Posts tagged: Surrey

Oarsmen who were Founding Fathers of Football

By , 19th October 2013 11:31
3 Kings Bench Walk, FA, Morley

3 Kings Bench Walk – the office of Ebenezer Cobb Morley’s legal practice

UPDATED 21 October 2013

26 October 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen Street, London.

On 30 April 2013, the FA launched a campaign to trace the descendants of those who were present at that inaugural meeting – the Founding Father’s of football.  They published a list of eight men.  Seven had been elected as the original officers at that inaugural meeting. Charles Alcock rose to prominence shortly after.  On 21 October 2013, the eight were commemorated with a plaque at Wembley.  Three of the eight were oarsmen.

Further research by Scottish sports historian Andy Mitchell reveals that five of the fifteen men known to have been present in October 1863 had a rowing connection.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on 16 August 1831, the son of another Ebenezer Morley, a Congregationalist minister. He was baptised at his father’s Holborn Street Chapel.  Local press reports suggest Morley Senior was a leading figure in the British Schools movement in the Hull area.

Little is known about the younger Morley’s education but he isn’t believed to have attended public school.  He trained in Hull as a solicitor, qualifying in 1854 and at some point, he moved to London where he took chambers at 3 King’s Bench Walk, Temple.

Where and when Ebenezer took up rowing isn’t clear.  Perhaps it was when he moved to Barnes in 1858 where he lived at 26 The Terrace overlooking Barnes Bridge and what is now Thames Tradesman Rowing Club. He joined London Rowing Club, on the Putney Embankment, close to the start of the Boat Race, and threw himself whole-heartedly into the club and the sport.

Various episodes of his rowing career are captured in Chris Dodd’s 2006 history of London Rowing Club Water boiling aft.  He joined the committee at London in 1860.  He founded Barnes & Mortlake Regatta in 1862 and served as Regatta Secretary until 1880.  He became Hon Solicitor of London in 1862 and appears to have provided legal advice to the club for the rest of his life.

According to Water Boiling Aft, in May 1863 just six months before the founding of the FA, he rowed to his home town of Hull from London with three other London members, The journey, which traversed the canal network to the Trent, Ouse & Humber, totalled 300 Miles and 148 locks.  In 1864 he rowed at 2 for London in a heat of the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley.

In 1865, Morley was elected to London’s the 12-strong Badge Committee which oversaw training, coaching and crew preparation.

He acted as starter for the London Rowing Club Athletic Sports held at Lord Ranelagh’s Beaufort House on 17 February 1866. Sporting Life reported a crowd of more than 1000.   He would also officiate at varsity athletics meetings held on Boat Race day.

London Rowing Club

London Rowing Club HQ – owned by the London Boat House Company Ltd

In 1870, he presumably handled the incorporation of the London Boat House Company which protects the ownership of London RC’s HQ to this day.  He certainly witnessed the signatures of the original directors of the company.

So with all of this going on, the question arises, how did he get involved in creating the world’s most popular sport?

Local forms of football had been played in villages and towns across the country for centuries, often on holy days such as Shrove Tuesday or Good Friday. A handful are still played today.

Pupils at many public schools developed their own versions of football adapted to their local environments.   For many schoolboys, football was an expression of their rejection of the authority of their schools. Progressive head masters recognised that organised sport opened up opportunities to counter and reshape this culture.  It also chimed with growing emphasis on the fully rounded individual and the concept of “muscular Christianity”.

As pupils from this period started to move on to university they discovered that differences in rules meant games were largely restricted to groups of old-boys from a particular school.

At Cambridge in 1848, there was an early attempt at devising a compromise set of rules by which old-boys from all schools could play. These “Cambridge Rules” were updated in 1856 by a group of undergraduates that included old-boys from Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby and the University including the Old Etonian H. Snow – who had raced at 7 in that year’s victorious Boat Race Crew.  The Cambridge Rules were updated again in October 1863 shortly before the meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern. (At least one of the contributors to the 1863 revision, R.H. Blake Humfrey, had been a “wet-bob” while at Eton.)

Ebenezer Morley’s recorded football history starts when he founded Barnes Football Club in 1862.  The club was based at Lime Fields, a short walk from his riverside home.

The correspondence pages of the burgeoning sporting press had been debating the rules of football for some years.  In 1863, Morley himself wrote to Bell’s Life to propose a meeting with the objective of  “…bringing about a definite code of laws for the regulation and adoption of the various clubs which indulge in this exciting and health promising winter pastime.”

A meeting was convened at Freemason’s Tavern on 26 October 1863.  13 clubs from the London area were represented but Charterhouse was the only major public school to attend. 11 of the clubs joined the Football Association formed at the meeting.

Morley was elected as the first secretary, a position he held for three years until 1866.

The FA’s first rule book was developed over the course of five meetings up to the end of 1863.  There were protracted discussions over the extent to which the ball could be handled and whether hacking should be permitted.   Morley was firmly in the camp that wished to limit handling and outlaw hacking.  His view was that, “If we have hacking, no one who has arrived at the age of discretion will play at football, and it will be left entirely to the school boys.”

Influenced by the 1863 Cambridge Rules, the game defined by the first set of FA rules was still something of a hybrid that retained more handling of the ball than allowed today.  It was the solicitor Morley who minuted the meetings and drafted the first FA rules.  The minute book, in Morley’s long hand, is on public display at the British Library until 17 December 2013.

The first “official” match played under FA rules was between a President’s Side (selected by Arthur Pember, an investigative journalist) and a Secretary’s Side selected by Morley.  The match was played in Battersea Park on 9 January 1864.  The Presidents team won 2-0.

