From croquet to cricket, the history of some of the most popular pastimes and sports in the world have undergone some serious development in Britain. While we’ve taken a number of harsh losses over the years, we can take comfort in that for just the small island that we are, Britain has left quite an impression on the history of sport.
Only a small number of sports have been invented in an instant. They tend to go undergo a period of evolution, often being passed on from one country to the next, developed along the way, appropriate to various areas and cultures. The contribution from Britain has largely been in the form of gaining an understanding of how a particular sport works and to get it written down. Here are six of the best sports that Britain has made a significant contribution to.
In 1877, England were beaten by Australia in the very first test match, and by some 45 runs. It isn’t certain how the game began but it likely started out as a children game in the southeast of England. The first reference made to the game was in a court case back in 1598. John Derrick, a 59-year-old coroner, referred to playing ‘crecket’ some half a century earlier. An instance of adults playing the game was first referenced in 1611. Two West Sussex parishioners opted to play cricket rather than attend church…on East Sunday, nonetheless. They were each forced to pay a 12 pence fine. The vicar theme seemed to continue when, in 1622, a number of cricketers from near Chichester received fines for playing in a churchyard and allegedly smashed the church’s windows with a cricket ball. Cricket’s early history records incidents of a more serious nature, even deaths when batsmen struck fielders on the head when attempting to hit the ball for the second time. Double hitting was banned once the rules were decided in 1744 by a number of gentlemen and noblemen who played at London’s Artillery Ground. However, it wasn’t until 1788 when the Code of Laws was published by the Marleybone Cricket Club that a single set of rules was accepted by everyone involved in the game. The 18th century saw gambling on the result become almost a more popular activity than actually playing cricket. Even the players were often having a bet. In one 1718 match between Rochester Punch Club and London Cricket Club, the players from Rochester stopped playing once they saw that the score wasn’t going the way they wanted. The opposing team took them to court and after a period of legal wrangling, Rochester had no choice but to play the match in full. They lost both the match and the bet.
There’s some dispute with regards to how this sport began. One theory suggests that France brought it to Britain via the court of King Charles 11 and was played under a different name: pall-mall or paille-maille. Another theory is that croquet or ‘crookey’ was played in 19th century Ireland, and came to Britain in the 1850’s.