Sports that have their modern origins in Great Britain (16 Photos)
Despite being the ‘National Pastime’ of our American cousins, baseball (or base ball as it was known) has origins in 18th century Britain. Indeed, historian’s believe that baseball may have been a regional variation of the more traditional British game of rounders. There is even a reference to baseball in Jane Austen’s Northhanger Abbey, when the heroine Catherine Morland is described as preferring “cricket, base ball, riding on horseback and running about the country to books.”
Another day, another sport started by soldiers.
Soldiers used to throw arrows at the bottom of beer barrels or tree trunks in their down time and it seems the association with booze has stuck.
Such was its popularity that Anne Boleyn gifted a set of darts to Henry VIII in 1530. Before, ya know, he executed her.
Popular legend has it that rugby was invented by a pupil called William Webb Ellis at Rugby School in 1823, when he broke the rules of football by running with the ball in his hands. Today, a statue of Webb Ellis stands outside the school.
The earliest reference to the game of cricket can be found as far back 1858, where it is referred to as ‘creckett’. Originally a children’s game, cricket became massively popular throughout the 17th century, especially in the south east of England. The proliferation of the British Empire allowed for the sport to grow worldwide and today it is considered India’s national sport.
It is thought modern netball began at Hampstead College when P.E teacher Martina Bergman-Österberg started teaching a version of the American/Canadian sport of basketball in 1893.The first codified rules of netball were published in 1901 by the Ling Association, later the Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom.
Sports similar to gold can be found as far back as the Roman Empire, but the modern game can be traced back to Scotland in the 15th century. The oldest golf course in the world is Musselburgh Links in East Lothian, where Mary, Queen of Scots is rumoured to have played a game in 1567.
Originally employing a golf ball as the projectile and books as the net, table tennis was a family friendly Victorian parlour game. Other names used during its early incarnations are the amusing ‘whiff-waff’ and the more familiar ‘ping pong’.
Bowls is a truly historic sport with bowling greens existing in England as far back as 1299. Sir Francis Drake famously played a game of bowls in Plymouth before defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Foot and ball games have various origins around the world but the first attempt to codify a universal rule set was established in British private schools in the 18th and 19th century. Previously, football was considered a menace to society and 30 laws were passed to ban it in England between 1324 and 1667.
While variants of tennis can be tracked back as far as 13th century France, the modern game that we recognise today can be traced to a croquet lawn in Birmingham in the 1860s. Harry Gem and Augurio Perera founded the first lawn tennis club in Leamington Spa in 1872.
While Britain can’t claim to have invented racket sports as a whole, the exalted grounds of Harrow School were supposedly the birthing grounds of modern squash. It was probably partially based on “rackets”, which was developed by bored prisoners in Fleet Street Prison. Quite the contrast.
Curling was invented in medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541.
Kilsyth Curling Club, which was established in 1716, claims to be the oldest bowls club in the world.
Originating from the 19th century sport of battledore and shuttlecock, modern Badminton (or a similar variation) was first recorded as being played by British soldiers in colonial India. They brought it back to Britain and official rules were standardised for the first time.
Water Polo began in travelling fairs in 19th Century England and Scotland as a demonstration of strength and swimming ability.
The first recorded game took place in Bournemouth in 1876. The game ended after just 15 minutes due to the ball bursting.
Another sport reportedly started by British troops stationed in India during the 19th century. The term
‘snooker’ was thought to be British Army slang for a first-year cadet.
The first record of the word hockey itself was recorded in 1363 when Edward III of England issued the proclamation: “Moreover we ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment all and sundry from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games.”
The modern game itself grew and became established (predictably) in private schools in England in the 19th century. It is closely related to the Irish game of hurling and the Icelandic game of Knattleikr.
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