Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake

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A race on 27 May 2013.

The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper's Hill, near Gloucester in England.[1] It is traditionally done by and for the people who live in the local village of Brockworth, but now people from all over the world take part. The Guardian called it a "world-famous event", with winners from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Wales.[2]

The event is traditional and takes its name from the hill on which it occurs. Until recent years, it was managed in a quasi-official manner, but since 2010 the event has taken place spontaneously without any management.[3]


The MC holding the cheese.

From the top of the hill a 9 lb round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled, and competitors start racing down the hill after it.[4] The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. In theory, competitors are aiming to catch the cheese; however, it has around a one-second head start and can reach speeds up to 70 mph (112 km/h),[4] enough to knock over and injure a spectator. In the 2013 competition, a foam replica replaced the cheese for reasons of safety.[2] The winner was given the prize after the competition.

The Cheese Rollers pub in the nearby village of Shurdington, about 3 miles from Cooper's Hill, takes its name from the event. The nearest pubs to the event are The Cross Hands and The Victoria, both of which are in Brockworth, which competitors frequent for some pre-event Dutch courage or discussion of tactics, and after the event for convalescence.


This ceremony originally took place each Whit Monday before it later transferred to the Spring Bank Holiday. Two possible origins have been proposed for the ceremony. The first is said that it evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights on the common.[5]

The second proposal is pagan origins for the custom of rolling objects down the hill. It is thought that bundles of burning brushwood were rolled down the hill to represent the birth of the New Year after winter. Connected with this belief is the traditional scattering of buns, biscuits and sweets at the top of the hill by the Master of Ceremonies. This is said to be a fertility rite to encourage the fruits of harvest.[5]

Each year the event becomes more and more popular with contestants coming from all across the world to compete or even simply to watch.[1] In 1993, fifteen people were injured, four seriously, chasing cheeses down the one in three hill.[5]

On 24 March 2010, the organisers faced a backlash following an announcement of how the 2011 event would be run. The plans had been made to conduct the event under mounting pressure from the local council who stipulated it should include security, perimeter fencing to allow crowd control and spectator areas that would charge an entrance fee. The event proceeded without management.

"No-one's going to stop us doing it. They say it's not official but we are all Brockworth people and we're running the cheese today so it is official. We strongly believe in it."

— Former winner Helen Thorpe in May 2011.[3]

Richard Jefferies commented:

"Since we announced an entry fee, we have been bombarded with so much hostility and criticism, much of it at a personal level, including accusations of profiteering and some of the committee have even received threats."

— Cheese Rolling Committee spokesman Richard Jefferies speaking in March 2011.[3]

The 2011 event took place without management due to safety concerns over the number of people visiting the event,[6] resulting in the 'Save the Cheese Roll' campaign.[7][8] Despite the cancellation and lack of paramedics, around 500 people showed up in 2010 to hold some spontaneous races; no major injuries were reported.

The cheese[edit]

The cheese currently used in the event is 7–9 lb. Double Gloucester, a hard cheese traditionally made in a wheel shape.[9] Each is protected for the rolling by a wooden casing round the side and is decorated with ribbons at the start of the race. Formerly, three cheeses were presented by parishioners, and the cheeses were usually rolled by them. A collection is usually made now to purchase them as well as sweets and also to provide prize money.[5] The current supplier is local cheesemaker Diana Smart and her son Rod,[4] who have supplied the cheese since 1988.[10]

In May 2013, a police inspector warned the 86-year-old cheese maker Diana Smart that she could be held responsible for injuries.[4] Chief Superintendent Nigel Avron of Gloucestershire Police also made these comments: "If you are an organizer in some way or some capacity you could potentially be held liable for something that took place at that event".[4]


A view down Cooper's Hill, from the start point of the race to the finish (where the dog-walkers are). The face of the hill itself is concave and hence cannot be seen from this angle. The posts at the bottom are signs from the local council requesting that, to avoid soil erosion, people do not walk on the face of the hill. The posts are removed for the annual event.

Due to the steepness and uneven surface of the hill there are usually a number of injuries. A first aid service is provided by the local St John Ambulance (Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud Divisions) at the bottom of the hill, with a volunteer rescue group on hand to carry down to them any casualties who do not end up at the bottom through gravity. A number of ambulance vehicles attend the event, since there is invariably at least one, and often several injuries requiring hospital treatment. Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling has been summarised as "twenty young men chasing a cheese off a cliff and tumbling 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital."[11]

Cheese-rolling in popular culture[edit]

Notable winners[edit]

The second race in the 2004 event was won by New Zealand television personality and former international rugby player Marc Ellis.[13]

Historical Results Summary (Known Winners only)[edit]

