnder
their heeles, and shouing themselues by a little picked staffe, doe
slide as swiftly as a birde flyeth in the aire, or an arrow out of a
crossebow. Sometime two runne together with poles, and hit
ting one the other, eyther one or both doe fall, not without hurt:
some break their armes, some their legs, but youth desirous of glo
rie, in this sort exerciseth it selfe against the time of warre: Many
of the citizens do delight themselues in Haukes, and houndes,
Hauking and
they haue libertie of hunting in Middlesex, Hartfordshire, all
Chiltron, and in Kent to the water of Cray. Thus farre Fitz
of sports.
These, or the like exercises haue béene continued till our time,
namely in stage playes,
A Stage play
whereof ye may reade in Anno 1391. a
play to be plaide by the parish Clearkes of London at the Skin
ners well
besides Smithfield: which play continued thrée dayes
A stage play
that lasted
eight daies.
the King, Quéene, and Nobles of the realme being pre
sent. And of another, plaide in the yeare 1409. which lasted
eight daies, and was of matter from the creation of the worlde,
whereat was present most part of the nobilitie, and gentrie of Eng
&c. Of late time in place of those Stage playes, hath béene
vsed Comedies, Tragedies, enterludes, and histories, both true
and fayned: For the acting whereof certaine publike places, as
the Theater, the Curtine,
Theater and
Curtine for
Comedies &
other shewes.
Cocke fight.
&c. haue béene erected. Also cockes of
the game are yet cherished by diuers men for their pleasures, much
money being laid on their heades, when they fight in pits, where
of some be costly made for that purpose. The Ball is vsed by no
ble men and gentlemen in Tennis courtes,
The ball at
Tennis play
and by people of mea
ner sort in the open fieldes, and stréetes. The youthes of this ci

Sports and pastimes.
tie time out of mind, haue left off to practise the disarmed launce, &
shielde on horsebacke in the fieldes, but I haue séene some few vp
on the Riuer of Thames rowed in boates, with staues flat at the
fore-end, running one against another, and for the most part ey
ther one, or both ouerthrowne and well ducked. On the holydaies
in sommer the youthes of this Citie, haue in the fields exercised
themselues in leaping, dauncing, shooting, wrastling,
Leaping, dan
cing, shooting
wrestling, &c.
casting of
the stone or Ball &c. And for defence and vse of the weapon,
there is a speciall profession of men that teach it. Yee may
reade in mine Annalles, how that in the yeare 1222. the citi
zens kept games of defence, and wrestlings néere vnto the Hospi
tall of Saint Giles in the fielde
, where they challenged, and had
the masterie of the men in the suburbes,
Games of de
and other commers &c. Al
so in the yeare 1453. of a tumult made against the Mayor, at the
wrestling besides Clarkes well &c. which is sufficient to proue that
of olde time the exercising of wrestling, and such like hath béene
much more vsed then of latter yeares. The youthes of this citie,
also haue
Playing at the
vsed on holy dayes after euening prayer, at their may
sters dores, to exercise their wasters and bucklers: and the mai
dens (one of them playing on a Timbrel) in sight of their maisters
Dauncing for
garlandes in
the streets.
and Dames to daunce for garlandes hanged thwart the streetes,
which open pastimes in my youth, being now suppressed: worser
practizes within dores are to be feared: as for the bayting of Buls
and Beares, they are till this day much frequented. Slyding vp
on the Ice is now but childrens play: but in hauking and hunting
many graue citizens, at this present haue great delight, and do ra
ther want leasure then good will to follow it. Of triumphant
shewes made by the citizens of London, ye may reade in the year
1236. the 20. of Henry the third, Andrew Bockwell then being
Mathew Paris.
Shewes for tri
howe Helianor daughter to Reymonde earle of Pro
, riding through the citie towards Westminster, there to be
crowned Quéene of England, the citie was adorned with silkes, &
in the night with lampes, cressets, and other lights, without num
ber, besides
The citizens
many Pageantes, and strange deuises there presented,
the citizens also rode to meet the King & Queene cloathed in long
garments embrodered
about with gold, and silks of diuers colors,
their horses gallantly trapped to the number of 360. euery man

