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Running Pedestrianism in Victorian Manchester

Oldfield, SJ (2014) Running Pedestrianism in Victorian Manchester. Sport in History, 34 (2). pp. 223-248. ISSN 1746-0271

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Abstract

In the absence of a national athletic organization, sporting publicans were pivotal in the regulation and promotion of pedestrian events, attracting large crowds through the endorsement of local victuallers who supplied land for competitive races, organized the athletic calendar and posed as referee, time-keeper and prize giver during sporting contests. Pedestrianism provided sporting entertainment during much of the nineteenth century and publicans were quick to recognize the money making potential of such enterprises. By 1850 the drinks trade endorsed many sporting activities, with the entrepreneurial proprietor being fundamental to the survival of sport, especially within the industrial cities. In Manchester sport moved to the rural outskirts and popular Victorian gardens with attached public houses promoted and housed competitive athletic events. Arenas were built next to, and within, the grounds of the rural public houses and hotels. The Royal Oak Park and Copenhagen Grounds were reputable running grounds, being attached to suburban Manchester pubs and hosting the majority of sporting events in the city until the 1880s, when the organization of amateur sport by the professional middle class led to a decline in professional activities. This paper investigates the relationship between pub and athletics within Manchester, considering the role of the publican in the promotion of sporting entertainments through individual case studies.

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