Martial arts, 1713-style

Sick of “topical” references to sport and the Olympics yet?  No?  I’m so pleased.  Because Derbyshire Record Office have today received a rather unusual manuscript.  It appears to be notes taken by a student of the art of wrestling (a constant feature of the Olympics, ancient and modern) from Sir Thomas Parkyns’ seminal work, “The Inn-Play or the Cornish Hugg”.  It includes detailed descriptions of such holds as “the inlock”, “the flying mare”, and “the gripes”.  And what might that be?  Let’s see:

The Gripes is nothing but laying your right hand amongst his small ribs and putting your left hand to your right hand to augment your strength in griping and when you gripe get your hand on the outside of his arm, that you may lift the better.

Never delay the gripes but get them as soon as you can and hold him strait and your head close to his breast, that he doth not give you his elbow and stand low with your knees bent and loose and it will prevent buttock, back lock, in lock, trip.

“Buttock”, by the way, is another of the wrestling manoeuvres described in the text.  I hope you are not sniggering.

Sir Thomas also had advice for boxers, suggesting that “if you have long hair, soap it; ye best holds are the pinion, both of your arms at his shoulders and your head in his face”.  Hardly Queensberry rules, is it?  But then the Marquess of Queensberry (to be specific, the 9th Marquess) wasn’t born until 1844.

A transcript of the original text is available elsewhere on WordPress:

You may spot that our recent acquisition has “ye” and “doth” in place of “the” and “does”, making it seem, in a way, older than the original.  The handwriting suggests the early eighteenth century, and there are a few relics of an older style than that.  Beyond that, there is only one no clue to identify the note-taker.  His signature:

Richard Samuell, perhaps?  It looks just as faint on the text itself.

The Derbyshire connection is that the text was among those collected by the late historian of Great Longstone, Michael Stuart.  It has been very kindly donated to us by his executors.

For original material relating to Sir Thomas Parkyn, you would need to cross the county boundary and head to the University of Nottingham, which holds a substantial quantity of archival material in its Special Collections department:’Pa’))

The University of Nottingham is also host to a church history project which mentions Sir Thomas Parkyns’ prominence in the world of wrestling.  Follow this link and you can see the life-size effigy of him at his parish church (Bunny St Mary), “with hands aggressively pointing forward, ready to start a wrestling bout”.

The volume will be packaged and put away in our strongrooms – but if you would like to view it, we can make a digital copy available for you to view on our searchroom computer.  Just contact us, quoting reference D7571.

4 thoughts on “Martial arts, 1713-style

  1. Hi Andy, I can find no direct reference to sources that might be of use for this one. However, J H Beardsmore’s 1909 “History of Hucknall Torkard”, makes mention of a wrestling match at Repton, contested between one Richard Allin Green and a man named Trubshaw. Green is described as “a Hucknall man, whom Sir Thomas Parkyns kept at Bunny as a professional wrestler”. So that at least is a connection between the author of our manuscript (or rather, of the book on which our manuscript is based) and the town of Repton. (Link:

    In one local history forum, Trubshaw is identified as Richard Trubshaw, Staffordshire stonemason (1689-1785). (Link:

    • Many thanks indeed. The links you provided means our American correspondent now knows that “Bunny Rules” applied. Also evidence that Trubshaw won.

      • Incidentally James Trubshaw (grandson or great nephew I suspect) designed Willington bridge between Repton and Willington.

  2. Yesterday, I had an email from Ruslin Pashayev from Ohio (but with a worrying .ru email address) asking about wrestling in Repton. He mentions the book which is how I ended up here.

    We know nothing about wrestling in Repton in the early 1700s. are the notes likely to be where he got the link from? Do you know of any documentary material in the DRO archive please? I guess it will be on the digital listing if so – I can look myself at some point

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