Sportes and pastimes.
bearing a cuppe of gold or siluer in his hand, and the kings trum
petters sounding before them: These citizens did minister wine,
as Bottelers, which is their seruice at the coronation. More in
the yeare 1298. for victorie obtained by Edward the first against
the Scottes, euery citizen according to their seuerall trade, made
their seuerall shew, but specially the Fishmongers,
procession, for
triumph of
against the
Scots, more
then a thou
sand horsmen.
which in a so
lempne procession, passed through the citie, hauing amongst other
Pageants and shewes, foure Sturgeons guilt, carried on foure
horses: then foure Salmons of siluer on foure horses, & after them
sixe and fortie armed Knightes riding on horses, made like luces of
the sea, and then one representing S. Magnus (because it was on
S. Magnus day) with a thousand horsemen &c. Of one other shew
ye may reade in the yeare 1377.
A shew by
torch sight,
being a Mom
meThis text has been supplied. Reason: The text is not clear for some reason not covered by other values of @reason. Evidence: The text has been supplied based on evidence internal to this text (context, etc.). (SM)ri2e, of
more then
100. horses.
made by the citizens for disport
of the yong prince Richard, son to the blacke prince, and thus it fol
loweth. On the sunday before candlemas in the night, 130. citi
zens disguised, and wel horsed in a mummerie with sound of trum
pets, shackbuts, cornets, Shalmes, and other minstrels, and in
numerable torch lights of Waxe, rode from Newgate through
Cheape ouer the bridge, through Southwarke, and so to Ken
besides Lambhith, where the young Prince remayned
with his mother, and the Duke of Lancaster,3 his vncle, the earles
of Cambrldge, Hertford, Warwicke, and Suffolke, with diuers
other Lordes. In the first ranke did ride 48. in the likenes and
habite of Esquires, two and two together cloathed in redde coates
and gownes of Say, or sandall, with comely visors on their faces:
after them came riding 48. knights in the same liuerie, of colour
and stuffe: Then followed one richly arrayed like an Emperor,
and after him some distance, one stately tyred like a Pope, whome
followed 24. Cardinals, and after them eyght or tenne with black
visors not amiable, as if they had béen Legates from some forrain
Princes. These maskers, after they had entred the Mannor of
, alighted from their horses and entred the hall on foot:
which done, the Prince, his mother, and the Lordes came out of
the chamber into the hall, whom the saide mummers did salute,
shewing by a paire of dice vpon the table their desire to play with
the Prince, which they so handled, that the Prince did alwayes
win when he cast them. Then the mummers set to the prince thrée

Sportes and pastimes.
The prince did
winne three
Iewels of the
one after another, which were a boule of gold, a cuppe
of gold, and a ring of gold, which the Prince wanne at thrée casts.
Then they set to the Princes mother, the Duke, the Earles, and
other Lords, to euery one a ring of gold, which they also did win:
After which they were feasted, and the musick sounded, the prince
and Lords daunced on the one part with the mummers, which
did also daunce, which iolitie being ended, they were againe made
to drinke, and then departed in order as they came.
Thus much for sportfull shewes in triumphes may suffice:
of other shews for sports and pastimes yearly vsed, first at Christ
masse, there was in the Kinges house wheresoeuer hee was lodg
ed, a Lorde of misrule,
L. of misrule
at Christmas.
or mayster of merie disporters, and the like
had ye in the house of euery noble man, of honor, or good wor
shippe, were he spirituall, or temporall. Amongst the which the
Maior of London, and either of the shiriffes had their seuerall
Lordes of Misrule, euer contending without quarrell or offence,
who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders.
These Lordes beginning their rule on Alhollon Eue, continued
the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, com
monly called Candlemas day: In all which space there were fine
and subtile disguisinges, Maskes, and Mummeries, with playing
at Cardes, for Counters, Nayles, and pointes, more for pastimes
then for gaine. In the weeke before Easter had yee great shewes
made for the fetching in of a twisted Tree,
Twisted trees
This text has been supplied. Reason: The text is not clear for some reason not covered by other values of @reason. Evidence: The text has been supplied based on guesswork. (SM)fet4 from the
or With, as they
termed it, out of the woodes into the kinges house, and the like in
to euery mans house of honor or worship. In the moneth of May,
May games.
namely on May day in the morning, euery man (except impedi
ment) would walke into the sweet meadowes and greene woods,
there to reioyce their spirites with the beuty and sauour of sweete
flowers, and with the noyce of birdes, praising God in their kinde
and for more notable example hereof Edwarde Hall, hath noted,
that K. Henry the eight in the ſeuenth of his raigne on May day in
the Morning with Queene Katheren his wife, accompanied with
manie Lordes and Ladies, rode a Maying from Greenewitch to
the high ground of Shooters hill, where (as they passed by the
way) they espied a companie of tall yeomen clothed all in Greene,
with greene whoodes, and with bowes and arrowes to the num

