Hope, Recession and the Inter-War Years


As Britain emerged from the First World War, a mood of hope and liberation in the early 1920s was accompanied at first by a growing economy. Incomes increased significantly for those in employment, particularly for the unskilled workforces in the factories. Some small weekly surplus could now be spent on enjoying sport and other pastimes. Football, in particular, enjoyed huge support in towns and cities throughout the country. 

The opportunity for a small bet, a flutter, was part of the enjoyment of sport for many. The football pools became a regular feature. Greyhound racing emerged as a significant sport and a comparatively cheap form of entertainment and betting, bringing large crowds as new purpose-built tracks were built around the country. Horse-racing produced memorable stars of the Turf. The development of the motor engine also attracted enormous interest. The new motor car itself was out of reach for most people but the motorcycle was less so - and motorcycle racing and speedway became popular sports.

If football was largely a sport for the working class and rugby for the middle classes, cricket continued to be a national sport – a sport for all (men). Cricket was also England’s principal international sport with dramatic contests for the Ashes, at home and abroad, gripping the sporting nation. British tennis achieved a high level of success.

The Olympic Games gathered strength with the movement’s ideals, appropriate for the time, of patriotism balanced with international fellowship through amateur sport. Scotland, Wales and Ireland each continued to develop its own particular national passion and identity within the sporting framework of the British Isles.

The period between the two World Wars turned rapidly to years of economic recession but, despite the austerity, they continued for the sporting public to be years of passion, crowds and enjoyment. Heroes from this period, many now immortalised in bronze, rank among the very great names in the pantheon of British sport. 

Photo of Harold Larwood
Harold Larwood