Thoughts about recreation began to change at the beginning of the Victorian era. There was concern in Britain that, “Recreation was in a slump, and it was showing in the national character.”*
In a society were power and policy came from the top, the upper and middle classes took a rather paternalistic view about recreation for the working class. There was a class divide when it came recreation, as different activities were available to the upper echelon who could access venues with entry fees. The problem was the lack of public spaces available for the working class. Where could they go to play and, if public spaces were made available, what activities could be allowed there?
This is where that paternalistic attitude came in, the upper echelon looked down on many of the working classes’ preferred activities. If public parks were to be provided, it was felt that they should be places for placid walks and mild entertainments, not an ideal way to let off steam. But there were places for working class men to pursue their preferred activities. Many pubs had attached grounds. Publicans capitalized on these available spaces, providing support for the sports that their working class customers preferred. The close relationship between the working man and his pub was frowned upon and proved to be a spur to the provision of public parks.
Brailsford, Dennis. British Sport: A Social History, The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1992.*
Flanders, Judith. Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain. Harper Perennial, London, 2007