Camp-ball and Football. A meeting at All Saints Church, Cambridge on 16th July 2023

An enjoyable afternoon was had on Sunday 16th July, within the amazing, stencilled floral interior of the All Saints Church. Nigel Fenner, whose excellent new book CAMBRIDGE SPORT IN FENNER’S HANDS is now on sale (see earlier post), gave a superb PowerPoint presentation introducing the link between Herbert Luckock, the church and the Cambridge rules of Football.

Further, the growing interest in Camping or Camp-ball games as the forerunners of the modern Football games. With multiple connections to Cambridge going back hundreds of years and prior to his relative’s involvement in the growth of sport in Cambridge in the 19th century.

Nigel has found evidence that Camping was played in Cambridge University Colleges for many centuries, despite bans and restrictions, and is locating the places, beyond the University where they were played. He has in just a few years nearly doubled the number of locations associated with Camping to 22 within 10 miles of Cambridge alone, including those first reported by the well regarded local historian David Dymond. David who lived in Bury St Edmunds was a Suffolk Local History expert . He died in 2021, shortly after his updated account of the games was published, using religious, court, and tithe records stretching back to the Norman Conquest.

Not surprisingly Nigel has recorded a wide range of students and Masters at Cambridge Colleges who went on to high office and their enjoyment of and often apparent proficiency in the games is notable. Including no less than Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell.  Also key influencers in the philosophy of physical education, including the 16th century advocate of football Richard Mulcaster (King’s College) who in 1581 believed:

“the foteball strengtheneth and brawneth the whole body. It helpeth weake hammes by much moving and simple shanks by thickening of the flesh no less than riding doth”

Others such as poets and farmers record aspects of the games. Many are professionals who reminisce, bemoaning giving up the game when leaving college and gaining professional employment. Town v Gown tensions in centuries past were described with a local game between students and townies that got out of hand before even starting. The adoption of mob tactics to use sport as an excuse to assemble and riot were also mentioned. Nigel ended asking a few key questions that are the subject of his ongoing research.

A very small exhibit by LFA of 23 pictures and other items to illustrate early Football was made, using the tables and easels kindly provided by the church and its extremely helpful volunteers. A catalogue was provided – reproduced below, headed Serendipity in relation to one exhibit that was found a few weeks before the meeting. This is a poignant reminder of the horrors of trench warfare that Cambridge felt, not so long ago.


Fifty years ago, in 1973 Harry Langton opened a gallery called the Sports Design Centre in Camden Passage, Islington. A journalist, he had researched, reported, and edited Sport for over 15 years for a Fleet Street newspaper. His new London gallery established a base to foster the same passion, but in a different guise. That of celebrating the Art and Culture of Sport appreciation.  Not just in words and photographs, but as depicted by paintings, lithographs, prints, ceramics and sculpture over time. Examples from consecutive genres back to 1800. Celebrating the evolving myriads of competitive games.

Football, unlike tennis, golf and cricket had few establishment advocates in the 1980’s and Harry was a bit ‘stuck’ with the special things found and brought to him on Rugby and Soccer. Never actually wanting to be a collector, more a ‘finder’ for world museums and collections, he described what would become part of the World Rugby Museum in Twickenham and the FIFA-Langton Collection in Preston as a ‘happy accident’. In the 1980’s in both brief and more substantial exhibitions on Football Art he would bemoan the ‘English disease’ of hooliganism as a sustainer of distain and disinterest in Football Art and Culture. It was a further decade before a National Museum emerged in Preston North End after graft from him and lots of other people. Today Sport Art is still poorly recognised. Distinct from the grim Sporting Art which includes animal hunting, from ‘different times’, as Cambridge’s Isaac Newton would surely have agreed. Friendly competition between people seems an essential life force and should be further investigated back to its roots. Roots that clearly grew through Cambidgeshire’s soil.

Doing so, we learn new things. Sport, the tamed competitive physicality has links to childhood play but also tribalism, conflict and warfare.  With war in Europe returned we now see sportsmen dying in mud and trenches in a hideous repeat of the Somme, Ypres, Loos and elsewhere in WW1. Where men from Cambridgeshire perished, and after it was pleaded ‘never again’. And so, it seemed oddly serendipitous, when preparing a few things to accompany Nigel’s talk, that in June a little scrap of leather Football from 1904 should appear. With teenagers’ names written in gold letters on it from the Cambridge Leys School ‘Invincibles’ XV. This pretty souvenir is bitter-sweet as Google quickly tells you from the names where some of them fell as twenty-somethings from shells and bullets in Flanders.

Children, churches, conflicts, and war are entwined, as the East Anglian Camp-ball story shows. It is a big part of Football’s story.  I am meeting Nigel for the first time today having been a phone and email acquaintance for a year or so. I find in him and his new book ‘In Fenner’s Hands’ a kindred spirit in the relevance of Sport.   Like me his family interest has triggered the lens of Sport to look at people, events, motivations, links and explanations. We have been looking at the work of Dr David Dymond of Madingley Hall department of extramural studies who died in 2021. His initial work on Camp-ball or Camping lit a flame that has fired our imaginations and hopefully of many others to come. Camp-ball or Camping helps explain the origins of British Football games and there is a sense that this journey is now ready to unfold.

