Robert Dover (Cotswold Games)

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For information on the dressage rider, see Robert Dover (equestrian).
A 1636 print showing Dover on horseback presiding over his Olimpick Games

Robert Dover (1575/82–1652) was an English attorney, author and wit, best known as the founder and for many years the director of the Cotswold Olimpick Games.

He was probably born between 1575 and 1582 in Norfolk,[1] one of four children sired by a John Dover, but as the parish registers in Great Ellingham did not begin until 1630 it is impossible to be certain. Dover was a scholar at the University of Cambridge in 1595,[2] possibly as a sizar at Queens' College:[3] during his time at Cambridge the "Gog Magog Games" were held on the Gog Magog Hills outside Cambridge,[4] although it is not known whether these were already being termed "Olympik" as was the case by 1620.[2][5] Dover left university early to avoid swearing the Oath of Supremacy, and a Robert Dover was among those questioned by Lord Burghley's officers looking for recusants in Norfolk.[1] On 27 February 1605 Dover was admitted to Gray's Inn, and was probably called to the bar in 1611.[6] Dover was known as a wit, and author of a lost poem The Wandering Jew: according to Peter Heylin, a pageant put on at Gray's Inn.[1] In 1611 he moved to Saintbury, near Chipping Campden.[1] After the inauguration of the Games, he obtained patronage from neighbour Endymion Porter, a well-connected courtier, who arranged for Dover to receive a cast-off set of royal garments to wear while presiding.[7] Later in life he moved to Barton-on-the-Heath.[7]

Dover founded his annual Games held in the Cotwsold hills above Chipping Campden in about 1612,[2] and presided over them for forty years.[8] A mixture of courtly and folk events, the Cotswold Olimpicks were so named in Annalia Dubrensia, one of a series of literary celebrations of the events.[9] The Games were interrupted by the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642.[10] Revived after the Restoration, the Games continued until 1852, and were again revived in 1965.

In 1610 Dover married Sibilla Sanford, daughter of William Cole, Dean of Lincoln[7] and widow of John Sanford of Stow on the Wold;[11] they had two sons (Robert, died in infancy, and John, 1614–1696) and two daughters (Sibella and Abigail).[12][13] Robert Dover was buried at Barton on 24 July 1652[14](the date of 6 June 1641 appears to be a mistake[15]).

There is a monument to Robert Dover at Dover's Hill, near Aston-sub-Edge.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Williams, Jean (2009). "The Curious Mystery of the Cotswold 'Olimpick' Games: Did Shakespeare Know Dover ... and Does it Matter?". Sport in History. Routledge. 29 (2): 150–170. doi:10.1080/17460260902872602. 
  2. ^ a b c Galligan, Frank (2000). Advanced PE for Edexcel. Heinemann. p. 59. ISBN 0-435-50643-9. 
  3. ^ "Robert Dover (DVR595R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.  (one of three entries under the name "Robert Dover")
  4. ^ Porter, Enid (1969). Cambridgeshire customs and folklore: with Fenland material provided. Taylor & Francis. p. 186. ISBN 0-7100-6201-X. 
  5. ^ Marsden, J.H. (1851). College life in the time of James the first, as illustrated by an unpublished diary of Sir Symonds D'Ewes. John W. Parker. p. 110. 
  6. ^ Burns, F. D. A. (2004). "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" (online ed.). Retrieved 29 June 2010.  |contribution= ignored (help) (subscription required)
  7. ^ a b c Palmer, Alan Warwick; Palmer, Veronica (1999). Who's Who in Shakespeare's England. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 68. ISBN 0-312-22086-3. 
  8. ^ Granger, James (1824). A biographical history of England: from Egbert the Great to the revolution: consisting of characters disposed in different classes, and adapted to a methodical catalogue of engraved British heads: intended as an essay towards reducing our biography to system, and a help to the knowledge of portraits: interspersed with a variety of anecdotes, and memoirs of a great number of persons (5th ed.). W. Baynes and Son. p. 240. 
  9. ^ Girginov, Vassil; Parry, Jim (2005). The Olympic games explained: a student guide to the evolution of the modern Olympic games. Student sport studies. Routledge. p. 37. ISBN 0-415-34604-5. 
  10. ^ Haddon, Celia (2004). The First Ever English Olimpick Games. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 152. ISBN 0-340-86274-2 
  11. ^ Whitfield, Christopher (1958). A history of Chipping Campden: and Captain Dover's Olympick Games. Shakespeare Head Press. p. 93. 
  12. ^ Dewhurst, Kenneth (1957). The quicksilver doctor: the life and times of Thomas Dover, physician and adventurer. Wright. pp. 5–6. 
  13. ^ Nixon, J. A. (1913). "Further Notes on Thomas Dover". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 6(Sect Hist Med): 233–237. 
  14. ^ Powell, John Williams Damer (1930). Bristol privateers and ships of war. J. W. Arrowsmith. p. 130. 
  15. ^ "Thomas Dover, Physician and Cirumnavigator". British Medical Journal: 619. 22 March 1913. 
  16. ^ Verey, David (1979). "Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds". In Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England (2 ed.). p. 92. ISBN 0-14-071040-X. 

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.