1866 saw the first match involving a representative FA team – against Sheffield FC. Morley scored the first goal.  Sheffield is recognised by FIFA as being the oldest surviving football club in the world having been founded in 1857.

This match was significant for a number of reasons. The FA wore white shirts – setting the precedent for later England sides and the match was played under FA rules. The match duration was fixed for 90 minutes and the ball chosen was Lillywhite’s No 5 – the first recorded instance of either duration or ball size being specified. Both became football fundamentals.

At the 1867 AGM, Morley stood down as Secretary and became President of the FA. He would later be succeeded as secretary by Charles Alcock who has generally usurped Morley as “the father of football” in most football histories.

As president, it was Morley who presented the Cup to the victorious Wanderers side after the first FA Cup final in 1872.

Morley remained president of the FA until 1874 when the oarsman fades out of the history of football.  However, he remained involved with London RC for the rest of his life.  He died at his home in Barnes on 20 November 1924 at the age of 93.

The second oarsman at the inaugural meeting of the FA was Herbert Thomas Steward.  His involvement in the FA appears to have been short-lived but he was unconsciously involved in creating another structure that has enormous influence in world sport today.

Steward was born on 9 November 1838 in Westminster.  He was the son of Thomas Francis Steward, a maths teacher at Westminster School. Census returns suggest he lived in Deans Yard, within the school grounds, in 1841, 51, 61 and 1871 by which time he was 32 and his mother was widowed. Steward attended Westminster School as a pupil.

Growing up in Deans Yard, he would probably have witnessed games of Westminster’s version of football which has been described as “A particularly rough dribbling game” and allowed players to catch the ball and then kick it out of their hands. Running with the ball, however, was outlawed. The 150th anniversary football match between Westminster and Charterhouse was played on 18 September 2013.

Steward first comes to prominence in 1863.  At the Freemason’s Tavern, Steward represented Crusaders FC.  Like most of the founding members of the FA, it was a club that drew together old boys from a number of public schools.  The Club quickly resigned from the FA because other schools weren’t participating – many commentators at the time were convinced the FA would fail without the support of the major public schools and their old-boy clubs. Crusaders would re-join some years later.

Earlier the same year he had been elected as the first Captain of Leander, the exclusive rowing club, serving until 1865.  He was Honorary Secretary of the Club between 1866 and 1879 and both Captain & Secretary of Leander in 1868. He became a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 1879.

In 1881 he was a member of a sub-committee of the Henley Stewards that was asked to consider new governance and financial structures to secure the long-term future of Henley Royal.  It was this sub-committee that proposed the creation of the Committee of Management.  The proposal was endorsed by the Stewards but only fully implemented in 1885.

Steward was elected President of Leander in 1892, Chairman of Henley Royal in 1894, and achieved a triple crown in 1897 by becoming Chairman of the ARA (which had been founded in 1882).

In 1888, three years after the full implementation of the Henley Royal constitution that Steward had helped to formulate, Baron Pierre De Coubertin attended the regatta.

De Coubertin described the structure of the self-selecting group of Stewards, the smaller Committee of Management and its Chairman as “three concentric circles” made up of “those who were deeply committed, those who could be educated to the cause, and those whose position and influence could be useful.” This model was adopted as the basis of the IOC constitution at its foundation on 23 June 1894.  (Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell, the Second Baron Ampthill  was one of the original members of the IOC.  He had been a member of the 1890 and 1891 Oxford blue boats, won the 1891 Grand and was a Henley Steward between 1894 and 1935.)

Leander Henley

Leander Club, Henley – designed by HT Steward

Professionally, Steward was an architect and surveyor.  In 1904, he would be President of the Surveyor’s Institution.  He designed Leander’s Henley clubhouse that opened in 1897.

HT Steward had four children. Both his sons would be elected Stewards of Henley Royal: Herbert Arthur was born 1878, elected Steward in 1913 and died 1948; Clifford Thomas was born 1881, elected Steward 1909, died 1943.  Herbert Arthur’s son, & HT’s grandson, CTS Steward was also elected a Steward and served 1971-1981.

The FA published a profile of HT, as one of the Founding Fathers, on its website in August 2013 which appeared to have overlooked CTS Steward. It concluded that HT had no direct descendants beyond a daughter of Herbert Arthur who died having had no children in 1861.

The other oarsmen present at the birth of the FA were Thomas Dyson Gregory (London RC & Treasurer of Barnes & Mortlake Regatta), George Twizell Wawn (London) and Theodore Bell (Kingston RC).

(Based on notes prepared for a presentation to the Rowing History Forum, at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames, 11 October 2013)

The 2012 BBC SPOTY nominees

By , 16th December 2012 19:26

After the controversial all-male shortlist in 2011, the reconstituted judging panel for the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year were spoiled for choice at the end of an incredible year for British sport. Once again, Sportingland looks for factors that might influence how the nation votes.

The 2012 shortlist is made up of seven men and five women.

All but one of the nominees starred at London 2012. Three are Paralympians.

After London 2012 started a debate about the coverage of sport in the British media, how it is dominated by football and gives negligible exposure to the athletic achievements of women it is fitting that the SPOTY shortlist does not include a footballer for the first time in many years.

If active sportsmen and women wish to support candidates from their own sports, cyclists and athletes have a choice of three candidates each. For boxers, golfers, rowers, swimmers and tennis players, the choice will be much easier.


View SPOTY 2012 in a larger map

Who will Scottish voters back? Previous nominees Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy or Katherine Grainger?

Rory McIlroy has a clear run at both the Northern Ireland and golf votes this year having been up against fellow Ulster golfers Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell in previous years. Similarly Ellie Simmonds is the only candidate from the Midlands.