Sportes and Pastimes.
ber of 200. One being their Chieftain was called Robin Hoode,
who required the king and his company, to stay & see his men shoot
whereunto the king granting, Robin Hoode
Robin Hoode
and his men
shot before the
whistled, and al the
200. Archers shot of, loosing all at once, and when he whistled a
gaine they likewise shot againe, their arrowes whistled by craft
of the heade, so that the noise was strange and lowde, which great
ly delighted the king and Queene and their Companie. Moreouer
this Robin Hoode desired the King and Queene with their reti
nue to enter the greene wood, where, in harbors made of boughes
and decked with flowers, they were set and serued plentifully
with venison and wine, by Robin Hoode and his meynie, to their
greate contentment, and had other Pageantes and Pastimes as
yee may reade in my saide Author. I find also that in the moneth
of May, the Citizens of London, of all estates, lightlie in euery
parish, or sometimes two or three parishes ioyning together, had
their seuerall mayinges, and did fetch in Maypoles, with diuers
warlike shewes, with good Archers, Morrice dauncers, and o
ther deuises for pastime all the day long, and towardes the eue
ning they had stage playes and bonefires in the streetes, of these
Mayinges, wee read in the raigne of Henry the 6. that the Al
dermen and Shiriffs of London being on May day at the Bishop
of Londons wood in the parish of Stebunheath, and hauing there
a worshipful dinner for themselues and other commers, Lydgate,
the Poet that was a Monke of Bray, sent to them by a Pursiuant
a ioyfull cōmendation of that season contayning 16. staues in me
ter Royall, beginning thus.

Mighty Flora, Goddesse of fresh flowers,
The pleasant
moneth of
May commen
which clothed hath the soile in lustie greene.
Made buds spring, with her sweete showers,
by influence of the Sun shine.
To doe pleasance of intent full cleane,
vnto the States which now sit here.
Hath Vere downe sent her owne daughter deare.

Making the vertue, that dured in the roote.
Called of Clarkes, the vertue vegitable.
for to trascend, most holsom and most soote.

Of watches in London.
Into the Crop, this season so agreeable,
the baumy liThis text is the corrected text. The original is b (SM)quor, is so commendable.
That it reioyceth, with his fresh moisture,
man, beast, and fowle, and euery creature: &c.

These greate Mayinges and Maygames made by the gouer
nors and maisters of this Citie, with the triumphant setting vp
of the greate shafte, (a principall Maypole in Cornhill, before
the parish Church of S. Andrew) therefore called Undershafte,
by meane of an insurrection of youthes, against Alianes on May
day, 1517
. the ninth of Henry the eight, haue not beene so free
ly vsed as afore.


  1. There is not enough information here to determine which Pope Leo Stow refers to. (KL)
  2. Unclear; context obvious. (SM)
  3. I.e., John of Gaunt. (KL)
  4. Unclear. (SM)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Stow, John, and William fitz-Stephen. Survey of London: Sports and Pastimes. The Map of Early Modern London, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 15 Sep. 2020,

Chicago citation

Stow, John, and William fitz-Stephen. Survey of London: Sports and Pastimes. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed September 15, 2020.

APA citation

Stow, J., & fitz-Stephen, W. 2020. Survey of London: Sports and Pastimes. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London. Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

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Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Stow, John
A1  - fitz-Stephen, William
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Survey of London: Sports and Pastimes
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
PY  - 2020
DA  - 2020/09/15
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 


RT Web Page
SR Electronic(1)
A1 Stow, John
A1 fitz-Stephen, William
A6 Jenstad, Janelle
T1 Survey of London: Sports and Pastimes
T2 The Map of Early Modern London
WP 2020
FD 2020/09/15
RD 2020/09/15
PP Victoria
PB University of Victoria
LA English
OL English

TEI citation

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