A Jingling Match
By Don Hagist
This article is reprinted, with permission, from "The Brigade Dispatch"
A British newspaper carried an announcement for a fair called the Yattendon Revel, to be held on July 10 & 11, 1782. Among the activities was a Jingling Match by eleven blindfolded women, and one unmasked with bells, for a very good petticoat...1
What is a jingling match? While we have been unable to find a true definition of the term, a period diary gives a description of what can only be the same amusement. An officer of the 29th Foot, Lieutenant John Enys, was visiting Fort Niagara on July 31, 1787, and witnessed the soldiers there engaged in one; Enys does not use the term, "jingling match," but he describes the same game mentioned above:
A space of Forty yards square was measured out and enclosed with Ropes into which Thirteen men were placed twelve of whom were Blindfold. The thirteenth was not but had in his hand a small Bell which he was to keep ringing and endeavouring to elude the twelve others who on their part were to strive to catch him. The Bet was wither or no they would be able to accomplish it within an hour. The Match from the very begining appeard to be unequal, as the exercise of evading so many within so small distance was to much for one man. The man who undertook it was both strong and active and did more than any one could have expected he would after the first five minutes notwithstanding which he was taken in about a half an hour. This sort of Game of [sic - if] rendered more Equal by making the space Larger and circular or by reducing the number of pursuers might afford good amusement but it should by all means be a circular space as they by their numbers have the opportunity of hemming him up in one of the corners in the Square.2
At the [BAR] School of Instruction some years ago, there were jingling matches played with about five blindfolded players, an enclosure about twenty feet square, a duration of about five minutes, and a small brass bell. There was a rule to avoid things getting too rough, something like having to get two hands on the bell person, kind of like touch football. The game was so well liked by the spectators that some of the spectators themselves started playing.
The jingling match has several attributes that make it especially attractive for reenacting. A match requires minimal special equipment - one or several bells (other noisemakers could be substituted), blindfolds, rope or something else to demark an enclosed area, and a timepiece. We can also make variations in number of players, the shape and size of the enclosure, the duration, and the kinds of bells or noisemakers, without much fear of compromising historical accuracy. It is an easy game to explain, and entertaining to play and to watch; it is also unusual enough to satisfy spectators expecting curiosities. Of special importance, we can document jingling matches being played by women at a town fair, as well as by soldiers in a garrison.
1. Reading Mercury, June 29, 1782; reprinted in Notes from the English Countryside, Clifford Morsley, London, 1979.
2. The American Journals of Lt John Enys, Elizabeth Cometti, ed., Syracuse Univ. Press, 1976.
Don Hagist is a member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot, a past commander and principal researcher for that organization. He offers for sale a number of books concerning the Revolutionary War, including diaries and journals, period cookbooks, and other primary and secondary source materials. Request a complete list from: Don N. Hagist, 905 Slocum Rd., Saunderstown, RI 02874.