Friday, 25 July 2008

The Spurdle name

It is great to hear from a distant Spurdle relative, and to know that this blog has been read by at least one person! It would be good if some of the Spurdles out there would share their thoughts on the origin of the Spurdle name.

I always thought that it was the Spur in the name that was important and like Spurrier it meant a maker of spurs. However, according to the name Spurrell, which seems quite close to Spurdle to me, 'comes from a habitational name for Spirewell in Devon or some other similiar place name' - so the fact that they both start with Spur doesn't necessarily mean they have the same origin. I have read on a cooking blog that a Spurdle is a Scottish porridge stick but to be honest I think that's completely rubbush! I don't think there's any Scottish origins in the Spurdle name.

Many years ago now there was a story in the Guardian about how Chardstock in Devon was bringing back the ancient game of 'churdling the spurdle'. According to this story the spurdle was a stuffed pig's bladder. I definitely don't want my name to mean pig's bladder but I have my suspicions about whether the 'revived' game was based on historical fact or was the product of one too many drinks in the local pub, possibly with a regular called Spurdle! I still have the clipping but unfortunately I didn't write the date on it - I would guess it was about 1984/5. I can't find any reference to the ancient game now on the web, perhaps I need to visit Chardstock to sift through the parish records myself!

Here is the text from the story in full:
Churdle an olde porker's spurdle by Michael Prestage

The ancient game of churdling the spurdle is being revived nearly a century after it last brought mirth to the village of Chardstock.

Today teams of locals will be balancing pigs' bladders on their heads and taking part in the two-mile race around the Devon village to win a live pig.

The fine details of the ritual is lost in the mists of time, but villagers have improvised in the name of charity. Originally the bladders would have been filled with lard. Now raspberry jelly is being used.

According to the Rev Geoffrey Walsh references to churdling the spurdle can be found in parish records. And there are still ancients in the village who can remember tales of the game.

As Mr Bob Potter, landlord of the 14th century George Inn, said as he emerged from the difficult task of stuffing pigs' bladders; 'Who on earth in his right mind would invent a game like this?'.

According to tradition the little-heard-of game of churdling the spurdle was played by farm labourers after a hard day's work.

Researcher Ken Smith said: 'It was little more than an excuse for a booze-up' - a tradition the village is only too happy to rediscover.

1 comment:

RMax said...

I am pleased that you are updating your blog! I have a few comments to make. I learned somewhere (forget where sorry!) that the Spurdle name came from the occupation "Dung Spreader". I didn't place much creedence to it because I could find no supporting documentation. I have a copy of a humorous advertisement for a Chard pub (I assume) called "Spurdling Ye Churdle". Date unknown. I would be happy to send you a copy if you email me at

I expect that Spurdle relatives have not yet found your blog and I was only lucky to find it because I have google alerts set to email me when occurances of the name 'Spurdle' appear on the web.

Have a great day and keep up the excellent work! My New Zealand family thanks you!