Football in Top Hats: The intervarsity rag at Cambridge 1946

I’ve recently spent some time trawling through some old newspapers, and whilst doing so came across some lovely photos of an inter-varsity football match between Oxford and Cambridge universities. These sorts of “crazy” charity football matches were quite commonplace in the early and mid 20th Century, often featuring people dressed as policemen, clowns, (or even in some cases, women). I’ve included the pictures below as well as the text below. They come from “The Sphere” newspaper, edition: December 14th 1946.

The teams
The teams

Some of the bearded and bewhiskered participants in the football match between “fifteen gentlemen of Caius College, Cambridge, and fifteen sportsmen of Oxford”. During the morning there were carnival scenes in the town.

playing
MATCH ACTION

The match was played with three balls, coloured red, yellow and green. Caius won the toss and kicking off two of the three balls, they soon went ahead, and when they were returned victors 6 to 4 they saw to it that their rivals from oxford paid for the “kilderkin of good English ale” which they all drank in the clubhouse at the end of the game.

The beard and hat may have fallen off but the fun continues
The beard and hat may have fallen off but the fun continues

Only once was there a foul. It began in a mid-field melee and the defaulters were then hauled before the governor of the game for an old-fashioned admonishment delivered in Latin.

policeman
Policeman and the Penny-Farthing

The spectators in period costume had the time of their lives. One man arrived on a “penny-farthing” cycle, much to the amusement of a real sergeant of police who attended the game in his official capacity.

Man with a gouty foot
Man with a gouty foot

The gentleman with a gouty foot made a thorough tour of Cambridge during the course of the day and was a prominent figure on the sidelines at the big match. At half-time in the game the nobility and gentry of Cambridge and Oxfordshire – and a good many other places besides – paraded across the field and quite obviously enjoyed themselves immensely.

Images and a lot of the text from the incomparably brilliant British Newspaper Archive.

About the Author