Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Don Morrow

Second Advisor

Kevin Wamsley

Third Advisor

Alan McEachern


The central question raised in this study is how were sport, leisure, and

recreation practices established in London, Ontario between 1867 and 1914. Specifically, how and why did this aspect of people’s lives become increasingly constructed and regulated. Substantively, this investigation is concerned with the process through which forms of sport, recreation, and leisure were shaped within the public, private, and commercial spheres.

This historical study examines the place of sport, recreation, and leisure in one Canadian city. It is necessary that the local experience be understood prior to considering studies of larger geographical regions. In order to assess this specific local experience, case studies of sport, recreation, and leisure practices and the spaces and facilities where they took place were employed.

Parks and local government buildings were amongst the earliest sites for organized public recreation. Swimming, and the provisions of publicly accessible swimming facilities, became an issue of protracted debate primarily over financial concerns, public morality and, later, public safety. Commercial recreation including billiards, bowling, skating, the theatre, and steam boats, afforded local entrepreneurs and investors the opportunity to make a profit and influence how Londoners played. These practices were regulated primarily through local legislation and were later influenced by the developing recreation bureaucracy. Finally, London’s elite citizens found their sport, recreation, and leisure refuge in private clubs such as the early London Tecumseh’s Baseball Club, the Forest


City Cycling Club and, later, the London Lawn Bowling Club. These organizations became institutionalized through actions that included membership restrictions and structured sets of rules both within the clubs and related leagues and associations. These clubs sought to distance themselves from the broader community, and when this space could not be maintained, the associated practice was abandoned in favour of alternative activities which reinforced this exclusivity.

Ultimately, this investigation is concerned with the construction, regulation and organization of leisure, recreation, and sport in everyday life. To these ends, it is necessary to consider how and why this aspect of people’s lives became increasingly constructed and regulated. As a result, the emergence of a leisure and recreation bureaucracy served to shape the growth of public, commercial, and private recreation organizations. Therefore, the manner in which sport, recreation, and leisure practices altered their form and function within London must be viewed as having been influenced by the increasing need to regulate and organize all aspects of people’s lives.



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