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Sports Day

Kicking the Frenchman's Head at Winchelsea on Boxing Day: published 22 April 2022
Sports day

In Nat Segnit’s review of Shadowlands by Matthew Green (March 18), he mentions the new town of Winchelsea, built on a hilltop to make sure it wasn’t destroyed by the sea like the old town of Winchelsea had been. Not only was it quite a large new town, built from scratch; it was also built wholly on a grid plan, possibly the only one of its kind in England, and with a harbour on the river that ran below. It was subject to more woes, however, because two or three thousand French soldiers in the fourteenth century destroyed much of the town, and killed many people; then in the sixteenth century it was struck by the plague. Its harbour is gone and its once busy streets are now a quiet well-to-do residential enclave – except on Boxing Day when all hell is let loose and the ancient street game of “Kicking the Frenchman’s Head” is played. Thought to have originated around about the time of the French incursions, and rumoured to have been played originally with an actual head of a Frenchman, the game hasn’t been played since 2019 because of the current “plague” and as a one-time attender I fear for its future.

F. W. Nunneley
Beckley, East Sussex

plus, a bonus clip right here... and if you know what I used to look like, you will see me