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Paradoxe(s) victorien(s) – Victorian Paradox(es)

William Findlay

III. Le peuple

The Victorian Paradox. Sport for the Wealthy to Sport for the Masses: a Conflict of Class and Ideals

Win Hayes


Victoria’s reign covered a period when leisure and sporting activity began to flourish and become not just the prerogative of the wealthy but both a spectator and participation activity for the masses. The increasing order in Victorian society on general, the increasing concern of the dominant class regarding the condition and moral welfare of the poor and the increasing sensibility of society to cruelty and violence could be expected to be reflected in the developments in leisure and sport. Certainly the establishment of National Governing Bodies to organise sport and the movements for ‘rational recreation’ and muscular ‘Christianity’ reflect attempts by the upper and middle classes to involve the poor in wholesome and enhancing leisure. This paper will look at the paradox of this drive to involve the working classes in wholesome sporting pursuits while at the same time banning them from participating in them due to the physical nature of their work.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Midwinter. E., (1986) Fair Play: Myth and Reality in Sport. London, Allen and Unwin, p 23.

1By the middle of the eighteenth century the population of Britain and the way they worked and lived had changed significantly from the pattern of the previous century. The results of industrialisation included movement of large numbers of the population to the towns and cites where better paid work could be found. This took place with little thought or planning, on the part of the authorities, for the accommodation of a large workforce who crowded into the inadequate dwellings where there was little supply of water or sanitation. The rapid rise in the population from just under fourteen million in 1831 to twenty-six million in 1881, a rise of twelve million and close to doubling the population in a period of fifty years, gave a younger profile to the population with an average age of twenty-six and half the population being under twenty1.

  • 2 Hopkins, E. (1979) A Social History of the English Working Classes: 1815-1945. London, Edward Arnol (...)

2Victorian society took time to come to terms with the significant social changes that resulted from the industrial revolution turning villages into towns and towns into cities. While the population of the country as a whole almost doubled in the first half of the nineteenth century and also in the middle fifty years of the century, the population of some towns, such as Manchester2, multiplied fourfold and the population of Bolton multiplied eightfold. The benefits of industry and commerce, that brought about both the evolution of a sizable middle class and produced the increasing affluence of both the middle and working classes, meant that leisure activity, including sport, became more prevalent. The leisure and sporting activity had to adapt from its context, structure and form at the start of the century to fit the new urban context. It had to develop from being mainly the prerogative of the upper classes, who had both the time and the money and in many cases also owned the land on which their land based sports of hunting, shooting and fishing took place. It had to change from activities whose context, structure and form suited the predominantly rural environment, where life followed the routine of the seasons, and where holidays, festivals and leisure activities, in the main, fitted in with that agrarian rhythm. It had to change from activity that, due to the limitations of travel, had been mainly focussed around the family, the local squire or the local village community.

  • 3 Robert Louis Steveson, novelist and poet, born in the Edinburgh New Town area in 1850 and studied a (...)

3The two larger class groups were experiencing very different living conditions by the middle of the century. Stevenson3, the Scottish author, records his observations while studying in Edinburgh, noting the physical proximity yet social and environmental contrast between the two communities of the middle class in the New Town and the working class in the Old Town of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 4 Daiches D, (1978) Edinburgh, London, Hamish Hamilton, p. 225.

“Social inequality is nowhere more ostentatious than at Edinburgh. I have mentioned already how, to the stroller along Princes Street the High Street callously exhibits its back garrets
................ To look over the South Bridge and see the Cowgate below full of crying hawkers, is to view one rank of society from another in the twinkling of an eye.”

4While the middle classes were housed in well-built properties in the spacious outskirts of the growing cities, the housing of the working class in most main towns and cities was poor in quality, overcrowded and without sanitation or other amenities. The type of tenement housing found in many large cities is described by Mitchison (1970) citing an example from Edinburgh but representative of many other large cities.

  • 5 Mitchison R, (1970) A History of Scotland, London, Routledge, p. 381.