1. Medieval street Football

From the Illustrated London News 1905

2. A drummer calls in the crowd. 1617 Jacques Callot

Calcio Piazza Santa Croce, Venice.

Jacques Callot (French: [c.1592 – 14 March 1635) was a baroque printmaker and draftsman from the Duchy of Lorraine in France. Callot was born and died in Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, now in France. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a goldsmith, but soon afterward travelled to Rome where he learned engraving from an expatriate Frenchman, Philippe Thomassin. He probably then studied etching with Antonio Tempesta in the city of Florence, where he lived from 1612 to 1621

3. Oliver Cromwell c.1640. Circa 1794 Samuel Cooper.

Engraving from: Harrisons Ed., Rapins History of England.

4. Foot Ball. 1830 George Hunt after Robert Cruickshank.

Military cadets at play. Engraving by George Hunt published by Charles Hunt, Covent Garden.

5. The Football Game. 1839 after Thomas Webster.

The most published illustration of Football in the nineteenth century. Children play a game in Cranbrook in Kent.

6. The Schoolyard. 1852 after Thomas Webster

7. Rugby at Rugby school 1852 George Barnard

Lithograph by George Barnard after his own watercolour 1852. Dedicated. “To the Rev Dr Goulbourn , Headmaster. Historically of important, being a near contemporary view of the moment that Rugby gave its name to a form of traditional Football that was centuries old in England.

8. William Marshall (age 14) 1856

Eton Field Game Sketch in pencil from his notebook

9. Officer alarmed. c.1860 Jules Draner.

Watercolour with gouache. Draner 1833 – 1926 was a Belgian painter, Illustrator and cartoonist.

10. Eton Houses team colours 1871

Dress code for Eton field and wall football games, many of the houses listed, not surprisingly have strong connections to Cambridge.

11. Foot-ball in Japan. 1874

Rugby-like Football game at Yokohama in south Tokyo, played by the British and perhaps other Europeans from the 1860’s. Here Scottish and English sailors play below the Yokohama Foot Ball Club (founded 1866) flag, with snow-tipped Mount Fuji behind. Around 1862, the naval forces of Great Britain, the Netherlands, and France fought for control of the Shimonoseki Straits against the Japanese feudal domain of Chōshū. In August 1864, 16 warships and 2,000 soldiers, marines and sailors, successfully attacked Shimonoseki from land and sea with many casualties. Two former Rugby School team players helped to shape development of ‘the handling game’ in Japan in the 1870s. In 1899 Rugby Football was formally instigated by Tanaka Ginnosuke and Edward Bramwell Clarke who met at Cambridge University forming a team at Keio, Tokyo, that played a first international in 1901.

12. Game of football. c1880

Football in a rough field. Copper electroplate in dark oak frame. Game on rough grass.

13. Leys school Invincibles 1904

Gold lettering on football leather. Tribute to the invincible fifteen of 1903/4 season.

14. Ornate presentation for the Vicar Reverend Thorne 1908

For a lifetime dedication to the Boys club football team. Showing St Stephen & St Agnes Church next to the boy’s school on ancient playing ground in front of Windsor castle and on the other side of the river (Thames) to the Eton playing fields. St Stephen and St Agnes Church is part of a benefice (group) of four churches in central Windsor in the Diocese of Oxford.

15. Future Champions. 1968 Kostenko Anatoly Alexandrovich 1920-1996

Ukrainian member of the USSR Academy of Arts. Born in Ivanovna in the Kherson region. He studied at the Kharkov Art Institute from 1946 to 1949. A veteran of the Great Patriotic War, awarded the Order of the Patriotic War II degree, medals. Participated in art exhibitions since 1952. Member of the Union of Artists of the USSR since 1963. Works are kept in the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum, Kanev Museum-Reserve in other state and private collections in Ukraine and abroad.

16. Olympic Football Japan 1964 (undated) Arkady Draznin (1934-2002)

Born in Saint Petersburg, graduated from its Art Academy and a National Artist of the Russian Federation, a prestigous title for Soviet Union artists, including theatre and film directors, actors, choreographers, music performers, and orchestra conductors. Emigrated to Israel in 1972 after his abstract expressionist work began to attract attention.

17. Footballer with round ball 1860’s

Plated bronze. Note leonine hair of the period.

18. Trinity Hall pewter tankard 1877

Trinity sixes Football trophy: three handled tankard with glass base and engraved names of players.

19. Children’s Staffordshire mug c.1840

20. Blue pint beer mug 1860’s

Illustrating a Football game in progress

21. Football blazer badge from Crediton FC, with Bishop C.20th

22 Football shoes (1870-present)

With bars for grip, in use before round leather studs were invented

23. Football early postcard image of female Football player 1880s