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Workington in West Cumbria is home to a tradition known as "Uppies and Downies", a traditional version of football, dating to Medieval times and with roots in Celtic games, although the modern incarnation of Uppies and Downies was rejuvenated some time in the latter half of the 19th century. Workington still holds annual Uppies and Downies matches every Easter, raising money for various local charities.

The game

The goals are about a mile apart, one being a capstan at the harbour, and the other the gates of Workington Hall. There were traditionally no rules, except those suggested by cunning and skill, while brute force is of the greatest importance. The 'Uppies' attempt to hail the ball at the gates of Workington Hall; the 'Downies' over the capstan. Whoever is successful in doing so wins a sovereign, given by the owner of Workington Hall.


'Uppies' and 'Downies' refer to the residents of the top (East) and bottom (West) of the town, which slopes down East-West towards the sea. In the modern incarnation of the game, the 'downies' were originally residents of the marsh and quay, a large important working class area of the town demolished in the early 1980s. Hence the definition of who is a 'downy' is now changed from the original.

The modern incarnation of uppies and downies, for decades after its inception, in effect contained strong elements of rivalry between the seafarers around the marsh and the colliers of the top end of the town, and significant class undertones, the marsh and quay traditionally being looked down with somewhat disdain on by the more affluent top of the town, where the local petty bourgeoise were generally located.

Sadly the game is under threat, as the building of a Tesco Extra store looks set to get the go ahead on the playing area of the Uppies and Downies.

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