Ten of the finalists are on twitter. If twitter followers translated into votes cast, Based on twitter followeers as of 28 November, Rory McIlroy would win, Andy Murray would be second with Jess Ennis third.

If the Amazon sports book best sellers list is reflected in votes cast, Bradley Wiggins wins gold, with Jess in silver medal position and Chris Hoy taking bronze.

Let battle commence.

140 years of FA Cup final venues

By , 4th May 2012 18:42

The FA Cup final has been synonymous with Wembley since 1923. However, 10 venues have staged finals over the tournament’s 140 year history. Another three have staged replays.

Although the overwhelming majority of Finals have been played in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff have hosted finals while Derby, Bolton and Sheffield have had the honour of hosting replays.

As with 4/5/6 Nations rugby venues, the sporting heritage of several started with cricket: The Oval, Racecourse Ground and Bramall Lane, while Lillie Bridge and Stamford Bridge were important in the early development of athletics as an organised sport.

The Oval’s role as venue for 20 out of the first 21 finals had a lot to do with Charles W Alcock being simultaneously secretary of both the Football Association and Surrey County Cricket club. As the principal co-ordinator of fixtures for visiting cricket teams from Australia, his cricketing contacts probably had something to do with the 1886 replay being taken to Derby’s Racecourse Ground.

Three of the venues are, sadly, no longer sporting landmarks. Their approximate outlines are plotted on the map below. (Zoom in to find them in West London, Greater Manchester and Bolton.)


View FA Cup Final venues in a larger map

The full list of FA Cup final winners can be found here.

1948 Olympic Torch Relay

By , 18th May 2011 00:01

The London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay will travel the length and breadth of the British Isles between May 18 and the Opening Ceremony of the Games on 27 July. The Torch Relay for the ‘Austerity Games’ of 1948 was in many ways a much simpler, some might say purer, affair.

In 1948, the Olympic Flame was lit at Olympia at midday on Saturday 17 July. The Greek leg of the relay, shortened at the last minute due to political unrest, carried the Flame to a Greek destroyer which sailed for Corfu where it was received on board HMS Whitesands Bay at 1.30 pm on Sunday 18th. The Royal Navy frigate sailed for Bari in Italy, arriving at 12.30 pm on 19 July. On landing, the Olympic Flame was carried in Relay day and night – stopping only briefly for civic receptions – through Italy, Switzerland, south-east France, Luxembourg, Belgium before re-entering France to embark on HMS Bicester at Calais at 6.15pm on 28 July. Between Bari and Calais, 1051 Torch Bearers covered 2375 km in under 9 days and 6 hours.

HMS Bicester landed in Dover at 8.25 pm on Wednesday 28 July. 73 runners acted by Torch Bearers along the 255 km route between Dover and Wembley Stadium which passed through Canterbury, Charing, Maidstone, Westerham, Redhill, Reigate, Dorking, Guildford, Bagshot, Ascot, Windsor, Slough and Uxbridge. Mark John was the last Torch Bearer, carrying the Olympic Flame into the Opening Ceremony in the Empire Stadium, Wembley at 4pm on Thursday July 29.


View 1948 Olympic Torch Relay in a larger map

Photos of the Relay passing through the Surrey have been collected into a Flickr group by the County Council.

The Official Report of the 1948 Olympics records how even in the dead of night, large crowds would gather all along the route, especially at points where the Olympic flame was passed form one runner to the next.
“At Charing, in Kent, at 1.30 am, 3,000 people mobbed the torch bearer; at Guildford every available policeman was needed to control the early morning crowds, while Western Avenue, the great double highway from Uxbridge towards London, was lined on both sides for the first time in its history.”

A second Relay was staged to carry an Olympic Flame from Wembley to Torquay, venue for the Olympic sailing competition. The first torch was lit by Lord Burghley, Chairman of the Organising Committee at 9.00 am on Sunday 1 August. The 330 km route to Torquay passed through Uxbridge, Slough, Maidenhead, Reading, Basingstoke, Andover, Salisbury, Sherborne, Yeovil, Exeter and Newton Abbot. After passing through the hands of 107 Torch Bearers, the Torquay Olympic Flame was lit at Torre Abbey, at 11.00 am on Monday 2 August.

High Duty Alloys, a manufacturer of aircraft components, supplied a total of 1720 Olympic Torches from its factory on the Slough Trading Estate. The Torches were cast in the company’s ‘Hiduminium’ high-strength, high-temperature aluminium alloys.

Modern Torch Relays are deliberately more inclusive, and physically less demanding. The inevitable corollary is that logistically, they are even more complex. The most recent major relay in Britain was the Queen’s Jubilee Baton Relay which heralded the XVII Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. That Relay was based on the operational model used for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Torch Relay.

The 2012 Torch Relays – one for the Olympics and a second shorter one prior to the Paralympics – will require thousands of Torch Bearers. Few will run for more than a few hundred metres. Fewer are likely to run in the middle of the night!

Update: On 15 September 2011, LOCOG announced that the 2012 London Paralympic Torch Relay will run through the night. Typically staged after the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Torch Relay is on a smaller scale compared with its Olympic equivalent. LOCOG will break new ground in 2012 with flames being lit in the capital of each of the home nations. These will be relayed to Stoke Mandeville near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire which is generally acknowledged as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement. Here the four flames will be combined into one which will be carried in a 24-hour relay to the Olympic Stadium for the Paralympic Opening Ceremony on 29 August.

