Playing fields: Our Sporting Life in the countryside

Our Sporting Life logo12 May - 16 September 2012

  • Free admission
  • Normal museum opening times

Special late night opening

Tuesday 10th July 5-8pm

As the Olympic torch travels down London Road, adjacent to the Museum, MERL will be opening late to allow local residents to call in to see this exhibition.

Discover rural sports that changed the world… and one or two that didn't!

Playing fields tug of warAs London 2012 approaches, join the Museum of English Rural Life in celebrating sports and games that connect to life in the countryside. With items drawn from the museum's diverse collections, this show takes a light-hearted look at major sports like football and cricket, the roots of which lie partly in traditional rural contests. It also sheds light on less familiar but equally fascinating activities, from the thorny challenges of competitive hedging to the little-known ballgame knur and spell.

Many mainstream sports are based on country pursuits, such as riding, fishing and shooting. Recreational and courtly games like croquet and tennis became increasingly popular during the late-nineteenth century as the middle classes moved into newly-established suburbs. This shift provided garden lawns and community facilities to emulate those of country houses, where such sports had first gained wider appeal.

This display forms part of a project co-ordinated by the Heritage Sports Network to showcase the wealth of sporting history in the United Kingdom. This national exhibit explores the huge contributions made by British sportsmen and women over the last century. The Olympic ideal owes much to the market town of Much Wenlock, Shropshire. In this quiet English parish, a local agricultural society promoted the idea of an Olympian Class. This sporting notion would come to influence the modern Olympic movement.

Playing Fields is an opportunity to look back with pride and to enjoy and explore a peculiarly British take on sport!

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