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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
An old English country game frequently mentioned by the poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was played by three pairs composed of one of each sex, who were stationed in three bases or plots, contiguous to each other. The couple occupying the middle base, callled hell or prison, endeavoured to catch the other two, who, when chased, might break to avoid being caught. If one was overtaken, he and his companion were condemned to hell. From this game was taken the expression "the last couple in hell," often used in old plays.
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Barley-Break'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/b/barley-break.html. 1910.