“A report on Edinburgh in 1838 describes the common stairs of these tenements as ‘little streets carried perpendicularly upwards’ and instanced one on which there were fifty-nine rooms, almost all separate ‘houses’ in the Scottish sense of separate dwellings, containing fifty-six families and two-hundred and forty-eight people, without a water supply of any kind.”5

5Life in the cities and towns, where from the middle of the century onwards so many of the population were involved in manufacturing, mining and associated industries, not only required long hours, but was also physically demanding and work in particular was subject to specific roles, procedures and regulations. The increase in population, its more youthful nature, its involvement in the new, more structured forms of industrial work and its concentration in the urban areas gave conditions that were conducive to the development of more modern forms leisure and sporting activity. The gathering of a large work force together in such conditions, clearly in need of some escape for relaxation and entertainment, was a major stimulus not only to the development of both participant and spectator sport but also to the specific form and structure that such developments took.

6This paper will look at the attitudes of the classes within this context, the actions of certain groups or institutions within society and of the organisers of some specific sports to the developments of the period. It will highlight some of the conflicting elements and paradoxes that were features of this ongoing process and which occurred as the middle class tried to both maintain their distinctiveness while encouraging the working class into what they considered appropriate recreational activity. It will highlight how the institutions of school, work and church attempted to encourage sport for their own reasons. Together these efforts combined not only to form the sporting practice of Victorian times but also to lay clearly the foundations of modern sport as we know it today.

  • 6 Huggins M, (2000), Second-Class Citizens? English Middle-Class Culture and Sport, 1850-1910: A Reco (...)

7Firstly to look at the attitudes of the different classes to involvement in sport and to the sporting activity of the other classes a brief look at the class structure of the time is necessary. The basic class divisions were very clear: the aristocracy, the middle class and the working class. However the complexities of the British class system, about which much has been written, are such that the middleclass in particular provided many subgroups. Huggins6, when writing on middle class culture during this period states:

“The middle class were riven by divisions. Some of them were horizontal divisions; of incomes, of geography, and even of religion. There was also the further (and very important) vertical fracture between the business and professional classes.”

  • 7 Birley D, (1993), Sport in the Making of Britain, Manchester, Manchester University Press, p. 238 a (...)
  • 8 Parker C, (2000), "Improving the Condition of the People: The Health of Britain and the Provision o (...)

8The middle class, thought to total around one and a half million families by 1870, incorporated a range of people from the professions, such as doctors, lawyers and the clergy, and also leaders from industry and business. In addition, this group, at the lower end, would include teachers, shopkeepers and the upper ranks of clerical workers. This resulted in an emerging middle class that was not only large and with significant influence but who also, although broadly united in an awareness of their social position, their perceptions of respectability and their desire for self improvement, were diverse in background, interests, outlook and disposable income and hence reflected a range of different personal and public agendas. In broad terms it was a growing middle class that was clearly divided in two with the professions aligned towards the thinking of the aristocracy and expected to have leadership qualities while business and those involved in it, even at the highest levels, were a sub-class that it was not anticipated would have governing qualities. Below that came the masses of the working classes, which included all those involved in the heavy and dirty work of industry, the mechanics, labourers and factory workers. In the face of the squalor and disease of the slums and the advancing scientific and medical knowledge of the period, health was a major preoccupation of the upper and middle classes in Victorian Britain. This involved total health or the ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ philosophy which was supported by the concepts of rational recreation or improving activities and with muscular Christianity7. Although health and hygiene were major everyday problems for the poor, they were striving to survive the squalor of their surroundings rather than achieve what Parker8, in her review of the Health of Britain and the Provision of Public Baths, calls ‘an illusive concept of health’ The middle classes with their own strong sense of respectability, together with their anxiety about the morality and potential for crime and violence amongst the working class masses, in some cases sought to improve the conditions in which the labouring masses lived and worked and as part of this to get them involved in rational recreation. This essentially meant that they would spend their free time involved in improving activities, both mental and physical rather, than other less appreciated and possibly violent activity. Reasons that are attributed to this contribution of the middle classes include sense of duty, fear of the disease, fear of the violence and lewd behaviour that might arise if the lower classes were not productively occupied, philanthropy, social control and cultural or class hegemony. All can be defended but none exclusively.

