Tuesday 03 August 2021

Puddings, Bullies and Squashes

Football’s pre-eminence in the world has often been ascribed to its simplicity – the rules are easy to grasp, the game in its rawest state easy to play. Britain is not necessarily the birthplace of football, but it is where the two principal codes of football, association, and rugby, were given shape, form, and discipline.

The cradle for the codification of football was the nineteenth century public school. Rugby School is well known as the originator of its eponymous code, but in the mid-nineteenth century there was a remarkable set of locally varied rules under which “football” was played. Some, such as the Eton Wall Game, have survived but most have withered away, assimilated into the now highly professional sports of football and rugby.

This is the story of twenty of those schools, from Dublin to Dorset, Edinburgh to East London, and their versions of football. Many were shaped by the space available to them, whether grass or stone, large or small, kicking or handling. All of them were robust, vigorous and hazardous. This book is a collection of new essays that traces the evolution of the modern games.

The title alludes to the imagination of those far-off schoolboys: puddings, bullies and squashes were the terms used at Radley College, Uppingham School and Charterhouse respectively to describe that distinctive feature of every early public school football game – the melee. The massed boys of one team pushed hard to drive the ball through the opponents’ goal while the defenders did their utmost to thwart it.


With an introduction by the sporting historian Tony Collins, the book gives a wonderful flavour of the variety of those early public school football codes before the nationalisation of the game by the Football Association from 1863 and the Rugby Football Union from 1871 ended the arguments under whose rules matches between schools should be played.

King’s is one of twenty schools represented in this collection of essays. The King’s essay was written by Peter Henderson, the School’s archivist. If you have ever wondered about the origins of rugby in Canterbury the answer lies in Puddings, Bullies & Squashes .

To order your copy, please click here to go to Amazon.

Peter Henderson has written the essay on King's

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