Whit Monday Sports

This article was written by Robert Wilson.

The Whit Mondays Sports day of the Enfield Battalion was a long-standing tradition of the BB in Enfield. The annual event first appeared in May 1891 when the BB with the Cricket Club and the Band of Hope rented a field adjoining the Manse grounds for cricket and various other open air sports. But on 22nd May 1893 the first Whit Monday Sports day took place. The event was an inter-Company event and Mr W H Brown presented a handsome trophy to the BB. The 3rd Enfield won the very first event. This trophy is still in use today as the Enfield Battalion Athletics Cup, and probably is the oldest active trophy in the London District. At that time the three BB companies were called the “United Enfield Companies”.

The Whit Monday Sports were held in the Brigade Field, which was on Chase Side, Enfield. As time went on the annual event became more and more popular. By 1900, the three original Companies had grown to five. A new venue was needed, so a move was made to the Enfield Town Park in 1903. Many local people would come to this event, and it became quite a social event in the Enfield calendar. The good and great of Enfield would be seen to be there, attracting up 10,000 people. Even the old Lyons teahouse was kept open to reap the reward of the crowds visiting Enfield for the day. During the First World War members of the 1st and 3rd Enfield provided all clear buglers, to give the residents of Enfield a signal that the Zeppelin raids had finished. Dr Ridge was in charge of the bugle team. At the 1919 Whit Monday Parade and Sports, the contributions by the bugle team was recognised by the residents of Enfield, by the presentation of silver bugles to each boy by Mr Spencer Hill, Chairman of the District Council.

It was at the Whit Monday annual Parade and Sports day that the wearing of coloured ties found their place. The 3rd Enfield would wear the red ties during “Review Order” which included the Whit Monday Sports. The 3rd Enfield Company colour was red, the 1st Enfield’s colour was blue and the 2nd Enfield’s colour was yellow. The Companies would march through Enfield Town to the park. At the park the parade would perform a march past, in front of a Guest of Honour, who might be on horseback. This would be followed by the sports competition. By having coloured ties the spectators could recognise, at a glance, the Companies taking part in all the events. The boys would wear suitably coloured shirts for the sports competitions. In later years a megaphone would be used to announce the result of each event and an appropriately coloured flag was hoisted on a flagpole. The winner’s colours would be at the top, then below would be the second and third places respectively. This helped the spectators keep score during the course of the day.

Many of the sports were familiar events, but extra events were included such as the egg and spoon, throwing the cricket ball, three legged and kicking the football. In 1906 W Lovett of the 1st Enfield set a record for the “throwing the cricket ball” event with a distance of 94 yards at this annual event. Amazingly this record stood until 1948, when at the Diamond Jubilee Enfield Battalion Inspection and Sports day in June, Roy Markwell of the 1st Enfield set a new record on his third throw of 103 yards 1 foot and 3 inches. The Whit Monday Parade and Sports day lasted until 1955. After 1955 the sports event became an athletic event, held at different venues around the borough. There were some similar events held in the Enfield Town Park by the BB in 1977 and 1979, which captured the spirit of the old Whit Monday Inspection and Sports.