Professor joins campaign to celebrate historic English sporting venues

A sports history professor is taking part in a national campaign to celebrate and champion the places which have played a role in English sporting history.

Professor Martin Polley, Director of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) is helping to count down the top 10 choices of Paralympic athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Baroness Grey-Thompson judged the Sport & Leisure category of Historic England’s campaign A History of England in 100 Places from hundreds of public nominations received with Twickenham, Lord’s and Aintree among those making the final cut.

lords pavilion

Lord's Pavilion

All 10 places picked by Baroness Grey-Thompson are explored in a new podcast series presented by TV and radio broadcaster Emma Barnett, which featured Prof Polley and Historic England’s Deborah Lamb.

Among the places discussed are the home of the oldest tennis tournament in the world, London Marathon's finish line, an Art Deco lido on the south coast and the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

Prof Polley said: “It has been fascinating to be involved with this project. It was a very interesting top ten, including some predictable famous sites, like Twickenham, Wimbledon, and Lord’s, along with some places that are often overlooked in sports history, such as Stoke Mandeville hospital. I was also delighted to see Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom make the cut, as this helps is think about leisure sites as well as sporting venues.


"Discussing the history and heritage of these sites with Emma and Deborah was a fascinating way to make them come to life for the listeners, and it’s a mark of sport and leisure history are now seen as integral to our national story that Historic England included this category.  

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who has judged the Sport & Leisure category, is one of a panel of expert judges, including Professor Lord Robert Winston, George Clarke, Mary Beard and Tristram Hunt, who have been tasked with choosing their top 10 places in a range of different categories from a long list of public nominations.  A History of England in 100 Places is sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance.

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Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said: "Picking a top 10 list was really challenging but an enjoyable experience as you have to take into account both the venue and quite possibly the sporting event. I tried to pick a combination of those with historical value plus local community venues that make a real difference to people's enjoyment of taking part in sport."

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: "From tennis and cricket to ballroom dancing and swimming, Tanni Grey-Thompson's selection shows what a rich and varied sporting history we have in England. This category has received the highest number of nominations so far in the campaign, no doubt a testament to our national love and enjoyment of sport and leisure."

Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive of Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: "Many of the places that have made the top 10 have witnessed sporting history, but these are also places where ordinary people have completed extraordinary feats or made incredible memories with their families and friends. Sport is such a big part of England's national identity, so it's no surprise that this category stirred a passion in so many people."

Posted on Wednesday 17 January 2018

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