July 2012: A Sporting Miscellany – Peter Bennett

With the Olympic Torch and Road Cycling Races coming to Westcott, this talk looked at the history of sport in Surrey and particularly in our local area. Close to London with poor soils useful for little else, Surrey was ideal for sporting venues and events. Many of sport’s movers and shakers came from here and wars, technology and changing social attitudes all shaped the way things developed.

An early influence on sport was perhaps George Evelyn of Wotton. When he brought the gunpowder industry to England, the longbow became obsolete and men compelled to practice archery were free to play what sport they liked. Racing began at Epsom. A cricket scene at Dorking, one of the earliest, hangs in the Long Room at Lords. William Caffyn of Reigate improved cricket in Australia and Henry Jupp of Dorking played the first ball bowled against England in a test match.

Subsequently Wimbledon, Bisley and Brooklands became venues of intenational importance. The Surrey Hills became a cyclists’ paradise and it was here that the battle of the ‘rationals’ was fought, an important step for womens’ righs. By the early 20th century a wide range of sports
flourished in Dorking and Westcott and a surprising number of local sportsmen, sportswomen (and horses!) have got to the top.
This talk was our unofficial contribution to the cultural Olympiad so we also discovered how the modern Olympics began and why the 2012 mascot is called ‘Wenlock’! We now look forward to the torch and the bike races coming through our village.