Each year on the second Sunday of September, a steam train brings a small painted block known as the “golden grid” to the station at the English town of Ramsbottom in Greater Manchester (historically in Lancashire). Bagpipers then escort the grid to the Oaks pub, where it is placed on the ground. From this hallowed point, brave contestants will hurl black puddings at Yorkshire puddings.
Anyone can compete in the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship. Pay £1 and you will receive three black puddings each wrapped in women’s tights to stop them from falling apart. This is your ammunition. Your target: Twelve Yorkshire puddings placed on top of a 20-foot-high scaffold. (A pudding primer: Black pudding is a type of blood sausage, while the Yorkshire variety is more bread-like, made from a simple batter.)
The championship takes place in the street outside the Oaks, with hundreds of attendees. Some come to compete (the winner is the one who knocks the most Yorkshire puddings off the scaffold), and many more come to watch, eat, and drink. While the modern version of the event dates back to the 1980s, locals will tell you that the origins are far older.
According to the legend, the event stems from the War of the Roses, a series of English civil wars in the 15th century. The war was fought between the House of Lancaster, represented by the red rose, and the House of York, the white rose. During a battle in Stubbins, Lancashire, in 1455, soldiers on both sides apparently ran out of ammunition, or so the story goes. They resorted to throwing food at each other, with each side hurling its local specialty: black pudding from Lancashire and Yorkshire pudding from Yorkshire.
The troops must have been very well supplied with food, and woefully unprepared when it came to actual weaponry. Even if all the soldiers involved were arrow-less bowmen, you’d think their daggers, which most bowmen carried, would have been more effective than black pudding. Or rocks. Or branches. Or pretty much anything other than blood sausage and batter. Still, it makes for a nice story, and an even better competition.
Need to Know
The event typically starts around noon. Be sure to get there early for a good spot. If you're participating, remember that throwing underarm is mandatory.
Visit England with Atlas Obscura Trips
London Science Weekend: Medicine and Science in the Press
Join New York Times Journeys and Atlas Obscura for three days of scientific learning, special access and exploration in London. Accompanied by Times journalists and scientific experts, meet people contributing to the history of medicine and scientific journalism. This two-track program includes panels, exclusive visits and access to some of the best scientific minds available to concentrate on science reporting or medical history.
Where to Try It
The annual site for the competition.