Charles W Alcock: the Mackem who created the FA Cup & international football

By , 25th June 2010 17:03
Birthplace of Charles W Alcock, creator of the FA Cup and instigator of international football

Charles W Alcock was born at 10 Norfolk Street, Sunderland on 2 December 1842. As of the date of this photo, June 2010, the property in the Sunniside area of Sunderland is mid-refurbishment. Photo courtesy of Ben Hall, www.sunnisidepartnership.co.uk

Update: 19 November 2010 – Good to hear that Alcock’s birthplace has now been commemorated with a Blue Plaque.  The Sunderland Echo previewed its unveiling in August 2010 and the FA’s World Cup bid team were quick off the mark to remind everyone of Alcock’s role as inventor of international football: FIFA’s decision on which country should host the 2018 tournament was due to be taken on 2 December 2010. George Caulkin of The Times has kindly posted a photo here.

Described by the official historian of the Football Association as ‘the forgotten father of English sport’, Charles William Alcock was arguably the central pillar of London’s sporting establishment in the fourth quarter of the 19th Century.  Surprisingly, this pioneering sports administrator and journalist qualifies as a Mackem having been born at 10 Norfolk Street, Sunderland, on 2 December 1842.  The son of a ship owner, the Alcock family had moved a few streets to 17 John Street by the time of the 1851 census.

In 1855, Charles followed his elder brother John to Harrow School where both developed a passion for football. On leaving school, together they formed the Forest Club in Epping in 1859.

By 1861, the entire Alcock family had moved south, taking up residence in Essex.  Now described in the census as shipbrokers, John and Charles, were near neighbours of the Kings Head Inn in Chingford and lived in a house called ‘Sunnyside’.  Whether the house name was chosen as a reminder of the family’s roots in Sunderland’s Sunniside district, or a was remarkable coincidence is, for the moment, unknown.

1863 was an eventful year for the two brothers.  John attended the inaugural meeting of the Football Association at the Freemasons Tavern in Great Queen Street, London, while Charles took the lead in founding the Wanderers which made its home at the Oval and supplanted Forest as the leading Old Harrovian football club.

Charles was elected to the FA committee in 1866, aged 23.  He became secretary in 1870 – a position he held for twenty-five years.  Almost immediately, he was involved in organizing the first unofficial international football match between England and a ‘Scotland’ team made up largely of ex-public school Scots living in London.  The match, which ended 1-1, was played at the Oval on 5 March 1870.

By 1871, now married with a son and two daughters and declaring himself to be a journalist in the census, Charles had made his home in Rosendale Road, Norwood in a house possibly called ‘Grassendale’.

For the 1871-72 season, and drawing in part on his experience of the ‘Cock House’ inter-house knock-out competition at Harrow, he devised the FA Cup as a competition open to all football clubs. Not content with simply organising the tournament, he also captained the Wanderers team that won the inaugural final – also played at the Oval – on 16 March 1872.  (Wanderers went on to win the Cup five times between 1872 and 1878.)

At the same time that he was pioneering the FA Cup and international football, Alcock also became the first paid secretary of Surrey County Cricket Club. Appointed in 1872, he held this post for the rest of his life.

Known to have played rugby for Blackheath – then one of the leading proponents of alternative form of football – with his influence at Surrey, he may well have been involved in the staging of the second rugby international in history: England’s first ever home match was played at the Oval on 5 February 1872.

Back on the football field, Alcock refereed the first official football international – a nil-nil draw between Scotland and England played on 30 November 1872 at the West of Scotland Cricket Club near Glasgow.  He also fostered relations with the longer-established Sheffield Football Association, paving the way for the eventual adoption of a common rulebook.

As well as becoming the first president of the Referees Association, Alcock also managed to find the time to serve as president of the Surrey FA, vice-president of the London FA, chairman of the Richmond Athletic Association and vice-president of Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club.

At Surrey, Alcock assumed responsibility for arranging the first cricket test in England: the England verses Australia match played at the Oval in 1880.  Two years later, the Australian demolition of England that gave birth to the Ashes legend also took place on Alcock’s watch.

Alcock was living at 36 Somerleyton Road, Brixton when, in 1881, he was granted a testimonial by the FA Committee ‘in consideration of his having been the founder of the Association game’.

As football grew in popularity, tensions arose between the ex-public school amateurs who dominated the Football Association and clubs mainly from the Midlands and the North who were calling for a more professional approach to the organisation of the game.  With his cricketing experience of managing relations between ‘gentlemen’ and ‘players’, Alcock helped to prevent football splitting in the way rugby eventually divided into union and league.  However, the 2005 Burns report on the governance of the FA confirms that some of these tensions continue to exist to this day.

By 1891, Alcock, his wife, four daughters and three domestic servants had moved to Heathlands in Kew Road, Richmond. (His son had died as an infant.)

Thanks to Alcock, most of the big FA fixtures came to the Oval up to 1895.  Improvements funded by these revenues helped secure the ground’s status as a test venue.  Surrey were also successful on the cricket field under Alcock’s stewardship, winning eight county championships between 1887 and 1895.

In addition to his multiple roles in sports administration, he was also a prolific and ground-breaking sports journalist and publisher. In his twenties, he wrote for The Field and The Sportsman before founding specialist magazines such as the Football Annual, Football magazine and Cricket. Alcock’s books included Football: the Association Game (1890) and Surrey Cricket: its History and Associations (1902).

Alcock died on 26 February 1907 at his home at 7 Arundel Road, Brighton.  He is buried alongside his son in Norwood Cemetery, a short distance from the Rosendale Road home he occupied in the early 1870s.

English origins of a very American sport

By , 14th June 2010 11:39

(Updated) A century ago, there was a concerted effort to prove that baseball originated in the United States.  In response to an article by Henry Chadwick, a famous baseball writer, that had the audacity to suggest the sport evolved from the English game of rounders,  the Mills Commission was appointed in 1905 to determine the origins of the sport.