9The word sport, relating to ‘organised games participation’, first appears in the Oxford English dictionary well into the Victorian period, in 1863 edition. This reflects the expansion and development of such activity at this time. Among the early forces which helped to legitimise sport were the British public schools which, following problems of violent behaviour and revolt amongst pupils in the early nineteenth century, were looking for procedures to ensure social control and order. In slightly different contexts and with differing emphases, usually relating to the philosophy of their headmaster, they firstly adopted and then reformed sport to meet their needs. Huggins clarifies their expectations of sport:

“From the mid-nineteenth century public schools began to transform the nature and purpose of sport. Here, an ideology was developed which legitimised sport as helping keep order and discipline, encouraging team spirit, fostering qualities of leadership, taking minds off sex, grooming them for imperial service or other future professions and occupations or even preparing pupils for war.”

  • 9 Minting R, (2003), "The Games Ethic And Industrial Capitalism before 1914: The Provision of Company (...)

10These pupils carried their experience on into university or into their future profession and workplace applying the principles and further spreading sport throughout the population and beyond9.

  • 10 Ibid. p. 46.

11Meanwhile other agencies, such as the church saw this development and identified an activity that attracted youth, was justifiable in terms of instilling moral values and the qualities of self control, fair play and discipline, all of which they valued. This link between the healthy mind and the healthy body was incorporated in the Muscular Christianity movement, which was intended to keep boys busy in organised, improving physical activity that would keep them out of trouble and away from ‘sin’. Sports activities fitted well into this context plus they were attractive to the youth. Hence the success of organisations such as the Boys Brigade, formed in 1883 which used sports activities such as football, swimming and camping to attract and discipline boys who had to participate in the religious activities to be eligible for the sports10.

  • 11 Ibid. p. 48-60.

12The same theme of improving the mind and body through rational recreation was taken up by employers who came to see the concept of recreation – literally ‘re-creating men for future work’ as one that could be beneficial to their business. It could keep their workforce fit, keep them out of the trouble that some of their other self chosen leisure activities could lead to and also gave them, the employer, yet further control. Thus employers supported works football teams, works brass bands and such organised disciplined activities that both involved their workers in either participation or spectating thus ensuring that they stayed focussed on the company and beneficially occupied. Companies such as Cadbury, Lever Brothers, Rowentrees, Pilkington Glass and Colmans were among the many companies that, from the middle of the nineteenth century, made recreational provision for workers in order to recruit and secure a contented workforce as well as to display their care for the local community11.

13The institutions of the school, church and the workplace, all essentially led and run by the middle classes, thus contributed significantly towards the promotion of sporting activity to the working class masses.

  • 12 Holt R, (1989), "Old Ways of Playing" in Holt, R. Sport and the British: A Modern History, Oxford, (...)

14A selection of the sports activities that were common or developing during the period; football, rugby, rowing, cricket and swimming, will show some of the specific trends, problems and paradoxes that existed. The sports have been selected as prominent at the time but also as they show a range of attitudes and resolutions to the problems that arose with the dual or multiple agendas of getting the working class involved in rational recreation while also preserving the status and distinctive position of the middle classes. The upper class, in the main, remained outside this action as they tended to remain apart and keep their own traditional land-owner based sports of hunting and shooting to themselves. Holt12 highlights how these rural sports, which did not transfer to the confines of the city, progressively became more exclusive to the upper class at the same time as other leisure activities and sports were becoming more accessible to all classes. There was a decrease in the number of workers on the large estates and farms, due to the combination of industrialisation taking workers away and mechanisation determining that less manpower was needed. This meant that the workers, who formerly had followed the hunt on foot, were not longer around to participate.

  • 13 Vamplew R, (1988), "Sport and Industrialisation: An Economic Interpretation of the changes in Popul (...)
  • 14 Sporting Mirror, Volume II, August-January 1882, p. 165.188.

