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London's oldest sporting venues 8th Sep 2016

We've had National Fitness Day this month, and we are set to be captivated by the extraordinary tenacity and skill of our athletes competing in the Rio 2016 Paralympics. This got us thinking about our great sporting venues in London, with some dating back hundreds of years.

London's oldest sports building still in use for its original purpose is the Real Tennis court at Hampton Court Palace. Not to be confused with Lawn tennis, this game was originally played with balls filled with clay, sand and powdered eggshells and one could take out the opponent with a single shot. Thankfully they moved on to using balls constructed of leather stuffed with animal and human hair. Much safer. Today the court is Grade 1 listed, and one of its walls dates back to 1625. The game, originally developed in the 1500s, is still played by the same rules today.

Cycling has a long history in the capital. The second oldest cycle track in the world opened in 1891 in Herne Hill. The first one was built in Germany in 1885. Herne Hill was one of eight purpose-built velodromes constructed in the capital during the first cycling boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The focal point for London cyclists was Holborn, where 22 showrooms were listed in 1901. The Pickwick Bicycle Club formed in London in 1870, is the oldest cycling club in the world.

The highest concentration of British public and private swimming baths was in Islington. Between 1743 and 1939, 14 baths were in operation. The longest lasting being the open air Peerless Pool, 1743-1868.

With a rich sporting history and some great venues on our doorstep, Londoners are very well placed indulge their love of sport, whatever form it takes.