The Stuarts - Football History - 1600-08

During The Stuarts period, in 1603, George Owen, Lawyer, of Henllys near Newport, wrote about the 'Game of Cnapan' played in Wales – a different game from that played in England.  The ball was small enough to fit a man’s hand and was made from wood, then boiled in wax to make it slippery and therefore difficult to hold.  They called the ball a ‘cnapan’ and it was thrown around a pitch where the goal posts could be several miles apart.  Up to 1,500 men would take part in the game and it was quite violent.  Men returned home with bloody noses, broken heads, black faces, bruised bodies and broken limbs.  Yet there was no animosity after the game and they boasted, laughed and told stories about their Game of Football.

Owen described the game "... the game is thought to be of great antiquity and is as followeth.The ancient Britons being naturally a warlike nation did no doubt for the exercise of their youth in time of peace and to avoid idleness devise games of activity where each man might show his natural prowess and agility, as some for strength of the body by wrestling, lifting of heavy burdens, others for the arm as in casting the bar, sledge, stone, or hurling the bawl, others that excelled in swiftness of foot, to win the praise therein by running, and surely for the exercise of the parts aforesaid this cnapan was prudently invented,  had the same continued without abuse thereof....



The FAW (Football Association of Wales) was established in 1876.  Cnapan was perhaps adapted, or the Welsh followed the rest of the UK, or both?

 it is not without resemblance of warlike providence... and first before I describe you the play, I will let you know that this cnapan happens ... upon Shrove Tuesday ... on Easter Monday ... on low Easterday ... upon Ascension Day ... upon Corpus Christi day   ... for at these places there have oftentimes been esteemed two thousand foot beside horsemen... ... all first stripped bare saving a light pair of breeches, bare-headed, bare-bodied, bare legs and feet. . : for if he leave but his shirt on his back in the fury of the game, it is most commonly torn to pieces and I have also seen some long-lock gallants, trimly trimmed at this game not by clipping but by pulling their hair and beards".

"The foot company thus meeting, there is a round ball prepared of a reasonable quantity so as a man may hold it in his hand and no more, this ball is of some massy wood as box, yew, crab or holly tree and should be boiled in tallow for to make it slippery and hard to hold. This ball is called cnapan and is by one of the company hurling bolt upright into the air, and at the fall he that catches it hurls it towards the country he plays for, for goal or appointed place there is none neither needs any, for the play is not given over until the cnapan be so far carried. . . It is a strange sight to see a thousand or fifteen hundred naked men to concur together in a cluster in following the cnapan as the same is hurled backward and forward..."

The game of Cnapan was played again from 1985 to 1995, until getting insurance became a problem! 



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