15As sport had previously been mainly the prerogative of the wealthy, who had the time and the money to pursue it purely for the pleasure of it, it was essentially what was known as ‘amateur’ sport. Amateur at that time being interpreted as – ‘the lover of’ i.e. they were doing the sport because they enjoyed it and there was no extrinsic purpose, such as gaining money, associated with it. Those that participated were the ‘gentlemen amateurs’ – the leisured classes with the time and money to indulge their passion. As the masses began to have the opportunity and the encouragement to pursue sport, now that they were together in the cities in large numbers, the question of money or payment began to arise. In order to participate in a football match the working man would require to take some time off work to get to the venue and to play. For most of the working classes this was not possible without some recompense. They needed to get back at least what they lost in wages plus the cost of travel to make participation feasible. To those organising the sport this was generally unacceptable as sport to them was something that you did for the pleasure of it and to expect to be paid was not in the nature or spirit of the activity. Yet at the same time the idea of spectator sport, with its accompanying running costs and income, was growing. Street football, in which the masses could participate, decreased due to being banned by the Highways Act in 1835. This was as a result of the disturbance that it caused for trade over a period of two days as the unregulated mobs participated and the game roamed around the streets of the town. The masses in the towns were looking for some excitement and the entrepreneur, alert to the possibility of making money, was prepared to organise and promote it. Over the period of the mid eighteen-thirties until the 1860s the game gradually changed from the ‘mob game’, without boundaries, without rules or time limits, to a structured form that was played within certain confines of a pitch, within a certain time period, with a limited number of players and with certain rules. By then there was a large enough level of football activity and teams were wanting to play against opposition from further afield thus common rules were required. In 1863 the Football Association was formed to take control of and organise the competitive structure of the game. Thus the game came to be structured along similar lines to factory work. It took place in a defined time and space, it had certain rules and different people had different roles within the activity. By the last ten to fifteen years of the century first division league matches could have, on average, four and a half thousand spectators while the Cup Final, at the end of the century, had a crowd of over 50,000. The numbers involved who managed to earn money in the sport, in spite of the general trend to avoid the tarnishing of sport with commercial enterprise, continued to grow and by the end of the Edwardian period there were 6,800 registered professionals in soccer13, many of whom were part timers but still earning money from playing football. Through the middle of the century there was little distinction between professionals and amateurs and little animosity about the two playing together. The Sporting Mirror of 1881-8214 highlights that it was only at the point when the gentlemen amateurs:

“found that they were unable to hold their own in leading events that exception was taken to leading performers on account of their social status and a clique established.”

16The Football Association, the governing body of the sport, led by the middle classes concerned with their status and with an essentially amateur philosophy, fought against the idea of professionalism and the paying of money to players. However they eventually gave way to avoid the sport being split by the groups of working class and their middle class supporters. This particularly involved the business and industry communities of northern and middle England. They wanted professionalism and were planning on leaving the Football Association and setting up a rival professional organisation as eventually happened in other sports. Thus, in football, payments were made to players that lost income and the ‘part time professional’ came into being. The FA did however control and limit the level of recompense and kept the level of money involved in football low until well into the twentieth century.

  • 15 . Holt, Op. Cit. p. 24.

17The arrangements in football were in contrast to what happened in Rugby where the governing body did not succumb to the pressure to make payments for lost work time and the sport split in two. There was a distinct difference in attitude to the question of amateurism and professionalism and the need to make payments to players between the clubs of the traditionally amateur south, where there was a strong public school group involved in the liberal professions, and the clubs of the more industrially focussed north15. The administrators who came from the public schools and the middle classes would not compromise on their amateur principles. This resulted in a split between the northern clubs, who formed their own organisation, which subsequently became Rugby League, where players could be paid, and the remainder, who stayed with the amateur form of Rugby Union.

18For the organisers of both these sports the issue was one of violating what they perceived to be the principles of amateur sport i.e. that it be done for pleasure and not for gain. Or was it? Was it purely about the contamination of the ethos of amateur sport by money or was it about other things? Was it about being beaten in sport by the lower classes? Was it about preserving middle class status? Was it about controlling the lower classes?

19The gentleman amateur, who pursued the activity for its own sake, did not welcome the involvement of the working class, seeing that the nature of their work, being essentially very physical, would give them a distinct advantage in terms of the physical capacities that were advantageous in many sports. Not only did they not welcome them but they actually wrote the rules to ensure that anyone involved in physical labour was banned from participating. So while some groups or individuals among the middle class were encouraging the working class to pursue healthy recreational activity others were limiting their involvement. This can only really be interpreted as self interest. The working class who were involved in physical labour and thus had great strength and endurance would possibly beat them, something the upper classes considered unacceptable as they considered themselves to be superior. They were trying to preserve the class divide and avoid being too closely associated with the working classes. Peter Bailey in one of his extensive studies of Victorian leisure quotes Besant who in 1887 commented on the middle classes’ perception and their fear of the merging of the classes:

“... that their amusements – also, which seems the last straw, their vices - can be enjoyed by the base mechanical sort, in so much that if this kind of thing goes on, there must in the end be an effacement of all classes.”

