Playing Past is delighted to be publishing on Open Access – Sport and Leisure on the Eve of World War One, [ISBN 978-1-910029-15-2]  – This eclectic collection of papers has its origins in a symposium hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Sport and Leisure History research team on the Crewe campus between 27 and 28 June 2014. Contributors came from many different backgrounds and included European as well as UK academics with the topics addressed covering leisure as well as sport.


Please cite this article as:

Snape, Robert. Industrial Welfare, Sport, and Leisure in post-First World War Social Reconstruction, In Day, D. (ed), Sport and Leisure on the Eve of World War One (Manchester: MMU Sport and Leisure History, 2016), 1-21.





Industrial Welfare, Sport, and Leisure in post-First World War Social Reconstruction.

Robert Snape




The provision of factory-based facilities for sport and recreation was a feature of nineteenth century British industry as paternalist employers sought to establish social relationships with their employees. Before the First World War employers such as William Lever and the Cadburys were well-known for their extensive welfare provision. The War placed new demands on the munitions industries, which employed women, boys and men whose welfare became of paramount military importance. The Ministry of Munitions encouraged the development of opportunities for sport to maintain the physical and mental health of workers, while the Home Office established Juvenile Organizations Committees to co-ordinate sport activities for young adults. At the close of the War the new industrial welfare practices and the Juvenile Organizations Committees were retained to promote post-war reconstruction. However, some critics, notably Cecil Delisle Burns, argued that a good post-war society required an idealist model of leisure as self-development and social equality of access. While the War was instrumental in the development of a post-war network of community and factory-based sport, this was concerned primarily with economic reconstruction and civil discipline; sport effectively became a form of state intervention and did not conform to idealist understandings of leisure.

Keywords: Industrial Welfare; Factory; Work; First World War; Women; Leisure.



Historians have argued that rather than bringing about radical social change, the First World War accelerated movements that were in progress before 1914. Robert Roberts, in The Classic Slum, recorded that even before the end of the War, alterations in the habits and customs of working-class life could be discerned while Graham Dangerfield in The Strange Death of Liberal England maintained that the First World War hastened everything but started nothing.[1] Robert Ensor too has argued that post war tendencies were already developing between 1900 and 1913.[2] While rejecting the notion of revolutionary change, these writers do not, however, claim that the war lacked social impact. Such arguments challenge us to consider to what extent the war led to social change in sport. Taking 1913 as a starting point for its investigation of the provision of factory-based sport and leisure through industrial welfare this paper assesses the extent to which differences between pre- and post-war practices might be attributed to the war. Industrial welfare work was not an invention of the war, but as a Home Office statement made clear, it was the special conditions arising from the war that made its value widely recognized.[3] During the war the aims and contexts of industrial welfare and the provision of factory-based sport and leisure were changed and indirectly brought sport within the discourse of post-war social reconstruction. This paper explores the factors that led to this transition.

The provision of work-based sport and leisure remains relatively under-examined by sport and leisure historians. Patrick Joyce’s seminal study of the emergence of a factory culture in nineteenth century industrialization demonstrated the importance of paternalistic leisure provision to the maintenance of employer-employee relations while Stephen Jones later showed how the growth of employer-provided leisure in inter-war Britain led to an extensive provision of sporting facilities that often exceeded that provided by public authorities.[4] The welfare provision of sport was also a feature of white-collar employment and the new light industries of inter-war Britain,[5] with works sports clubs not only encouraging the identification of the worker with the employing organization but also enabling inter-firm competitions and leagues.[6] Less explored, however, is the transition of employer-based sport and leisure provision from the nascent welfare systems of the pre-war era to those of the early years of the inter-war period, and the instrumentality of the war in effecting this change. While sport and leisure historians have acknowledged the gradual replacement of individual paternalism by corporate welfare, which in the case of Cadburys and Rowntree’s, for example, was necessitated by growth in size, the importance of the war in this process has not been extensively analysed.[7] Furthermore, although the social significance of state intervention in industrial welfare during the First World War has been recognized, the specific provision of sport and leisure in this context has not been investigated in depth.[8]

A further relatively unexplored aspect of the growth of industrial welfare in the years immediately following the First World War is the wider access to sport it offered to local communities through the establishment of the Juvenile Organizations Committees that were formed to address wartime conditions. This paper accordingly explores the impact of government intervention on the rationale and objectives of industrial welfare during the First World War and the extent to which this exercised an impact on the provision of factory based sport and leisure not only during the war but also in its immediate aftermath. It examines the origins and practices of the pre-war provision of sport and leisure in industry as a basis for appraising the historical changes brought about by the war and traces the changing nature of the relationships between work, sport and voluntary social work between the pre- and post-war decades.

