Origins of Rugby

1820s ball

This round ball has been on display at the World Rugby Museum for many years. It was formerly a part of the private collection of sports journalist Harry Langton, who believed it to date from the 1820s. It weighs 1.8kg which means it was unlikely to have been used at Rugby School, but Rugby School’s football was one of dozens of codes played in schools and universities around Great Britain at that time.

Outside of educational establishments an even greater variety of footballing codes had been played on the streets and fields of Great Britain and Ireland for hundreds of years. Some of these, such as the annual Shrovetide game at Ashbourne in Derbyshire, were mass affairs with few rules. Others, such as the Campball game that was played around East Anglia, had strictly defined playing fields, participant quotas and rules.

For now at least where and by whom this particular ball was used remains a mystery.

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3 Responses to Origins of Rugby

  1. John says:

    Dear Webmaster

    I hope my email finds you in good health.

    I have written many Sports books including all of Carlton Books’ “Miscellany” range. One of the later is “The Six Nations Rugby Miscellany.” I was absolutely honoured when my fellow Irishman, Willie John McBride, agreed to write the Foreword to my book and Sir Clive Woodward kindly agreed to provide a supportive quote which is on the back cover.

    And some more of my books can be found via the following link:

    I am currently working on a new book project – The Rugby World Cup Miscellany – and as you can see from the foot of this email, Sir Graham Henry and Francois Pienaar plus many other Rugby Legends have already very kindly agreed a supportive quote to place on the back cover of my book.

    Other sportsmen/sportswomen who have agreed Forewords to my book include the much missed George Best, Sir Sterling Moss, Gary Lineker, Dame Mary Peters, Darren Clarke, Barry McGuigan, the late John Surtees, Geoffrey Boycott and Sir Alex Ferguson on four occasions.

    I have attached some draft material for inclusion in my book which is still in its early stages.

    I am now writing to you to request your express permission to use some of the items on your website (which is absolutely superb) in my book. I will of course mention your website in my Acknowledgment section at the front of my book and I will list your website in my Bibliography section –

    I will not be using any images on the website.

    I do hope you can find the time to reply.

    Many thanks and take care.

    John White
    Northern Ireland

    On ‎Thursday‎, ‎10‎ ‎January‎ ‎2019‎ ‎11‎:‎55‎:‎48‎ ‎GMT, Rhona Langan wrote:

    Hi John,

    Thank you, please find note from Francois as below:

    “I will never forget winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup on home soil in front of our Rainbow Nation, experiencing how the tournament brought our nation together, indescribable. We were one team playing for one country. John’s book brings back so many memories of that wonderful time.”
    Francois Pienaar, 1995 Rugby World Cup winning captain with South Africa
    Kind regards


    Rhona Langan │ Executive Personal Assistant to Mr François Pienaar │ Advent Sport Entertainment & Media Pty Ltd │ Suite 1A, The Water Club, Beach Road, Granger Bay, 8005 │ T: +27 21 418 2862 │ │

    “John’s Rugby World Cup Miscellany is one of those books which when you start reading it you will find difficult to set down. It is jam packed with Rugby World Cup facts, figures and trivia.”
    Sir Graham Henry, 2011 New Zealand Rugby World Cup winning coach
    “This is a book which will teach you everything you need to know about the history of the sport’s greatest competition, the Rugby World Cup. Well done John on producing such an excellent insight into the history of this event. ”

    George Gregan, 139 caps for Australia 1994-2007

    “To win the Rugby World Cup is the dream of every rugby player, and I was no different. To achieve this, on home soil in 1995, in the presence of the great man himself, Nelson Mandela, is something that will live with me forever. And thanks to John I can relive that very special moment time and time again in his wonderful book.”

    Joel Stransky, 1995 Rugby World Cup winner with South Africa

    “This is a truly wonderfully crafted book which is quite simply a treasure trove of all things Rugby World Cup. From the first page to the last, John will amaze you with so many wonderful entries and facts you may not have previously known. All-in-all a superb read. ”

    Nick Farr-Jones, 1991 Rugby World Cup winning Captain with Australia

    “Winning the Rugby World Cup with England down under in 2003 was the best moment of my 18 year rugby career. I actually forgot so many things that happened during that tournament but John has brought them so vividly back to me in his superb book.”

    Lawrence Dallaglio OBE, 2003 Rugby World Cup winner with England


  2. Pingback: Happy Blogiversary! | World Rugby Museum: from the vaults

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