From as far back as we have evidence, people have played sports with their friends, families and even enemies and we have artefacts in the museum that show us how the sports we play today have been played for hundreds of years.

We have a lot of photos in our collection, some of them are hundreds of years old!


Are you part of a team, do you still have photos taken today? Have a close look at the photos and try and guess what sport these teams might be playing and when the photo was taken (click on the pictures to reveal the answer).


In our collection, we have lots of artefacts and objects showing us what people were playing and what sports have stood the test of time. Click on the artefacts below to learn more about the history of the sports you might play today.


It’s really important to play sports because it keeps you fit and healthy and it is a lot of fun!

Why don’t you play our fitness alphabet, you could do the letter that your name begins with or you could even use it to spell your name, your favourite colour/food/game/sport.

Do you like to play sports?

What is your favourite?

Draw a picture of you and your friends or family playing your favourite sport.

In 1649, King Charles I was kicked off the throne and was replaced by the military commander and puritan, Oliver Cromwell. He was so strict with his religious practice that he banned sports and games and even Christmas!

Amazingly, we think that the earliest sport was played around 2500 BCE (that is 4500 years ago!). This game was called Pitz and it was a ball game, a bit like handball, played by the Mayan’s. The Mayan’s lived in Ancient Central America and were known for building magnificent temples, pyramids and houses – many of which still exist today! But it clearly wasn’t all work and no play…


‘Photograph of cricket team of Messrs. Macintosh and Sons taken in 1887 on King’s and Clare Cricket Ground. Members listed’


‘Framed photograph of Romsey ‘Old Boys’ football team c1920’


Perse School Rowing Team, 1910

Ice Skates

It is thought that ice skating started 4000 years ago in Finland to help people travel faster.

Ice skating was brought to Britain by James II who learnt it when he was exiled to the Netherlands for being a threat to the crown.

Elites all over Europe adopted the sport but it was here in the Fenlands where it really kicked off for everyone else.

Agricultural workers became champion racers from the 18th century onwards and in the 19th century, the fenland races were attended by hundreds and received national press attention.

Football Shirt

The earliest version of football was played 3000 years ago in Mesoamerica and it had a quirky twist, for the loser would be sacrificed to the gods.

Football as we know it developed in the 12th century in England but it was also quite violent and games would often end in damage to towns and even deaths meaning it was banned for 5 centuries.

Throughout the 19th century, there was a lot of arguments and conversations about a complete set of rules.

England and Scotland had the first active teams that played games against each other in the 1870s. Today there are 211 national associations included in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and no other sport can compete with its popularity.

Game (Table Tennis)

It was invented in the 1880s in England because lawn tennis had become so popular that people wanted to play it inside during the winter too!

By the start of the 1900s, it had spread to Vienna, Budapest and Japan.

In 1988, it officially became a part of the Olympic games.

In China, table tennis is very popular and millions of people play it at school, in work and in parks – their top players are as famous as pop stars!

Cricket bat from the 1850s

It was invented in the Saxon period by children living in the Weald (modern day Kent).

Probably taken over by adults in the 1500s/1600s.

The first international cricket game was between England and Canada in 1844 in New York.

Today, more than 100 countries play cricket!