Origins of the Offham Quintain

 

The best known historic feature of Offham village is the Quintain, situated on the Green, a supposedly Roman invention which was popular in Elizabethan times as a means of testing the agility of horsemen.   It is said that the Romans left this game of skill behind them when they retreated from Britain, and the name Quintain may have its origins in the Latin Quintus (the fifth), which was used as a first name and also may refer to the fifth road in a Roman military camp, where the Quintain would be erected.  The Romans use to practice their skill at charging at the Quintain (or tilting post) with a lance, hitting the broad part of the cross-bar and dodging out of the way before the other end with its heavy weight hit them on the back of the head.  

Writing in 1782 in his ‘History of Kent’ Hasted says: 

“On Offham green there stands a Quintain, a thing now rarely to be met with, being a machine much used in former times by youth, as well to try their own activity as the swiftness of their horses in running at it.  The cross piece of it is broad at one end, and pierced full of holes; and a bag of sand is hung at the other and swings round, on being moved with any blow.  The pastime was for the youth on horseback to run at it as fast as possible, and hit the broad part in his career with much force.  He that by chance hit it not at all, was treated with loud peals of derision; and he who did hit it, made the best use of his swiftness, least he should have a sound blow on his neck from the bag of sand, which instantly swang round from the other end of the quintain.  The great design of this sport was, to try the agility both of horse and man, and to break the board, which whoever did, he was accounted chief of the day’s sport.

 

When Q Elizabeth was at the Earl of Leicester’s, at Kenelworth Castle, among other sports for her entertainment, the running at the quintain was exhibited in the castle-yard by the country lads and lassies assembled on that day, to celebrate a rural wedding.’

 

During the Second World War the quintain was removed for safety to Quintain House, as it could have assisted an invading army as a landmark.  It was restored to its present place on the Green with much ceremony in the presence of Lord Cornwallis, Lord Lieutenant of Kent on 11th August 1945.    A replica quintain was used in recent years for tilting on horseback during the annual May Day celebrations

Information supplied by Mike Rowe

August 2005

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Lynne Mackie
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