  • 16 Holt R, (1992), Amateurism and its Interpretation: The Social Origins of British Sport in Innovatio (...)

20In the face of such a risk the middle classes defended their distinctive position. Holt16, affirms that in spite of the education system of the public schools that inculcated an ethos of ‘conquest and service’ we should be clear that:

“...most middle class sportsmen seem to have wanted to keep as far away from the working classes as possible.”

  • 17 Halladay E, (1987), "Of Pride and Prejudice: The Amateur Question in English Nineteenth-Century Row (...)

21Thus, although elements of the middle classes in the schools, churches and factories were encouraging the working class towards rational recreation and sporting activities of a wholesome and beneficial nature, the middle classes wanted to keep the working classes actual participation separate from their own involvement. Rowing has probably the classic example of, what has become known as, the ‘mechanics clause’. The rules produced by the largely middle class administrators, of firstly the Henley Regatta in 1879 and then the new governing body the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) in 1884, actually prevented the involvement of the working classes who were involved in labouring work of a physical nature. In addition to rules banning competing for money or using competence in the sport for financial gain, which were common rules being brought into many sports at the time, it included in its rules the clauses17

“... no person shall be considered an amateur oarsman or sculler-1.2.3./
4. Who has been employed in or about boats for money or wages

5. Who is or has been, by trade or employment for wages, a mechanic, artisan or labourer.”

  • 18 Ibid. p. 49.

22To this the ARA added in 1884.. ‘or anyone involved in menial duty’.18 Thus the working classes, few of whom could avoid identification with such an ‘all embracing descriptor of work’, were banned from the activity.

  • 19 Elias N, and Dunning E, (1986), Quest for Excitement, Oxford, Blackwell, p. 218.

23Both before and during the early part of the Victorian period the upper classes also contributed to the development of professionalism in sport through their patronage within certain sports such as cricket, prize fighting and horse racing. Such patronage resulted in a form of professionalism in certain sports where the sponsored athlete, for example the cricketer, was totally subordinate to and reliant on their patron. It normally involved forms of participation where the athlete performed ‘for’ (as in horse racing or fighting) or ‘alongside’ the patron (as a member of the patron’s cricket team) rather than in competition against the patron. Thus a very clear class divide was still maintained. Elias and Dunning19 summarise the relationships involved and the effect

“The type of sports career that grew up under such conditions was based on the unequivocal subordination of the professional to his patron and total dependency as far as life chances were concerned of the former on the latter. No threat was posed by professionalism of that type to the interests and values of the ruling class.”

24Such relationships gave rise to arrangements where, in cricket for example, the ‘players’, or professionals, had a different entrance to the ground to the gentlemen, or amateurs. Thus although the professionals played for or with their amateur patron they were kept apart socially. The rulers of the sport, the gentlemen amateurs and the Marylebone Cricket Club that organised the sport, thus accepted a form of professionalism, as it was to their advantage, but did not accord those participants full respect as they were in need of payment or patronage.

  • 20 Searle M, (1977), Bathing Machines and Bloomers, Tunbridge Wells, Midas p 5-12.
  • 21 In Scotland, which had separate local authority legislation, the relevant Act was the Burgh Police (...)

25In other sports, where upper class patronage did not exist, such as swimming, different arrangement arose over the period. Swimming also had a particular position as, although early sea bathing20 and spa bathing or ‘taking the waters’ at the spas were the pursuits of royalty and the aristocracy, swimming pool activity was fundamentally working class due to the association with the establishment of baths and wash-houses being primarily for the cleanliness of the poor. Once there were a number of baths in existence, following the Baths and Wash-houses Act of 1846 or more importantly the Act of 187821, and swimming activity began to become more common, a number of professional swimmers appeared who took on roles of performer and teacher. In the early days professional swimmers were the only people who participated in races as the scale of participation in swimming generally, the development of swimming venues and the nature of competitive sport, with its later emphasis on timing, records and champions, were only in their infancy.

  • 22 Bilsborough, in One Hundred Years of Scottish Swimming (1988) Edinburgh, Napier Polytechnic, p. 8, (...)
  • 23 Ibid. p. 8.
  • 24 Sinclair A and Henry W, (1893), Swimming: The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes, London, Lon (...)