The central conclusion of the committee’s final report, published on 30 December 1907, was that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839”.  This finding was, in part, the reason why the National Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown to this day.

Now, in a diary entry made by a Surrey lawyer, William Bray wrote about playing ‘base ball’ with friends near Guildford on Easter Monday, 31 March 1755

William Bray Diary entry mentioning baseball in 1755

Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistorycentre

The handwritten diary, found 2008 in a shed near Guildford by local historian Tricia St John Barry, is now believed to be the earliest known manuscript reference to baseball in the world.

William Bray recorded playing "base ball" in the Guildford area in his diary in 1755

William Bray (1736-1832) lawyer and diarist. Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistorycentre

Bray, (1736-1832) was a prolific diarist and local historian: Surrey History Centre holds a large collection of his writings covering the period 1756 – 1832.  Julian Pooley, the manager of Surrey History Centre, and an expert on Bray, has been able to verify that the document is genuine.

According to Pooley, Bray was articled to Mr Martyr, a Guildford solicitor, in 1755. Then aged 19, Bray seems to have had a room at Martyr’s house.  Bray’s own family home was a few miles away in Shere.

The game referenced in the diary is likely to have been somewhere in the neighbourhood of St John the Evangelist, Stoke-next-Guildford: Bray talks about playing baseball after attending an Easter Monday service at Stoke church.

The diary and its landmark entry is to feature in a documentary history of the game called ‘Baseball Discovered‘ which has been made by Major League Baseball

There are earlier fictional references to the game.  A short rhymed description of a game called ‘base-ball’ in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (published 1744) by John Newbery is the earliest known reference in print.  Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, written in 1798 but not published until late 1817, also makes a reference to baseball.

CNN covered the new evidence of baseball being played in Surrey in a (vide0) report on the opening of  “Swinging Away: How Cricket and Baseball Connect“, an exhibition staged at the MCC Museum at Lords during 2010.

The Surrey History Centre also holds two of the earliest known references to cricket.  In the Guildford Court Book for 1598, 59-year old John Derrick recalled that when he was a scholar at the Royal Grammar School 50 years earlier “hee and diverse of his fellows did runne and play there at Creckett and other Plaies”.

In the Wanborough Manor court roll for 1616, Nicholas Hockley was fined three shillings and four pence for hitting Robert Hewett and drawing blood “with a certain sticke called in English a crickett staffe” of the value one penny.

March 2011
A new book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden – The secret history of the early game” by John Thorn reignited the interest of the US media in the origins of baseball in March 2011. NPR interviewed the author and covered the story.

The Six Nations and the origins international rugby

By , 11th March 2010 23:33

Each spring, Murrayfield, Twickenham, the Aviva Stadium on Dublin’s Lansdowne Road and the Millennium Stadium become places of pilgrimage for rugby enthusiasts.  By drawing together the first four rugby playing countries, the Six Nations maintains a tangible and continuing link to the origins of the international game.

Today’s landmark venues are among 35 grounds in the British Isles that have hosted matches as the competition has evolved from ad-hoc fixtures in the 1870s to become the Home International Championship – considered to have started in 1883.  France officially joined the championship in 1910 before Five Nations became Six at the start of the third millennium.

A common characteristic of many of the earliest international rugby venues was that they were established cricket grounds. On closer examination, this is not so surprising.  By the second half of the 18th century, cricket was widely played and many of the earliest rugby clubs were set-up by cricketers looking to keep themselves occupied during the winter months.

England have played4/5/6 Nations matches at some 15 grounds; Ireland 9, Wales 7 and Scotland 6.

View The Six Nations and the origins international rugby in a larger map

(As this post spans 140 years of international rugby history, and approaching 700 matches, its quite long! It’s divided into sections for Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, so if you’re interested in a particular country, scroll down.)

Scotland

Just as they were to invent Rugby 7s in 1883, the Scots can arguably take credit for inventing international rugby: it was Scotland who issued the invitation for an England team to play in the world’s first rugby international.   The match  was staged on the cricket pitch of the Edinburgh Academy at Raeburn Place on 27 March 1871.  Angus Buchanan claimed the distinction of becoming the first international try scorer in helping Scotland to victory by a goal and a try to a try.

Scotland’s second home international, again against England on 3 March 1873, was played at the home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow.  The match ended in a scoreless draw.

Scotland then reverted to Raeburn Place until growing friction with their Edinburgh Academy hosts prompted a search for a new ground.  The last match at the birthplace of international rugby was a 6-0 victory over Ireland on 2 March 1895.

On 14 March 1896, Scotland defeated England 11-0 at Hampden Park, Glasgow.  The second of three grounds to bear the name, it became Cathkin Park when its owners, Queen’s Park FC, moved to the current Hampden Park in 1903.  (The Scottish rugby team played South Africa at the new Hampden Park in 1908.)

In 1897, the Scottish Football Union acquired land at Inverleith, Edinburgh to make Scotland the first national rugby team to own its own ground. While Inverleith was being developed, Scotland played two matches at Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh, an established “pedestrianism” venue.  An 8-3 victory over Ireland on 20 February 1897 was followed by a 3-3 draw with England on 12 March 1898.  (Between 1977 and its closure and demolition 1995, Powderhall was home to the Edinburgh Monarchs speedway team.)

Ireland became the first visitors to the world’s first purpose-built international rugby stadium at Inverleith on 18 February 1899, defeating Scotland by 3-9.  After the First World War, limited space and run-down facilities at Inverleith prompted the SFU to search for a new home . Murray’s Field was eventually purchased from the Edinburgh Polo Club at the end of 1922.  The last match at Inverleith was played on Burns Day – 25 January – 1925 and ended in a 25-4 victory over France.  Today, Stewart’s Melville College, and associated clubs, continue to play rugby at Inverleith.