The relationship between work and leisure was widely discussed in the discourse of post-First World War social reconstruction. The social and human effects of mechanization and the impacts of work on leisure had been of concern to nineteenth century cultural critics who sought to remedy the effects of industrialization on the well-being of the individual employee. John Ruskin, for example, argued that the employer was invested with a paternal authority, which implied social as well as economic obligations to his workers, while in William Morris’ ideal socialist factory, restful amusements were to be provided.[9] While such critiques may not have exercised an immediate influence on employers, they helped establish the principle that industry had social obligations and a duty of care to workers. The relationships between capital and labour in the years immediately preceding the First World War were particularly antagonistic, with several bitterly fought national strikes between 1910 and 1914 marking the highest degree of industrial unrest since the eighteen-forties.[10] After the war the Labour Party campaigned for greater regulation of industry, a minimum standard of leisure, and a reformed mode of work in which the interests of employers and workers were harmonized.[11] Speaking at the National Conference on the Leisure of the People in Manchester in 1919, Arthur Clutton Brock argued that mechanized industrial work led to escapism and passive leisure and denied the worker the benefits of an active leisure life.[12] Social liberals maintained that the economic community was a unit of social life as much as were the state and the cultural community; the relationship between capital and labour was thus essentially moral rather than economic. Cecil Delisle Burns, for example, argued that industry should ensure adequate leisure for all workers to liberate them from automatism and provide opportunities for creativity.[13] Burns, an important yet largely neglected theorist of leisure in inter-war Britain, and John Hobson represented a social idealist point of view which aimed to articulate the nature of work and leisure in a good society in which the well-being of the whole community was more important than that of an individual. As Richard Tawney argued, if society was to be healthy, employers would have to regard themselves not as the owners of rights, but as trustees for the discharge of functions and the instruments of social purpose.[14] The social function of industry was further argued in the literature on industrial welfare. It was observed, for example, that while before the war the factory and its organization had been the private domain of the employer, the demands of post-war social reconstruction required social changes that would give greater voice to industrial welfare work; employers should thus aim to find a unity with their workers through the development of a community spirit.[15] These aims could be achieved, it was suggested, through the full and balanced development of human beings and good citizens by co-operating with external agencies providing leisure and recreation.[16] However, since the nineteenth century, many employers had believed they were already fulfilling such a function through a paternalist care for their employees, which often included the provision of sport and leisure facilities. This paradox reveals the core tension in industrial welfare between an emphasis on the personal well-being of the worker as a social individual and one focused on welfare as a means of increased output and profit. In social idealist terms it represented, as John Hobson argued, the search for a balance between the view of the worker as an economic asset and one that prioritized his satisfaction, fulfilment and well-being.[17] These contrasting utilitarian and idealist perspectives on leisure provide a perspective through which the provision of sport as an element of industrial welfare might be appraised.

