The Swan Circle

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The sport of Roley Poley

18th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture, Military & Naval Add comments

Last night I tweeted an appeal on Twitter for more information about Roley Poley. So far no one has responded so I thought I would post the full reference here and leave it open for suggestions. What do you think it means? (Or if you actually know enlighten me)

Roley Poley newspaper clipping


From Morning Post, 2nd April 1793

MJ Holman @mishjholman

4 Responses to “The sport of Roley Poley”

  1. MJ Holman Says:

    Someone has suggested that Roley Poley is roulette. This would make sense because the newspaper article also mentions 'crimpers'. To crimp is to cheat at cards.

  2. Undine Says:

    Found it!  Here's a description of the game from a book dating from the 1820s:

  3. MJ Holman Says:

    Brilliant Undine. Thank you.

    Here is the text from the 1820 book:

    'Roley-poley—Running down Greenwich-park hills, and its consequent tumble and roll to the bottom, when the parties embrace, is one way of making love among the young folks of Cockney-shire.' 

  4. Kirsten Elliott Says:

    Yes, but this dates from 1820.  In 1720, Roley Poley seems to be a forerunner of Roulette. When an act came in banning gambling on games with numbers it was replaced by EO (standing for Even and Odd) in which these letters replaced the numbers.  Eventually, the law held that E and O represented numbers, so it too was illegal. That, at any rate, is the present official thinking.  I must admit I have some qualms about this explanation, I'm not so sure it was quite as simple as that, but the Duchess of Marlborough bet on Roley Poley and I can't imagine her rolling down a hill. 

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