The first match at Murrayfield on on 21 March 1925 saw the lead change several times before Scotland eventually ran-out 14-11 winners over England to secure their first Grand Slam.

England

Although Twickenham has been England’s primary home for a century, of the nations who strive for the Triple Crown, England has had the most “home” grounds.

An English cricket ground hosted the world’s second rugby international.  The return fixture against Scotland on 5 February 1872 was played at the Kennington Oval and ended in a victory for England by a goal, a drop goal and 2 tries to a drop goal.  The first FA Cup final was staged at the same venue a month later.

The Oval hosted a total of seven rugby internationals, including Ireland’s debut on 15 February 1875 – won by England by 1 goal, 1 drop goal, and a try to nil – and the first international rugby match between teams of 15 players – again from England and Ireland – on 5 February 1877.  Until then rugby had been 20-a-side.

The ground of Manchester FC, one of the oldest still surviving rugby clubs, in Whalley Range was the venue for England’s home victory against Scotland by 2 goals and 3 tries to 1 goal on 28 February 1880.  Walley Range hosted a total of seven England matches up to 1892.  According to the 1889 Ordnance Survey Map for Moss Side, the site is now occupied by present day King’s Road, Powell Street and Alphonsus Street off the Upper Chorlton Road.

Wales’ international debut was on Mr Richardson’s field, Blackheath on 19 February 1881.  It was a baptism by fire for the Welsh as England won by 7 goals, 1 drop goal and 6 tries to nil!  Blackheath holds a unique position in the history of rugby.  A founder member of the Football Association, Blackheath withdrew in protest at the FA’s preference for the Cambridge rules  of football, which prohibited carrying the ball, and its less tolerant attitude towards hacking.  Blackheath then went on to become a founder member of the RFU.

Prior to the 1902 schism that ultimately led to the creation of Rugby League, Yorkshire was a rugby stronghold.  England played a number of matches in the county including three in Leeds on three different grounds.   The first was on 5 January 1884 when Wales were beaten by a goal and 2 tries to 1 goal at Cardigan Fields.  The pitches are now occupied by the Leeds Rugby Academy under the management of the Leeds Rugby Foundation.

In the same 1884 season, Scotland were entertained at the Rectory Field, Blackheath on 1 March.  A successful conversion separated the teams and gave victory to England by a goal to a try.

Between 1888 and 1889, the Home International Championship was reduced to a 3 Nation tournament after England declined to join the International Rugby Board which had been established to overcome differences in interpretation of the laws of the game.  When England returned to the fold in 1890, they chose Yorkshire for their first match playing Wales at the original Crown Flatt ground, on Leeds Road, Earlesheaton in Dewsbury.  The match was notable as Wales’ first victory against England – by a single point scored by a Dewsbury player William “Buller” Staden – to nil.  Crown Flatt was replaced by housing after it was destroyed by arson in 1988. (Dewsbury Rams rugby league team play at the Tetley Stadium in Owl Lane which was initially referred to as the ‘new’ Crown Flatt Stadium when it was built in the early 1990s.)

Richmond Athletic Ground hosted England’s 3-9 defeat by Scotland on 7 March 1891.  The home of both Richmond FC and London Scottish, the Athletics Ground was also the venue for France’s first match in the British Isles – a 41-13 defeat at the hands of England on 5 January 1907.

England’s second match in Leeds, an 0-8 defeat by Scotland on 4 March 1893, was played at Headingley. Acquired by the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Co from the Cardigan Estate in January 1889, Headingley was conceived as a multi-sport venue incorporating cricket and rugby pitches along with tennis courts, a bowling green, and a track for cycling and athletics around the cricket pitch.  Today, the ground is used by both codes of rugby: Leeds Rhinos for league and Leeds Carnegie for union. The Headingley test cricket ground is adjacent to the rugby ground.

The first publicly funded park in Britain, Birkenhead Park on the Wirral, hosted England’s 24-3 victory over Wales on 6 January 1894.

Ireland were the visitors for England’s third match in Leeds on 1 February 1896. Played at Meanwood Road, the Irish won 4-10.

The following year, Scotland suffered a second defeat in Manchester, by 12-3. The match, on 13 February 1897, was played in Fallowfield. The Fallowfield Stadium, which also incorporated an athletics track and velodrome, was also notable for having hosted the 1893 FA Cup Final, the first to be played outside London.  (Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Everton 1-0).  The stadium was acquired by Manchester University, demolished in 1994 and redeveloped as the Richmond Park hall of residence.

Gloucester’s Kingsholm hosted a Welsh victory over England by 3-13 on 6 January 1900.

The first of five internationals at Welford Road, Leicester, was England’s 6-3 victory over Ireland on 8 February 1902.  The 23-5 victory over Ireland on 10 February 1923 was the last England home fixture in the 4/5/6 Nations not to be played at Twickenham.

Wales’ made the short trip across the Severn Estuary to defeat England 18-28 at Ashton Gate, Bristol on 18 January 1908 in a match shrouded in thick fog.  The match was the last of five caps for James Peters, the first black player to represent England.  Although he was then playing for Plymouth, Peters’ rugby career had started at Bristol FC.

Twickenham, affectionately known as Billy Williams Cabbage Patch after an RFU committee member who was instrumental in the purchase of the former market garden, hosted its first international when Wales visited on 15 January 1910.  England won 11-6.

Outside the 4/5/6 Nations, England have also played home matches at Crystal Palace (against New Zealand in 1905 and South Africa in 1906), Wembley (Canada, 1992), Old Trafford Manchester (New Zealand, 1997), and the McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield, now known as the Galpharm Stadium (World Cup Qualifiers against the Netherlands, 1998 and Italy 1998.)