Year Race 1 Race 2 Race 3 (Ladies Race) Race 4 Race 5 (from 2006) / Reference / Notes
1997 Steven Brain Steven Brain Tina Rimmer Craig Carter [14]
1998 Peter Astman - Amelia Hardwick - [15] 2 races abandoned for safety
1999 Steven Brain Steven Brain Helen Thorpe Steven Brain [16]
2000 Steven Brain Steven Brain Kirsty Shepherd Craig Brown [17]
2001 - - - - [18] Event abandoned due to Foot-and-mouth disease
2002 Craig Brown Steven Brain Kirsty Shepherd Steven Brain [19]
2003 - - - - [20] Event abandoned due to safety
2004 Padam Shreer Nepal Marc Ellis New Zealand Dionne Carter New Zealand Aaron Walden [21]
2005 Jason Crowther Wales Chris Anderson Dionne Carter New Zealand Aaron Walden [22]
2006 Jason Crowther Wales Craig Fairley Dionne Carter New Zealand Chris Anderson Andrew Brewin [23]
2007 Jason Crowther Wales Aaron Walden Jemima Bullock New Zealand Alan Morris Chris Anderson [24]
2008 Chris Anderson Peter Mackenzie-Shaw Flo Early Craig Fairley Wade Sansom Australia [25]
2009 Chris Anderson Scott Bevan Wales Michelle Kokiri-Gisbon New Zealand Chris Anderson Josh Geitz Australia [26]
2010 Chris Anderson Ryan Fairley Tanya Silverman Chris Anderson [27]
2011 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Jo Guest (age 14) Chris Anderson [28]
2012 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Lucy Townsend (age 15) Craig Fairley [29]
2013 Kenny Rackers United States Keleb Stalder Australia Lucy Townsend Ryan Fairley Tomoaki TanakaJapan [30]
2014 Joshua Shepherd Ryan Fairley Lucy Townsend Sheldon Ronald Australia [31]
2015 Chris Anderson Ryan Fairley Keavy Morgan Chris Anderson [32]
2016 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Flo Early Ryan Fairley [33] [34] [35]
2017 Chris Anderson Chris Anderson Keavy Morgan Chris Anderson [36]

Roll of Honour (Multiple winners)[edit]

  • Mens Race: Stephen Gyde 20, Chris Anderson 20, Steven Brain 18, Izzy (Islwyn) John 13, Ryan Fairley 5, Aaron Walden 3, Jason Crowther Wales 3, Craig Fairley 3, Craig Brown 2. [37]
  • Ladies Race: Rosemary Cooke 3 (1953,1955,1956), Amanda Turner 3 (1981,1982,1983), Dionne Carter New Zealand 3 (2004,2005,2006), Lucy Townsend 3 (2012,2013,2014), Kirsty Shepherd 2 (2000,2002), Flo Early 2 (2008,2016), Keavy Morgan 2 (2015,2017).[38]

Similar events[edit]

Cheese-rolling in Chester in 2008.

An annual cheese-rolling event has taken place in Chester since about 2002 to promote the town's food and drink festival. The rolling takes place on the flat down an obstacle course.[39] No injuries have been reported since 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cheese Rolling. BBC Gloucestershire, 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2013. Archived here.
  2. ^ a b "American flies in to win Gloucestershire cheese rolling contest". The Guardian. 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-07-24. 
  3. ^ a b c "Coopers Hill cheese-rolling fans hold unofficial race". BBC News online. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Cheese-maker warned against supplying Gloucester cheese-rolling". BBC News Online. 24 May 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Anon. "Cheese Rolling on Coopers Hill, Exhibition", Gloucester City and Folk Museums, Gloucester, 14 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Gloucestershire cheese-rolling off due to safety fears". BBC News. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "Save the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling campaign launched". SoGlos. January 13, 2011. Retrieved 2016-07-03. 
  8. ^ Farley, Christopher (January 1, 2001). "Music: Call Of The Child". Time Magazine U.S. Archived from the original on 2013-05-31. Retrieved 2016-07-03. 
  9. ^ "Double Gloucester". British Cheese Board, 2013. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2013.  .
  10. ^ More Cheese Rolling Facts and Information 15 June 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2009. Archived here.
  11. ^ Quoted in Return to edam, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2013. Archived here..
  12. ^ "Not My Job: Skier Mikaela Shiffrin Gets Quizzed On Downhill Cheese Races". July 11, 2014. Retrieved 2016-07-03. 
  13. ^ "Falling down hills: Ellis takes the big cheese", New Zealand Herald, 2 June 2004. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Race Results 1997 Events". 2015. 
  15. ^ "Race Results 1998 Events". 2015. 
  16. ^ "Race Results 1999 Events". 2015. 
  17. ^ "Race Results 2000 Events". 2015. 
  18. ^ "Race Results 2001 Events". 2015. 
  19. ^ "Race Results 2002 Events". 2015. 
  20. ^ "Race Results 2003 Events". 2015. 
  21. ^ "Race Results 2004 Events". 2015. 
  22. ^ "Race Results 2005 Events". 2015. 
  23. ^ "Race Results 2006 Events". 2015. 
  24. ^ "Race Results 2007 Events". 2015. 
  25. ^ "Race Results 2008 Events". 2015. 
  26. ^ "Race Results 2009 Events". 2015. 
  27. ^ "Race Results 2010 Events". 2015. 
  28. ^ "Race Results 2011 Events". 2015. 
  29. ^ "Race Results 2012 Events". 2015. 
  30. ^ "Race Results 2013 Events". 2015. 
  31. ^ "Race Results 2014 Events". 2015. 
  32. ^ "Race Results 2015 Events". 2015. 
  33. ^ "Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling 2016 - The Tumbles". Youtube. 2016. 
  34. ^ "Cheese-Rolling at Cooper's Hill 2016". 2016. 
  35. ^ "Champion chaser who hates cheese wins annual Cheese Rolling contest for the 17th time". Evening standard. 2016. 
  36. ^ "Cheese-rolling veteran equals all-time record". BBC. 2017. 
  37. ^ "Champion Competitors Roll Of Honour". 2015. 
  38. ^ "More Cheese Rolling Facts and Information". 2016. Archived from the original on 2013-05-31. 
  39. ^ Cheese rolling in Chester. BBC Liverpool, 15 March 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2013.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°49′48″N 2°09′29″W / 51.82991°N 2.15812°W / 51.82991; -2.15812