From industrial paternalism to corporate welfare

The provision of recreation for employees became a common feature of factory life in the nineteenth century as owners sought to develop a co-operative culture among their employees.[18] Employers created social bonds with workers through a paternalistic provision of recreational facilities such as gardens, parks, reading rooms and works outings; leisure thus became a sphere in which reciprocity and deference could be nurtured and part of a process through which the workforce could be tied to the system of industrial capitalism.[19] The creation of a social life centred around the factory not only strengthened the ties between employer and employee but between the factory and the neighbourhood through provisions which were of benefit to the whole community, such as gymnasia, brass bands, garden parties and excursions.[20] Sports and games featured widely in such schemes; Titus Salt, for example, a Bradford manufacturer founded works-based cricket, bowling and boating clubs, while the Cadbury Brothers had been playing cricket with their male employees at Bournville as early as the eighteen-sixties. Where semi-personal relationships such as these existed, sport provided not only an alternative and improving associational leisure pursuit but also a system of social discipline.[21] In the final decades of the nineteenth century, as Britain underwent what Jose Harris has termed a second industrial revolution based upon advanced technology, a modern welfare capitalism emerged with mass production and a large-scale organization of work. In this process factories grew larger and production became increasingly mechanized, direct contact and personal bonds between owners and workers became difficult to maintain, and individual paternalism was gradually replaced by a corporate paternalism and company welfare schemes.[22] By the early twentieth century, this change was becoming increasingly evident; based on a study of industrial practices in America, Budgett Meakin’s Model Factories and Villages, published in 1905, recommended the adoption of the American practice of establishing social departments within factories under the supervision of a ‘Social Secretary’.[23] The redefining of welfare as a corporate function rather than one residing in personal relationship between factory owner and employees replicated developments in America where the adoption of F.W. Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ encouraged the development of ‘welfare capitalism’ through welfare systems which included substantial levels of leisure provision.[24] Whereas in Victorian Britain employer paternalism had promoted deference, corporate welfare sought to impose the discipline of scientific management upon workers with the aim of increasing production and profit; not the least of its aims was to distract the worker from perceived abuses of leisure such as drinking, debauchery and the aimless consumption of passive pursuits.[25]

By the start of the twentieth century several British industrialists had developed sophisticated and extensive schemes of welfare in which the provision of sport and leisure was a central element. An outstanding example of the transition to welfare capitalism was Port Sunlight, the model village provided by William Lever. Here, sport was at the heart of an all-encompassing provision of leisure which included a football ground, allotment gardens, a bowling green and pavilion, a library and museum, an auditorium, a park, separate gymnasia for men, boys and girls, an open-air swimming bath and theatre, a tennis lawn, a Girls’ Institute, a Junior Social Club, a Men’s Social Club with reading room and billiards, and a public house.[26] A personification of nineteenth century individual paternalism, Lever was nevertheless well-informed in modern management techniques and acutely aware of the potential economic benefits of welfare provision.[27] At their Bournville works, the Cadbury Brothers similarly justified their provision of playgrounds, cricket pitches, gymnasium, girls’ athletic club, swimming bath, football field, fishing pool and organized sport in the forms of cricket, tennis and basketball in economic terms, and were recognized as international leaders in the development of corporate industrial culture, along with the American firms of Heinz and Hershey.[28] The most comprehensive survey of industrial welfare in Britain in the early twentieth century, undertaken by Dorothea Proud as a London School of Economics D.Sc. thesis, shows that sport and leisure provision through employer welfare schemes extended far beyond these two well-known examples.[29] Welfare work in this context was defined as ‘voluntary effort on the part of employers to improve, within the existing industrial system, the conditions of employment in their own factories’. However, it explicitly excluded attempts to pursue fundamental changes to the existing system of industry and was thus in conflict with the aims of trade unions and a source of widespread distrust amongst a large proportion of the workforce. Nevertheless, as Proud’s report shows, the provision of sports and games was effective as a means of establishing an area of common interest with their workers. Factory Recreation Clubs, sometimes with compulsory membership but more usually run cooperatively by employers and workers, enabled participation in sport by both men and women, the most popular sports being cricket (both men and women), football, hockey, tennis, bowls, rounders, croquet, quoits, basket-ball, rowing, swimming, cycling, rambling and angling. In one factory, a welfare department formed in 1905 was managed by a social committee of two Directors and two social workers and provided two football teams, two rugby teams, angling, bowling and tennis clubs, a Girls’ Hockey Club, a Girls’ Baseball Club, a Girls’ Gymnastic Club, three female gym instructors, sewing dressmaking and embroidery classes, an orchestra, a band, a Boys’ Club, a Debating Society, a Men’s Social Club, a Saturday Social Club for Girls, and an annual camp. Moreover, the reach of factory leisure provision often extended into the community, with workers’ wives being allowed to join factory clubs and by works sports teams playing in local leagues.[30] The inclusion of women and girls was a notable feature of factory-based sport which, while possibly aided by the fact that most welfare supervisors were women, nevertheless shows the existence of a considerable latent demand for active sport by working-class women.[31] By 1913, the provision of welfare schemes with a wide range of benefits for workers, including substantial opportunities for participation in leisure and sport activities, was an established aspect of industrial life.

