Throughout the long summer of 1914 Surrey basked in hot, sunny weather. Postcards written from the county speak of day trips and sunburn, and parish magazines report choir outings, picnics, cricket matches and fetes.
Sports and pastimes were hugely popular with people from all walks of life. Traditional sports such as foxhunting, horseracing, football and boxing were now joined by golf, cycling and motor-racing. Events such as the Epsom Derby or Mitcham Fair provided an opportunity to enjoy entertainment such as fairground rides and bare knuckle boxing.
The Derby attracted over half a million people to Epsom Downs in June, including a large gathering of Travellers. Improved transport and more leisure time meant that the London working classes could make a day out of a visit to the Downs.
Surrey led the field in many sports. In 1914, under Captain Cyril Wilkinson, Surrey Cricket Club won the County Championship.
Brooklands was the world’s first purpose built motor circuit, constructed by local wealthy landowners Hugh and Ethel Locke King in Weybridge. The 2.75 mile (4.43 Kilometres) track was built by 1500 labourers and cost £150,000. The banked corners allowed for speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.
Surrey Walking Club was founded in Croydon in 1899 and was the first athletics club in the UK to specialise in walking. The club promoted the 51.5 mile (82.88 Kilometres) London to Brighton walk and founded the ‘Centurions’, a club whose membership is limited to those who have walked 100 miles (160.93 Kilometres) within 24 hours – London to Brighton and back again!
Most sports clubs were affected by the outbreak of war, either by dwindling membership, lack of funds, or the conversion of premises to much needed war hospitals. Bramley Golf Club turned over three holes so that the land could be used for growing food. The Club was due to be opened in August 1914 by the Crown Prince of Germany. The event was cancelled when war was announced and the Club has never been officially opened.
Read more from the Last Summer Display:
For more information on Surrey’s history on Sports and Recreation click here.