Sports and Recreation

Surrey has a rich and varied sporting life. Today it has polo pitches, golf courses, pretty village cricket pitches and of course a first class cricket team. In the past there was stoolball, an early form of rounders, baseball, cycling, motor racing and much more.

Surrey has always loved its cricket. Famous residents have contributed to the story. J M Barrie, of Peter Pan fame, was a passionate cricketer and had his own team which included celebrities such as PG Woodhouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Meredith and AA Milne. Julius Caesar played cricket for Surrey and England in the mid nineteenth century.

Explore Surrey’s sporting history and learn about some of the personalities involved.

Motor Racing

John Cobb in the 24 litre Napier Railton taking the 'bump' on the Members' Banking. 1935 coutesy of Brooklands Museum

John Cobb in the 24 litre Napier Railton taking the ‘bump’ on the Members’ Banking. 1935
coutesy of Brooklands Museum

Britain’s first Grand Prix was held at Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit in 1926. The first official race was held on the 6th July 1907 and was greeted by the press as a Motor Ascot. For this reason many horse racing terms became associated with motor racing. Cars assembled in the paddock where they were shod with tyres, weighed by the Clerk of the Scales for handicapping and drivers were even instructed to identify themselves by wearing coloured silks, just like jockeys.

Find out about the first Englishman to win the World Championship Motor racing title; Mike Hawthorn (1929-1959).


The earliest known original reference to baseball is now believed to date back to 1755 following the discovery of a manuscript in a Surrey residents shed. The diary belonged to William Bray, a Surrey solicitor and local historian who records playing the game with friends near Guildford on Easter Monday 1755.


Amy Pascoe (1866-1917) Courtesy of Surrey History Centre 6932/7/5/2

Amy Pascoe (1866-1917)
Courtesy of Surrey History Centre 6932/7/5/2

A golf match at Hurst Park,Molesey in 1758 is the first recorded in England. Amy Pascoe (1866-1917), a Woking resident, was a keen sportswoman, particularly skilled at golf. She won numerous trophies and was elected County Captain of Surrey Ladies County Golf Association when founded in 1900. Amy is understood to have been an acquaintance of the composer Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), another passionate golfer and a stalwart member of the Ladies section of Woking Golf Club.


A Surrey resident was the first woman to win the National Rifle Association Kings Prize at Bisley in 1930. The National Rifle Association at Bisley was founded in 1859, originally to provide a focus for marksmanship for the newly formed corps of volunteers that had been raised to meet the perceived threat of invasion by the French.


Woolworths, Staines, Ladies Football Club, 1933. Courtesy of Egham Musuem (P2616)

Woolworths, Staines, Ladies Football Club, 1933.
Courtesy of Egham Musuem (P2616)

In the early 1880s, the Football Association committee watched a football match in Reigate where a ball was kicked between posts but 30 feet in the air. This led to the introduction of a cross bar to prevent the problem happening again. The first womens football matches took place between England and Scotland in 1881. During the early part of the 20th century there were a number of womens football teams in Surrey, many were company teams. In 1934 the Woolworths of Staines Ladies team were said to have shown some sparkling form. However, the previous year they had faced a team from Marks and Spencer and lost 5 0.

The first FA Cup Final in March 1872 was played at the Kennington Oval, at the time in Surrey, between Wanderers (based in Upper Norwood and founded in 1859 ) and Royal Engineers A.F.C. (founded in 1863). The Royal Engineers had two Captains playing, the rest were Lieutenants. Wanderers won 1-0. Both teams are still playing. An item in the Surrey County Cricket Club records 1845-1967 deposited at Surrey History Centre includes a reference to arrangements for FA Cup matches dated 14 Mar 1876 (SHC ref 2042/1/3).


Ancient records in Surrey History Centre include two of the earliest known references to cricket.

    • The Guildford Guild Merchant and Court Leet book 1586-1675 (Surrey History Centre BR/OC/1/2)

      The Guildford Guild Merchant
      and Court Leet book 1586-1675
      (Surrey History Centre BR/OC/1/2)

      • The first reference comes in the Guildford Court Book (Surrey History Centre ref: BR/OC/1/2) where, in evidence dated 1598, John Derrick, aged fifty-nine, recalled that when he was a scholar at the Royal Grammar School fifty years earlier, hee and diverse of his fellows did runne and play there at Creckett and other Plaies.
      • The second reference has been found in the Wanborough manor court roll for 1616 (Surrey History Centre ref 1272/1/3) where Nicholas Hockley was fined three shillings and four pence for making ‘insult and affray against a certain Robert Hewitt’ and drawing blood, ‘with a certain stick called ‘a crickett staffe’ of the value 1d’ [one penny].

The third cricket stump was added after a controversial match in Surrey in 1772. The ball was bowled by Lumpy Stevens through the two-stump wicket of the day without dislodging the bail and the batsman was declared not out. Two years later the rules were revised and the third stump was introduced. The first match played with three stumps took place at the Burway ground on 6th September 1776 between Chertsey and Coulsden.

For National Sporting Heritage Day 2020 Robert Simonson, Digital Archivist at Surrey History Centre, and an avid cricket fan, talks about the earliest origins of the game, along with some famous Surrey connections, including Surrey County Cricket Club and the Bedser twins. Click on the following YouTube link.

Click here to download a pdf (pdf logo) copy of the transcript of Robert’s talk.

Shrovetide Football

Football festivals on Shrove Tuesday were held in Surrey from early times until well into the nineteenth century. There were three main centres in Surrey: Kingston, Dorking and Richmond. The game in Richmond seems to have come to an end in 1839. At Barnes the custom was introduced, probably in emulation of Richmond, in 1829, and it continued to 1836 at least, despite the efforts of the vestry to stop it.

The Kingston game is probably the best known in Surrey and a number of illustrations of it exist. In 1849 the game was interrupted by the passage of Queen Victoria through the town. Its popularity is indicated by an entry in the Richmond Road Boys’ School log book, 1864.

Image of a Shrove Tuesday Football match: Dorking, 1897. Courtesy of Dorking Museum (D8-119)

Shrove Tuesday Football: Dorking, 1897.
Courtesy of Dorking Museum (D8-119)

As the football match was played through the main streets with a multitude of participants it could be a great nuisance and many attempts were made to bring it to an end. At Dorking it seems to have lasted longest, despite a notice threatening prosecution, issued in 1897 and enforcing the Highway Act of 1835, many people were fined for playing football in the streets on the two following Shrove Tuesdays.


Cycling became a huge craze in the late 19th century and Ripley was the favourite destination as it was a convenient and scenic ride from London. Find out more about cycling as a social movement. and some of the earliest secret races through to the Olympics. In the late 19th Century the Rational Dress Society promoted knickerbockers as an appropriate form of dress for lady cyclists but in 1899 Lady Harberton was refused luncheon in the coffee-room at the Hautboy Hotel in Ockham on account of her inappropriate dress.

Explore the site to find out more about Surrey’s sporting heritage.

Surrey's Sporting Life booklet cover.

Surrey’s Sporting Life booklet cover.

Copies of the Surrey’s Sporting Life booklet, produced for the Our Sporting Life national programme in 2012, are available free from Surrey History Centre (postage and packaging costs apply). Contact us on Tel: 01483 518737 or email: [email protected] for your copy.

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