Ireland

Having played their first international away to England at the Oval, Ireland’s first home international was a defeat by England by a goal and a try to nil.  Ireland continued the tradition established by both Scotland and England in staging the match at the Leinster Cricket Ground, Rathmines, Dublin, on 13 December 1875

Ireland’s next home game, against Scotland on 19th February 1877, was the first of seven matches to be staged at the North of Ireland Football Club off the Ormeau Road in South Belfast.  The Scots ran away victors by 4 goals, 2 tries and 2 drop goals to nil. Founded in 1868 as a section of the North of Ireland Cricket Club, it was one of the three oldest rugby clubs in Ireland until it merged and moved in with Collegians in 1999 to create Belfast Harlequins.  Subsequently, the ground was vacated and turned over to housing.

Lansdowne Road, which was conceived as a multi-sport venue by Henry Dunlop, organiser of the first All Ireland Athletics Championship, opened for athletics in 1872.  Incorporating a cinder track, the inevitable cricket pitch, croquet green, football pitches, archery facilities and lawn tennis courts, Lansdowne hosted its first rugby international on 11 March 1878 when Ireland succumbed to England by 2 goals and 1 try to nil.  The Irish Rugby Football Union took over the lease of the venue in the early 1900s and the ground became Ireland’s spiritual home for the next century until it closed for redevelopment after the autumn internationals in 2006.  The then reigning world champions South Africa were the first international visitors when Lansdowne Road was reborn as the Aviva Stadium on 6 November 2010.

The Ulster Cricket Ground in Ballynafeigh Park, Belfast hosted three matches between 1891 and 1894. The first visitors were Scotland on 21 February 1891, winning 0-14. [Please leave a comment if you can help locate this ground on the map. Thanks.]

Ireland’s match against Wales on 19 March 1898, which ended in defeat by 1 penalty goal to a goal, try and penalty goal, was played at Thomond Park, Limerick.  The home of Munster but owned by the Irish RFU, the stadium has been redeveloped since 2008.

The Mardyke Grounds of the University College Cork are arguably Ireland’s most successful home venue.  Three internationals have resulted in three home victories.  England succumbed by 17-3 on 11 February 1905. France have been defeated twice: by 25-5 on 25 March 1911 and by 24-0 on 24 March 1913.

The Balmoral Showgrounds of the Royal Ulster Agriculture Society staged several 4/5 Nations matches starting with the 0-8 defeat by Scotland on 19 February 1898.  The last match at the venue was the match against Wales on 12 March 1921 which  Wales won 0-6.  The Showgrounds also hosted South Africa in November 1906]

The modern home of Ulster Rugby, Ravenhill Park has hosted 12 internationals against 4/5/6 Nations opposition.  England were the first visitors on 9 February 1924 winning 3-14. Scotland were the last 5Nations visitors on 27 February 1954. Ireland won 6-0.

During the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, there is a certain irony that Ireland have been permitted to play their home internationals at Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association.  Established in 1884 to counter the growing influence of so-called “foreign” sports – especially those from England – the GAA’s full title references its duty to ensure the “Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes.”  The first visitors to Croke Park on 11 February 2007 were at least gallic: France won 17-20.  Ireland were clear winners – by 43-13 – when England made their first historic visit two weeks later.   Scotland won the last of 14 international rugby matches at Croke Park, on 20 March 2010, winning 20-23.

Outside the 4/5/6 Nations Championship, Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick has hosted Ireland matches against Romania (September 2002), Italy (August 2003) and Canada (November 2009) while the Royal Dublin Society hosted Ireland’s match against Fiji as recently as November 2009.

IRFU results archive Team archive

Wales

Since their international debut at Blackheath in February 1881, Wales have played home fixtures at seven locations. Of these, the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, has yet to stage a 4/5/6 Nations match.  Two of the home venues selected by Wales have been in England, and both of these have also been used by England as home grounds.

St Helen’s in Swansea staged Wales’ first home match on 16 December 1882.  England won by 2 goals and 4 tries to nil.  France’s first official 5 Nations match – a 49-14 defeat – was played at the Swansea ground on New Year’s Day 1910.  Hosting 50 4/5/6 Nations internationals up to the Wales v Scotland match in April 1954, St Helen’s has also been a cricket ground for more than 130 years. Most famously it was where, in 1968, Malcolm Nash suffered the ignominy of allowing Garry Sobers to become the first 1st class cricketer to hit 6 sixes in an over.

Rodney Parade, Newport, hosted six international matches between Scotland’s first visit and victory on 12 January 1884 and the 14-8 victory for Wales over France on 25 March 1912.

The long association between Cardiff Arms Park and international rugby began on 12 April 1884 with a Welsh victory over Ireland by 1 drop goal and 2 tries to nil. Donated by the Marquis of Bute to the City of Cardiff  “for recreational use” in perpetuity, the Arms Park was used by Cardiff Cricket Club from 1848 and subsequently by Glamorgan County Cricket Club until the 1960s.  The southern part of the park became the home of Cardiff RFC from 1876. In the 1960s, as cricketers relocated to pitches up-river in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff’s rugby club took over the former cricket ground while the existing rugby stadium was redeveloped for international use as the National Ground Cardiff Arms Park.  Between the Welsh 3-0 victory over England on 22 January 1955 and England’s 13-34 victory on 15 March 1997, all Wales’s 5 Nations home fixtures were played at the Arms Park / National Ground.

Stradey Park, Llanelli staged three 4 Nations matches starting with England’s visit and 0-0 draw on 4 January 1887.  The first match was actually moved at short notice from the deeply frozen rugby pitch to the adjacent cricket pitch.  (In 1998, during the redevelopment of the National Ground, Stradey Park hosted internationals against Italy in February and Argentina in November).

