About us

Played in Britain is the result of collaboration between Historic England, Malavan Media and some of the country's leading experts on sporting heritage.

Our mission is to chart the incredibly rich sporting heritage of the nation, bearing in mind at all times the words of Joseph Strutt, author of The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (first published in 1801):

In order to form a just estimation of the character of any particular people, it is absolutely necessary to investigate the Sports and Pastimes most generally prevalent among them.

Like most nations, we British are quick to trumpet our contribution to world culture: Chaucer, Shakespeare, parliamentary democracy, afternoon tea, the Beatles, and not least, the English language. But the British also spread around the world our love of organised sport.

British sportsmen and women invented, codified and exported a surprising number of the sports played at international level today. Those we didn't actually invent, we often honed for mass consumption and enjoyment. The list is impressive: football, rugby (league and union), cricket, tennis (real and lawn), hockey, billiards and snooker, bowls (flat and crown green), fives (Eton, Winchester and Rugby), badminton, water polo, golf, squash...

Johan Huizinga wrote in Homo Ludens (1938) that 'only the English have a word for 'fun'. Played in Britain celebrates that spirit - the 'taking part' more than the winning (naturally) - by scouring the nation for sports-related architectural gems, sporting landscapes and waterscapes, relics and curios of a sporting persuasion.

We published our first sporting heritage study (Played in Manchester) in 2004, and continue to add to our publications list after a decade of work. We also organise occasional events, send our experts to numerous conferences and meetings, and do our best to support those who seek to protect the sports-related historic environment.

Our four main themes

Architecture and sportscapes

Billiard hall

stadiums • arenas • grounds • greens • racecourses • grandstands • pavilions • clubhouses • lidos • swimming pools • billiard halls (as at West Bromwich, above) • scoreboards • turnstile blocks • gatehouses • groundsmens' huts • even toilet blocks if they take our fancy...

Art of British sport

stained glass

fine art • graphic art • sculpture • stained glass (as at Old Trafford, above) • cartoons • pennants • programmes • posters • magazines • badges • shields • logos • advertisements...

Artefacts of British sport


boots • badges • bats • balls • rackets • turnstiles • lawnmowers • skates • kits • bows • arrows • clubs • sticks • cues • billiard tables • caps • cups • whistles (such as the Acme Thunderer, above)...

Archaeology of British sport

Old terrace

amphitheatres • cockpits • archery butts • ancient courses • fading signs • abandoned grounds (as at Bradford Park Avenue, above) • crumbling walls...

If you know of an important sports building or site which is threatened, or which you think deserves to be investigated further, please let us know. We can also provide a link to your campaign.

Played in Britain also welcomes news items, images for our galleries and suggestions for sporting plaques.