Played in London – charting the heritage of a city at play

Played in London
  • By: Simon Inglis
  • Format: 360pp softback 280mm x 210mm
  • ISBN: 978 1 84802 057 3
  • Published by English Heritage in September 2014
  • Special offer: £20 post-free to UK (original RRP £25.00) BUY NOW

In 2012 London became the first city in the world to have staged three modern Olympic Games. This was no accident, for when it comes to sport, London has form.

From its first century Roman amphitheatre to its extraordinary array of colosseums in the 21st century – venues that have earned global renown for the likes of suburban Wembley, Wimbledon and Twickenham – London has always been a city of spectacles and sporting fever.

In the 12th century crowds would gather at the ‘smooth field’ (Smithfield) to watch young men and apprentices compete in horse racing and ball games. In Tudor times they flocked to the tiltyards of Whitehall and Greenwich for jousting, while in the 17th century the Stuarts were keen exponents of a game with the familiar name of Pall Mall.

At Hampton Court the world’s oldest covered tennis court, with elements dating from 1625, remains in daily use. Every July on the Thames there takes place the world’s oldest rowing race, initiated in 1715, while the crack of leather on willow may still be heard at the Artillery Garden in Finsbury, where cricket has been played since at least the 1720s.

London has not only played, but has shaped many of the world’s favourite sports, for example athletics, squash, rugby and boxing. In 2013 the Football Association celebrated the 150th anniversary of its formation in a tavern in Holborn. Meanwhile in 2014, 46 London clubs were able to trace their roots back 150 years or more, with 32 more set to join that august roster over the coming decade.

The capital also now has more professional football clubs than any city other than Buenos Aires. In the 20th century London was to the fore in the development of greyhound and speedway racing, and even of darts.

Profusely illustrated with detailed maps and in depth research, Played in London is the most ambitious offering yet from the acclaimed Played in Britain series.

Capital sport guaranteed. – Book of the Year 2014 / London Historians – Book of the Year 2014 / William Hill – shortlisted Sports Book of the Year 2014

“A work of cosmic erudition.” Prof James Wisdom, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society

“This magnificent tome will stand as the masterwork authority on the capital’s sporting heritage for many decades to come. We picked it up with only a passing interest in sport. We put it down, 240,000 words later, with a newfound appreciation for the stadia, pitches and sporting traditions of the capital… It’s not only a publishing achievement of the highest order, but also an immensely good read.” The Londonist

“An amazing feat of social history.” New Statesman

“Putting it quite simply, this is a remarkable book… You don’t have to be a Londoner to enjoy Played in London, though that would help. You don’t even have to like sport, though if you do it will add to your enjoyment considerably. More than anything else, this is just a fascinating education… This book not only feels special, it feels vital too. Some achievement.” Nick Metcalfe, Mail Online

Our Book of the Year… Quite simply an exceptional work of social and architectural history. Deeply researched, superbly written, beautifully designed and printed with hundreds of photos, illustrations and maps.” London Historians

“A sumptuous, meticulously researched book… also a cracking good read.” Matthew Syed, The Times

“Inglis must be the best in the world at this sort of thing… From bear gardens to skateparks, Played in London has the lot…The sheer density of information and illustration means that, despite its handsome layout, Inglis’s epic is not the easiest of books to navigate. But, like London itself, it is endless fun to get lost in.” Richard Williams, The Guardian

“What makes this journey so enjoyable is Simon Inglis’ witty, sagacious and tremendously informative text… London’s sporting heritage could have no finer guardian and watch-keeper.” Groundtastic, Winter 2014

“Arrived 30 minutes ago and is already my favourite reference work ever. Invaluable.” Scott Thomas

Simon Inglis is an architectural historian and lecturer specialising in sporting and recreational buildings and sportscapes. He studied history of architecture at University College London, and has lived in north west London – ‘twixt Lord’s and Wembley’ – for 40 years. He launched the Played in Britain project in conjunction with English Heritage in 2004, and his photographs from the series are now held in the Historic England archive.