For the match against Ireland on 12 March 1887, the Welsh Rugby Union chose to play a home match in England.  With Ireland reluctant to travel to play the most junior of the 4 Nations, the match was played at Birkenhead Park – within easy reach of Liverpool Docks and the shipping lines to Dublin.  Wales’ generosity was rewarded with victory by a drop goal and a try to 3 tries: these were the days when a drop goal was valued much more than a try.  Wales were to play “away” on the same ground to England 16 years later.

Between 1997 and 1999, Wales decamped to England again – this time at Wembley.  As well as Autumn internationals against New Zealand (1997) and South Africa (1998), Wembley hosted four 5 Nations matches. The first was a 19-13 victory against Scotland.  Wales last action in the shadows of Wembley’s twin towers was Scott Gibbs dramatic (and heart-breaking for Englishmen) over-time try in the 32-31 victory over England on 11 April 1999.

The most famous feature of the new Millennium Stadium is, of course, its retractable roof – designed to fend off the metre of rain that falls on Cardiff in a typical year.   The new pitch, mounted on removable pallets, has been rotated through 90 degrees compared with the old National Ground to run north-south.  The (un-finished) Stadium opened for international rugby on 26 June 1999 to witness Wales’ first ever victory over South Africa by 29-19.  The (finished) Stadium subsequently staged the 1999 Rugby World Cup final in which Australia beat France 35-12 on 6 November 1999.  The Stadium’s first 6 Nations match was against France on 5 February 2000.

WRU results archive

RugbyData.com contains match-by-match details for most international rugby matches, including all 4/5/6 Nations matches.

Scotland’s first winner of a tennis major

By , 4th February 2010 23:40

On the morning that Andy Murray unsuccessfully contested his second tennis major final in Melbourne in 2010, the Independent on Sunday ran a story on Harold Sergerson Mahony who won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1896.  Although he never won a major title again, he did win the silver medal at the 1900 “Chariots of Fire” Olympics in Paris.

The IoS reported that Mahony was born at 21 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh on 13 February 1867.

From cricket to cremation

By , 3rd September 2009 17:07

On the eve of cricket’s recently-concluded test series, Mike Selvey wrote this fascinating blog post in the Guardian Online highlighting the link between England’s humiliating defeat by the Australians at the Oval in 1882, the origins of “the Ashes” and a late-19th Century campaign to legalise human cremation as an alternative to burial.

Clearly the exploitation of sport in support of political ends is nothing new!

The Doggett’s Coat & Badge

By , 20th August 2009 11:07
World's oldest sporting event

World’s oldest sporting event

As an oarsman, for many years I’ve been aware of the claim that the Doggett’s Coat & Badge is the oldest, continuously-contested, sporting event still contested in the world today.

Thomas Doggett (c1640 – 1721) was an Irish-born comic actor who trod the boards at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.  Later, he became involved in managing the theatre before moving on to the Theatre Royal Haymarket around the time of its opening in 1720.

During years of commuting by river from his home in Chelsea to Westminster, Doggett developed an interest in the skills of the watermen who had been providing the most efficient means of moving passengers and goods around London for several centuries.  (London’s watermen have been regulated since an Act of Parliament passed in 1555 that created the Company of Watermen.)

In 1715, to commemorate the first anniversary of the accession of George I and the House of Hanover, Doggett organised a race for young London watermen who had recently completed their apprenticeships.   The race, for a prize of a scarlet 18th century waterman’s coat with a silver badge on the arm and white breeches, was staged on 1 August.  The start was at the White Swan near London Bridge with the finishing line at the Old Swan, near Cadogan Steps in Chelsea – a distance of four miles seven furlongs.

Swan Pier, Doggett, London

Swan Pier near London Bridge, close to the site of the White Swan Inn

The race became an annual event – organised by Doggett himself until his death in 1721.  (He is burried in St John’s churchyard, Eltham High Street.)

In his will, Doggett instructed his executors to endow the race in perpetuity.  Perhaps shrewdly, the executors offered an endowment of £300 to encourage the Company of Fishmongers to take over the staging of the race.

Initially raced against the tide on August 1st, the rules have subsequently been modified so that now the contestants row with the strongest tide.  Now managed by the Company of Watermen,  today the race is staged on a date in July determined by the time of high tide.  The 296th race took place on 10 July 2009.   Sadly, the race achieved no detectable media coverage apart from a posting – since disappeared – on the Thames Rowing Club website.  Is this lack of interest a throw-back to the historic resistance to professionalism of a rowing establishment dominated for so long by the public schools and universities?  Or just another example of the challenge the so-called “minority sports” face when trying to compete against football for column inches?

These barriers are breaking down.  Watermen are no longer prohibited from competing in domestic rowing events.  Indeed, Mark Hunter, winner of an Olympic Gold medal in the lightweight doubles in Beijing and silver medalist at London 2012, is himself a qualified waterman and freeman of the Thames. He was elected as a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 2013.

In 2000, as an apprentice, Mark competed in, and won, the Millennium Coat and Badge race for double sculls made up of a freeman sculling with an apprentice.  Sadly, circumstances conspired to prevent Mark from racing in the Doggett’s Coat and Badge – he was too old by the time he passed his final exams.  Mark’s younger brother, and fellow member of Leander Club – a one-time bastion of archetypal English amateurism – did win the Coat & Badge in 2006.

The Race now has its own website which includes a listing of all the known winners since 1716.

Reflecting its links with the commercial life of the River Thames, the Watermen’s Company and Port of London Authority feature the event on their websites.

View Doggett’s Coat & Badge in a larger map

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