It’s time! Bring out your competitive side during your visit to Ludlow Castle this summer – and discover our collection of medieval games which have been set up all around the grounds for you to enjoy.
Everyone who lived in the castle, from workers to the highest of noblemen, would have been familiar with these games… some of which have stood the test of time and are still popular today. Here are some fascinating facts about our games that might make you think a little deeper when you play them…
We’ve all heard of it, but how many of you actually know how to play it?
Don’t worry, once you learn the basics it’s easy. This thriving sport was created in the 6th century and is played internationally by over 180 countries.
The game is thought to have come to Europe via India and Persia where pieces were shaped as elephants, horses and chariots. However, when it became a popular game in Europe, the pieces were changed to reflect medieval society.
The pawn represents armed peasants or serfs, they vastly outnumber the other pieces on the board and protect the major pieces by being at the front of the board. If you are skilled enough to move one of these pieces to the end of the board it will become a major piece, symbolising the very small chance of a surf becoming a knight in medieval history.
Bishops represent the church and its power; this was because everyone believed and prayed to God during this period.
Knights have agility and this is represented in the way these chess pieces move across the board.
The Castle, also called the Rook or Tower, represents medieval fortresses. They are placed at the four corners of the board, signifying a defensive role.
The Queen is the most powerful piece and can move as for any other piece apart from the knight, reflecting a queen’s important role in medieval times, helping the king run the country.
The King is the most valuable piece and must be protected: if he is trapped, the game is lost.
We can also see the levels of power presented through the heights of the pieces, the pawns being the shortest and the king being the tallest reflecting the medieval hierarchy.
Tug Of War
This highly competitive sport requires raw power and teamwork to be successful. Its origin is difficult to pinpoint, but versions of the game were played internationally in countries such as Egypt, Burma, India, Japan, Hawaii and South America as part of ceremonies.
Later it became a show of strength and was practised by athletes in Ancient Greece around 500BCE and in the courts of the Chinese Emperors amongst others.
The medieval period saw it become an even more physically demanding sport by playing it on either side of a puddle, hedge or even stream. This greatly intensified the game, being as neither team wanted to face the punishment.
It was performed as an Olympic sport between the years 1900 and 1920 before being cut from the programme.
Now, although there is a Tug of War International Federation, the game is generally used as a local custom in many places, including in Ludlow! On Boxing Day, a tug of war takes place between the Bull Hotel and The Feathers Hotel on Corve Street.
This might be a new game to many of you but give it a go and see what you think! It involves choosing a coloured stone which you throw at a board 1 metre in front of you. Before throwing the five stones you must tell the other competitors how many will land on white squares and how many will land on black squares.
Queek was popular in medieval times and became so competitive that sometimes cheating took place, with some competitors making white squares slightly deeper than the black ones, so it was more likely their stones would stay on those squares. In 1381 an embroiderer from London was taken to court for making a board like this!
A popular childhood game involving throwing rope rings (quoits) with the aim of getting them over a stake.
The game of quoits is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece. It was popular throughout history and was played at the Much Wenlock Games, a forerunner to the modern Olympics, in October 1850. The British took it with them to America in the 1700s, where it evolved into what is now known as Traditional American Quoits
Noughts and Crosses
Possibly the most fun, simple, well-known game to date, noughts and crosses is a 2-player game frequently played to pass the time that involves a 3 by 3 grid, 1 person must choose noughts (O) and the other crosses (X). The aim is to get a line of three of either noughts or crosses, this can be up, down, across or even diagonally.
This game dates back thousands of years, it is unclear exactly where its origin lies but there are theories suggesting that it was played in Persia, and in the Roman Empire approximately around the first century BCE, In Rome, it was called ‘terni lapilli’ which means ‘three pebbles at a time’ – this version of the game was much more complex. In the 10th and 11th centuries it was associated with pagan rituals so Pope Boniface VI banned Christians from playing it. The game is known by other names, the most common of which is tic-tac-toe, but in Norway, it is known as Twiddles and Bears.
Skittles or Nine Pines
Most of you will have tried your hand at bowling, so this is going to be a popular game to play at the castle. Our skittles pin arrangement is slightly different and the ball used tends to be much smaller, but it’s hugely enjoyable in its simplicity and gets competitive.
Incredibly, evidence shows that versions of this game may date back around 7,000 years ago. It is thought that the game came to Britain from Germany, where monks in the 3rd or 4th century would play a game with a club (Kegel) which was normally carried for self-defence. This was stood up on its end and stones were thrown at it until it fell over. The club represented a sin or temptation which the monks had to overcome.
The Dutch took the game to North America in the 17th Century, where it fell into disrepute. A law was brought in to ban the game, but it only applied to “nine-pin bowling”, so Americans just added another skittle and called the game “ten-pin bowling” to avoid getting into trouble!
No, this isn’t the ticket raffle your thinking of – this version involves 3 dice which are thrown up in the air, the aim being for all three to land on the same number. If no one has 3 matching dice then the person with 2 matching wins.
Raffle was popular throughout the centuries partly due to how easy and accessible it was, only requiring 3 dice which are easy to carry around in your pocket. It is said that this game evolved into the modern slot- machine.
So challenge your family & friends and plan a visit to Ludlow Castle this summer to have a go at these for yourself – they will be here at in the castle grounds until 3rd September and are free to play (with your Castle admission).
Also coming up this summer is our Tudor Matchmaking event on Sunday 27th and Monday 28th August as we welcome historic entertainers Past Times Living History to entertain you all.