Factory sport and leisure in World War One

The outbreak of war in 1914 placed new demands on British industry, notably for munitions and increased productivity. In 1915, Lloyd George assumed control of the Ministry of Munitions, which, although created primarily to ensure a continuous supply of arms and ammunition, exercised a much wider influence on British industrial practices, notably in the field of industrial welfare.[32] In human terms the enlisting of much of the male workforce in military service made it necessary to recruit as replacement labour women, boys and girls, many of whom had either never been in work, or had moved into munitions production from another field. Women from all social classes entered the munitions industry with 212,000 employed at the start of the war and 819,000 by July 1917.[33] Efficiency in production depended on the workforce and to this end, the Ministry of Munitions established a ‘Health of Munitions Workers Committee’ in 1915 to research and recommend action to enhance the personal health and physical efficiency of the worker.[34] Although focused primarily on welfare and safety within the factory, the Committee also considered the influence of the social and cultural environment on workers’ physical and mental health. Noting that facilities for recreation were essential to the workers’ well-being, especially in the case of women who were believed to have less physical strength and stamina than male workers, the Committee recommended the appointment of factory Welfare Supervisors to co-ordinate opportunities for recreation and physical activity.[35] The provision of factory sport and leisure thus acquired a new social significance, changing the meaning of welfare from paternalistic benevolence to state intervention to increase industrial efficiency and output. Although the Committee was primarily concerned with the aims of the war, its recommendations were adopted as a model for post-war industrial welfare. Its report is consequently a seminal document in the provision of sport and leisure opportunities through industrial welfare in inter-war Britain. In particular, the Committee’s recommendation that a welfare supervisor be appointed in all munitions factories in which women were employed led to increased opportunities for women’s participation in sport and recreational physical activity; one supervisor, for example, reported that:

Since 1917 we have had in use a girls’ recreation room; plus on the ‘social side’ a girls’ gymnasium class, tennis and hockey club, football team, home-nursing and first aid team, plus new club and mess room with accommodation for c.600, while another factory formed a Sports and Recreation Committee to organise dances, a football team, whist drives and a choral society.[36]

The war brought emancipation for women in several ways and this was true of sport as its promotion through industrial welfare contributed to the growth of women’s football, sometimes being initiated by a female Welfare Supervisor but often by the women themselves.[37] Again, the war was important not for starting a trend in sport but for accelerating it. At St. Helens in Lancashire, where the Sutton Glass Works had been converted to munitions production, both male and female teenage workers had played football informally in break times before the war, and the formation of a women’s football team to promote teamwork during the war was a progression of an existing practice. By 1917, women’s factory football was firmly established in the North West with inter-firm competitions across Cumbria, Lancashire and North Wales with many matches, particularly those involving the Dick Kerr Ladies team, drawing large numbers of spectators in a period when men’s football was widely suspended because of the war.[38] The extension of opportunities for girls to engage actively in sport through wartime industrial welfare provision marked an important point in the growth of women’s sport and established a template for further development after the war.[39]