26The increase in the number of indoor public baths providing comfortable accommodation22 which continued throughout the middle and later half of the century provided a context receptive to the expansion of swimming in general and an increase in the number of swimming spectacles or ‘entertainments’ as they were known.. The baths put on weekday evening events that served as inexpensive entertainment and which did not clash with the weekend football events23. Sinclair and Henry24 highlight the fact that the professional existed in the sport of swimming without conflict with the amateur:

“Prior to the year 1869 there was very little distinction between amateur and professional swimmers. The Baths were few in number and ill constructed and badly ventilated, the race meetings of a rough and ready character which beggars description.”

27The professionals were thus competitors in races, performers in sketches and also teachers and promoters.

  • 25 Minute Book No 1, 1869-1873, Meeting of 7th January 1869, p. 1.
  • 26 Sinclair A and Henry W, Op. Cit. (1893) p. 335-336.

28As swimming evolved as a sport and became more accessible it was apparent that some agency was required to oversee and control it. In January 1869, in London, a fledgling governing body was established composed of London clubs25. From this a code of practice and rules were devised and according to Sinclair and Henry, who both wrote about the sport and were involved in the activities of the governing body, the definition of who was banned from amateur competition was26:

“Persons who have competed for money prizes, for wagers, for public or admission money, or who have otherwise made the art of swimming a means of pecuniary profit shall not be allowed to compete as amateurs.”

29Thus the groundwork for swimming becoming amateur, for it being pursued simply for its own sake without contamination by money was set. However few of the general swimming public fully understood the amateur ideal and it was much abused and resulted in many years of bitter struggles within the association. Another element that contributed to a general disinterest in the amateur, or any other ethos, in swimming was the fact that so many participated as individuals, in open water or in the public baths, without any interest in competition or any controlling body. That is not as easy in team games such as football or rugby where a number of people are required to participate and also an opposition. In swimming if the facility exists (indoor or open water) you can go swimming alone, there is no need for an organising agency or club. This together with the association of baths with the cleanliness of the poor and the drive to focus on getting the young to swim, which does not have a competitive focus, contributed to the delay in formalising any system of governance that was fully adhered to. It also helped to assure that the amateur ethos eventually dominated from 1886 as only the few involved in the governing body and in competition cared – the bulk of the people were not interested in the competitive aspect and therefore amateur and professional status was of no interest. Those involved however realised from their previous attempts that, as many of those that were likely to be competitors came from a working class background, it was essential only to have rules about payment or involvement in swimming activity for money rather than the punitive conditions of exclusion of labourers and menial workers etc. as happened in rowing.

30In conclusion, there is no doubt that sport both increased in volume and diversity during the period. It also became available to all classes both as participation and also as a spectator activity. The nature of the developing urban environment through the nineteenth century encouraged collective leisure and shaped the form along which much of it developed. The class structure and attitudes of that society both influenced the form of leisure activity promoted and also caused tensions between the classes over what was ‘encouraged by the dominant class as beneficial for the working class’ and what was ‘wanted or needed by the working class’. To encourage sport as rationale recreation that would be beneficial to the individual and society yet write rules for it that barred the majority of the labour force from involvement, simply because they were in menial or physical work, shows the tensions between the agendas of the subgroups within the middle classes. Some were endeavouring to enhance the life of the working class, some were trying to control the behaviour of the working class to the benefit of social order, some were trying to protect their own sporting performance status while others were more concerned with maintaining the class and cultural divide. All reasons resulted in movements for the inclusion of sport paralleled by regulations some of which were of a prohibitive nature. The working class however did not merely accept the middle class or dominant culture that was being presented to them – their numbers gave them power, their unity in their perception of their condition gave them strength to rally and react against the essentially middle class control where they wanted to.

31The Football Association would not risk the split in their ranks by continuing their ban against payment for lost hours etc. and adapted to at least partially accommodate their needs

32The Rugby Association did not adapt to the will of the working class and the working class went their own way. This split continued for about 100 years until the late 1900s when the Rugby Union succumbed to professionalism. The working class in the meantime had the Rugby League that met their needs and would allow payments.

