Wokingham at Play

Wokingham’s past, in terms of leisure activities, is not completely wholesome. The local historian Arthur Heelas writing in 1928 said:

‘The sporting instincts of the inhabitants of the district have always been well developed, although not necessarily applied in the right direction.’

The wrong direction included bull baiting and bare-knuckle fighting.It wasn’t until the Victorian and Edwardian period that Wokingham’s pastimes became more politically correct with numerous football and cricket clubs. And then in the 20th century, we saw Martin’s Pool and the opening of the Electric Theatre and Ritz Cinema in the 1930s.

The painting, probably dating from the late 18thcentury, shows bull baiting taking place in Market Place. The Old Guildhall is on the right and the artist is probably standing in front of The Red Lion looking across the square to The Roebuck. The scene is chaotic; the bull, the dogs and the people all in frantic flight. The actual painting is in the Town Hall and this image is taken from the Wokingham Virtual Museum and is available online at https://www.wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0233  and was accessed on 28th January 2019.

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