Sports & Games


Games were restricted in London through the lack of facilities.  The boys played in the cloisters or in the playgrounds, on asphalt, gravel, cobbles or stone pavements.  Feeder-cricket, marbles, rounders and skittles were popular games and boys played with skipping ropes, peg-tops and hoops.  CH developed its own versions of games, including cricket, hockey, fives and ‘football’ or ‘Housey rugger’, which was played with a round ball but was more like rugby than association football.  Numerous games of Housey rugger would be played simultaneously on the same playground, each with the same pitch, goals and touch-lines.  In 1877, a grass field in the outer suburbs was provided, to which boys could travel, at their own expense, on a steam train from Holborn Viaduct. 

In a summer sports day in London, typical events were running, high jump and long jump.  The engraving on the left of sports day in 1883 shows the more unusual sports of ‘Wheel Barrow Race’, ‘Beadles Race’ and “Ward Competition Stone Gathering”.

It was reported in 1819 that in the summer months, 12 boys from each Ward were allowed to bathe in Peerless Pool, in City Road, London’s first outdoor swimming pool.  An unheated indoor pool was installed in the CH buildings in 1869.  In 1874, the Blue reported on a ‘swimming in clothes’ race, evidently included in order to teach boys to swim wearing their heavy coats in case of emergency with the Thames near-by, and the tradition continued with a ‘coats race’ which took place in the Horsham swimming pool until 1924. 

The Hertford ‘Field’ was acquired in about 1800, in which one early ‘sport’ was when the boys scrambled for money thrown by Governors!  Girls had few opportunities to play games, although they had use of a playground.  From 1886, the girls were allowed to use the Field for half a day each week when the boys were in school, and in 1888 girls made their first appearance in the Hertford sports day, taking part in a 100 yards skipping race and in a display of musical dumb-bells.  Sport grew quickly when the girls took over the whole Hertford site in 1902.  A hockey club was formed in 1902 and girls were introduced to cricket, with a Ward cricket cup being presented in 1906.  A swimming bath and gymnasium were built in 1905, and an annual athletic sports day took place in the Field from 1908.  Tennis and netball were the other main sports played by the girls.