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Fives - the archaeology of a forgotten pastime

Imagine it is three hundred years from now, with football having been banned in 2084.  The Liverpool Kop is now the site of the People's Revolutionary Museum, and the twin towers of Wembley have been recreated as the prayer hall of the First Church of Intelligent Design.  How would future archaeologists go about researching this ancient forgotten pastime? Perhaps a start could be made by cataloguing the remains of painted goal-mouths on three hundred year old housing-estate and factory walls?

The position of the present day buildings archaeologist in regard to the game of handball, or fives, is much the same today.

Over the last three or four years church fabric surveys in Somerset and Wiltshire by our archaeological consultant, Jerry Sampson, have begun to reveal just how many churches bear the physical scars of the game and the attempts of the authorities to stop it or to limit the damage to their buildings.  Unfortunately, because these traces have not been understood many have been (and are still being) unwittingly destroyed.

To publicise the signs of fives playing in village churchyards we are making available a downloadable advisory note summarising the forms which the physical evidence takes.

It seems very likely that the evidence for fives playing will be found throughout the west country, much of Wales, and the Welsh marches.  If a church that you know of shows any of the signatures of the game, or if there is documentary evidence for fives playing in your town or village, please let us know at jerry@caroe.co.uk. 


Download our latest Fives Research document (2Mb) fives-research.pdf