Wrestlers compete for Walter Hicks Cup in ancient sport

GETTING a round in took on a whole new meaning in a tournament yesterday, with a trophy named in honour of a pioneering brewer up for grabs.

The Walter Hicks Cup, one of Cornish Wrestling’s most coveted trophies, was the prize yesterday on the old Kings Arms field in St Stephen.

The round in this instance is the traditional wrasslin’ round, created by the Cornish Wrestling Association’s (CWA) referees, or sticklers, using Cornish sand to demarcate the boundaries of combat in what is said to be Cornwall’s oldest native sport.

Traditionally held in pub fields for centuries, St Stephen was a hotbed of the sport back in its heyday, with a famous montage of old wrestlers on display in the nearby Queen’s Head as evidence of the heritage of the sport in the village.

After an absence of 15 years, Cornish Wrestling came home to St Stephen last year where a fiercely fought competition saw the Walter Hicks Cup carried off by St Mawgan- based Richard Cawley. This year’s winner was Jamie Hannaford.

Yesterday’s action featured a brother v sister final in the under 16 category, where Dougie Allen beat Carrie.
The link between St Austell Brewery and the sport was formalised in 1926 when the Walter Hicks Cup for the ‘Advancement of Cornish Wrestling’ was first contested at a revival event in Poltair Park in St Austell.

The trophy was later renamed the West of England Cup before finally assuming its current role as the Cornish Light Heavyweight Trophy, fought for by men or women under 15 stone.

It was St Austell Brewery backing yesterday’s event.

Brewery curator Chris Knight said: ‘Like many Cornish traditions, wrestling is a direct link to our heritage and it is so important that we keep these traditions alive by introducing them to new audiences and inviting youngsters, male and female, to come and get involved.’

Wrestlers wishing to enter tournaments back in the day were said to have paid two pints for the privilege – one for the organiser and one for the landlord!


THE Cornish style of wrestling – or ‘wrasslin’ – is said to date back over 2000 years, and at the famous meeting between King Henry VIII and Francis I in 1520 at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France, a team of Cornish wrestlers faced the champions of France.

Godolphin, the chief wrestler, received the royal command direct to bring his men to up- hold the ‘English’ honour at Calais which they did in grand style, humbling the French team and causing the king to gloat so much that he was challenged by Francis to a match.

The two monarchs allegedly clashed for a few moments before being separated.

The Cornish Wrestling Association was established in 1923 to formalise the many local rule differences in the sport.

Cornishmen’s love of the sport and their prowess were proverbial for centuries. Richard Carew wrote in his 1602 Survey of Cornwall: ‘Wrastling is as full of manliness, more delightful and less dangerous (than hurling)…..for you shall hardly find an assembly of boyes in Cornwall, where the most untowardly amongst them will not as readily give you a muster of this exercise as you are prone to require it.’

But, despite being exported around the world as the Cousin Jacks emigrated to find work, and commanding prize money of up to £500 by modern standards for the biggest tournaments at the height of its popularity, Cornish Wrestling went into decline as the 20th century and the allure of other, more national sports, reached into the county.

In the 1920s, under the leadership of the Cornish Wrestling Association, much work was put into a revival of the sport, as witnessed by the British Pathe News team at a tournament in St Austell in 1926 which you can watch at


Under 10
1 Harrison Brough 2 Kye Weldon
3 Dominic Williams Under 12
1 Harvey Brough 2 Evie Stott
3 Kye Weldon Under 14
1 Harvey Brough 2 Carrie Allen
3 Evie Stott Under 16
1 Dougie Allen
2 Carrie Allen Under 18
1 Dougie Allen
2 Jamie Hannaford Open
1 Richard Cawley
2 Dougie Allen
3 Jamie Hannaford Light Heavyweight for the Walter Hicks Cup: Jamie Hannaford

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.