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  • Writer's picturePenrith and Eden Museum

'Champion Wrestler of England' A look at the Cumberland wrestling collection.

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

Caption - Image shows William Jameson’s wrestling belts

William Jameson (image to the left) was described as‘ One of the most noted athletes of the North and for many years Champion Wrestler of England’. A native of Penrith, he was a joiner by trade and later proprietor of the Griffin Inn in Cornmarket. He was a big man scaling up to 17 stones yet so light on his feet that he excelled, not only as a wrestler by virtue of his great weight and strength, but also as a runner and jumper, and in the long leap, and pole leap, beingreputed to have cleared the bar both ways at 10 feet 3 inches with the pole. As a wrestler, his recorded major wins were in 1858 at the Talkin Tarn Regatta and Armathwaite.

In 1860 he won the famous Carlisle Wrestling All-Weights Championship for the first five times. In 1861, he won the London, Cumberland & Westmorland style wrestling for the first of five times inside ten years, and also beat his greatest rival, Longtown gamekeeper, Dick Wright, four times in one day at Newcastle. From that time, until his retirement sixteen years later he held undisputed sway in every wrestling ring. When he settled in Penrith at the former Sun Inn in Little Dockray, he issued a challenge to the world at wrestling but it was never taken up. In 1870 he and Wright figured in an international match with two French wrestlers, Le Boeuf and Dubois, in London and in the respective national styles. There is also a record of a match on Penrith bowling green in 1876 between Jameson and a French wrestler.

Image below shows a display of wrestling belts and silver cups won by William Jameson.

Jameson took over the Griffin Inn Cornmarket (north-side) in 1873, as tenant and later bought the premises for £1,280. It had ceased to be an inn when he died there in 1888. The old champion is buried in Penrith Cemetery where a marble-on-sandstone pillar marks his grave. He won many trophies in his career and the Penrith Museum collection comprises nine belts, including: The Carlisle Open-to-the-world Heavyweight Champion of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Society (1881), All Weights Belt, London (1862), Penrith Champion Belt, Open to the World (1861); also half a dozen silver cups won in 1864 and 1865 for Carlisle, Whitehaven, Stockton All Weights Championship etc, and three Newcastle wrestling medals. The collection was given to the Museum in 1952 by Mr. J. W. Jameson of Eamont Bridge.

Image below shows the nephew of William Jameson with his uncles wreslting trophies.

The museum continues to collect items relating to wrestling, such as the works by artist Anabelle Smith below.

The watercolour 'Wrestlers - Andrew Carlisle vs John Harrington' (right) and the sculpture 'Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestlers' is of Alan Jones and Trevor Hodgson (left)

Image shows a painting of two wrestlers in hold

Image shows a sculpture of two wrestlers in hold

Our latest donation, below, is a wrestling belt from the Langwathby Rounds, in 1866, which took place every January 1st, in the villiage of Langwathby. Winners included - First day: Andrew Armstrong, Plumpton, 1st; Isaac Lowthian, Plumpton, 2nd. Second day: Adam Slack, Skirwith Hall, 1st; James Errington, Aiketgate, 2nd.

For more information or to view our collection or donate an object when we are back open please contact our Curators on

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