Rural sports in Wales, c.1750-c.1900
: continuity and change

  • Emma Lile

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This dissertation will assess the role played by rural recreations across all sections of society in Wales from c.1750 to c.1900 as well as highlight the changes in organisation they underwent as some were gradually modified to become the codified sports of today. Although certain recreations were either outlawed or simply discontinued, others thrived by adopting standardised rules to acquire a modern guise. Drawing on a wealth of hitherto underutilised material, it will be shown how in preindustrial society especially, sport fulfilled a vital function among the common people, whose lives were otherwise dominated by arduous daily labour.

    Conversely, the gentry enjoyed ample free time, much of which was spent practising exclusive leisure pursuits. While these class boundaries sometimes overlapped, in that particular sports were socially inclusive, in reality the gentry nurtured their own activities to emphasise the distance between themselves and the lower orders. The involvement of women of all backgrounds in rural sports will also be considered, for their virtual invisibility from sports historiography to date hides detailed evidence of their spectating and participatory roles during the pre-industrial and industrial periods.

    Religious, moral and 'rational' opposition to many aspects of sport's perceived sinfulness continued throughout the nineteenth century, as criticisms were transferred from pre-industrial survivals to more systemised and codifed versions of the same activities. However, the growth of printed sporting material in Wales, notably the development of match reporting at the end of the nineteenth century, raised the profile of games considerably. The increasing promotion of sports in schools and colleges by the early twentieth century also encouraged widespread involvement and aided the cause for improved physical fitness.

    Industrialisation and urbanisation variously adapted, transformed and repressed many rural sports. This thesis will demonstrate the resilience of a tenacious sporting culture which not only continued to characterise rural Wales into the nineteenth century but in some respects can also be shown to have survived transplantation into the new urban environment of industrial Wales.
    Date of AwardJan 2006
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGareth Williams (Supervisor)


    • Sports
    • Wales

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