33The cricket association maintained the Marylebone Cricket Club as an ‘amateur’ body but had a variety of conditions over the years that allowed professionals to play as well, this state continued until the mid-twentieth century, (finally abolished in 1962)

34The Rowing Association probably reacted in the most extreme way and stood its ground over amateurism until the mid 1950s and was involved in some very high profile cases for banning the ‘unsuitable’ participants – these include the banning of Jack Kelly the father of Princess Grace of Monaco from rowing while he was studying in England – he had at some time worked as a bricklayer. Again, as in rugby, a parallel association, the National Amateur Rowing Association, was started to accommodate those amateurs that had problems with the narrow interpretation of the ‘mechanics’ clause. This was only finally absorbed into the Amateur Rowing Association in 1956.

35The Swimming Association, due in the main to the masses involved and its link with the working class and cleanliness, took action only to protect competition swimmers against paid professionals – a move that had no effect on the majority of people involved in participation in swimming as they had no involvement in competition.

36Of the five sports selected for study swimming and football are the two that have survived as the most dominant participant and spectator sports in British Society today. Rugby has survived in its two forms and cricket and rowing have survived but on a much smaller and on a still fairly exclusive level.


1 Midwinter. E., (1986) Fair Play: Myth and Reality in Sport. London, Allen and Unwin, p 23.

2 Hopkins, E. (1979) A Social History of the English Working Classes: 1815-1945. London, Edward Arnold, p. 18.

3 Robert Louis Steveson, novelist and poet, born in the Edinburgh New Town area in 1850 and studied at the University of Edinburgh.

4 Daiches D, (1978) Edinburgh, London, Hamish Hamilton, p. 225.

5 Mitchison R, (1970) A History of Scotland, London, Routledge, p. 381.

6 Huggins M, (2000), Second-Class Citizens? English Middle-Class Culture and Sport, 1850-1910: A Reconsideration, International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 17, No. 1 (March 2000) p. 2.

7 Birley D, (1993), Sport in the Making of Britain, Manchester, Manchester University Press, p. 238 and p. 256-257.

8 Parker C, (2000), "Improving the Condition of the People: The Health of Britain and the Provision of the Public Baths 1840-1870" Τthe Sports Historian, 2002, p. 2.

9 Minting R, (2003), "The Games Ethic And Industrial Capitalism before 1914: The Provision of Company Sport" Sport in History, vol. 23.1 p. 45.

10 Ibid. p. 46.

11 Ibid. p. 48-60.

12 Holt R, (1989), "Old Ways of Playing" in Holt, R. Sport and the British: A Modern History, Oxford, Clarendon Press, p. 12-73.

13 Vamplew R, (1988), "Sport and Industrialisation: An Economic Interpretation of the changes in Popular Sport in Nineteenth Century England" in Mangan, J. A. (Ed.) 1988 Pleasure, Profit and Proselytism: British Sport at Home and Abroad, London, Frank Cass p. 7-20.

14 Sporting Mirror, Volume II, August-January 1882, p. 165.188.

15 . Holt, Op. Cit. p. 24.

16 Holt R, (1992), Amateurism and its Interpretation: The Social Origins of British Sport in Innovation, Vol. 5, No. 4, Carfax Publishing, Abingdon.

17 Halladay E, (1987), "Of Pride and Prejudice: The Amateur Question in English Nineteenth-Century Rowing" in The International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol. 4. No. 1, May.

18 Ibid. p. 49.

19 Elias N, and Dunning E, (1986), Quest for Excitement, Oxford, Blackwell, p. 218.

20 Searle M, (1977), Bathing Machines and Bloomers, Tunbridge Wells, Midas p 5-12.

21 In Scotland, which had separate local authority legislation, the relevant Act was the Burgh Police Act of 1892.

22 Bilsborough, in One Hundred Years of Scottish Swimming (1988) Edinburgh, Napier Polytechnic, p. 8, writes of swimming entertainments being both geographically and financially accessible to a large section of the population' and also how they 'provided warm comfortable accommodation'".

23 Ibid. p. 8.

24 Sinclair A and Henry W, (1893), Swimming: The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes, London, Longmans, p. 335.

25 Minute Book No 1, 1869-1873, Meeting of 7th January 1869, p. 1.

26 Sinclair A and Henry W, Op. Cit. (1893) p. 335-336.

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