A further potential risk to industrial efficiency was the estimated 600,000 young people, aged from fourteen, who were recruited to the munitions industries. In particular, the behaviour of boys in the factory was problematic with horseplay, a habit of wandering from one job to another and the absence of a male figure of authority at home. Outside the factory, there was a corresponding rise in juvenile delinquency, widely attributed to sensational forms of leisure such as the cinema.[40] Industrial welfare provision for boys thus aimed to compensate for the absence of home-based male guidance and to promote active leisure by bringing working boys under the personal influence of an adult welfare supervisor. The Health of Munition Workers’ Committee recommended the appointment of a Welfare Supervisor in factories employing 100 boys to encourage and arrange involvement in sport and recreational activities; in smaller factories, this might become the responsibility of the Women’s Welfare Supervisor.[41] To further the supervision and discipline of working boys Robert Hyde, Warden of the Hoxton Settlement, was asked by Lloyd George and Seebohm Rowntree to take responsibility for the Boys’ Welfare department of the Ministry of Munitions with the objective of improving behaviour and production. In 1916, Hyde established the Boys’ Welfare Society within the Ministry and founded the Boys’ Welfare Journal for private circulation amongst employers and supervisors. Under Hyde’s direction, the Boys’ Welfare Association was established with a governing council comprising representatives of several major firms including Cammell Laird, Crossleys, Vickers, Halesowen Steel and Armstrong Whitworth. This produced a model scheme of recreational welfare supervision based upon the organization of indoor and outdoor games and sports, weekend and summer camps and the formation of Cadet Corps and Scout troops.[42] These initiatives were widely adopted; in Sheffield, for example, a Boys’ Welfare Sports Association was formed to provide working boys with ‘clean wholesome sport under good organisation’.[43] Recreation was seen as the best way of offsetting the effects of boredom, and indoor football or cricket were provided in the factory dinner-break. However, it was the encouragement of outdoor sport that gave welfare workers most scope to influence the behaviour of boys beyond the workplace through organized and competitive football, cricket, cadet corps and weekend camps.

Factory sport and leisure after World War One

In 1919, on the basis that welfare work had been beneficial to wartime industry, the Home Office established industrial welfare as a statutory provision.[44] Following wartime practice in the munitions industries, each factory was to place the provision of welfare under a named person who would act as the Welfare Supervisor. While the provision of sport was not statutory, the practices in its coordination that had been developed through state intervention during the war continued into the inter-war years. Following the advocacy of the Whitley Committee on the establishment of Industrial Councils to promote a spirit of community and common interest in the workplace, the provision of sport and leisure as a form of welfare work received formal approval.[45] The inter-war period saw a growth of interest in scientific management, with industrial psychology and a greater awareness of the economic benefits of a healthy workforce, and welfare provision was increasingly conceptualized as part of a modernizing process.[46] From the early nineteen-twenties, the provision of sport and leisure through industrial welfare grew through the assimilation of sports provision within the professionalization of industrial welfare work and the extension of welfare sport into the social community through Juvenile Organizations Committees.

Welfare work and sport

The Welfare Workers’ Association, formed in 1913, expanded after the war, becoming the Institute of Industrial Welfare Workers in 1924.[47] Representing a new and expanding work sector, it provided a forum in which all aspects of welfare work, including the provision of sport and leisure, could be discussed through conferences and its journal Welfare Work. Many firms instituted a welfare department after the war, reflecting its increased recognition as part of a professional business management structure; the Yorkshire confectionery firm of Mackintosh, for example, appointed its first female welfare supervisor only in 1923, along with the formation of a sports and social club.[48] A surge of enthusiasm for the promotion of sport as welfare in the immediate post-war years was followed by a declining interest within the profession by the late nineteen-thirties, partly because welfare work evolved into personnel management and partly because sport and leisure provision had become sufficiently well recognized as an integral element of good business practice.

Factory sports clubs and facilities became the focal point of works recreation schemes[49] and many businesses purchased adjoining land to convert into sports pitches. The Liverpool Council of Voluntary Aid’s Report on the Uses of Leisure in Liverpool published in 1923 records larger employers demonstrating substantial commitment to sport and leisure.  Bibby’s, for example, provided five football pitches, two hockey pitches, two cricket pitches, four tennis courts, a bowling green, a club house, a literary and debating society, drama, concerts, whist, a photographic club and a cycling club for its 2,000 employees, while Silcock’s 500 employees had two football pitches, two bowling greens, a cricket pavilion, four tennis courts and facilities for billiards, darts and whist concerts.[50] A later survey of Merseyside found at least forty-five firms providing recreational facilities for 50,000 insured workers.[51] In Nottingham, the Boots company organized welfare teams which competed locally in cricket, football, tennis and rugby; these sports were important not only for their own sake but as Simon Phillips notes, were also family occasions and social gatherings.[52] As Stephen Jones has demonstrated, factory sport became an integral element of industrial welfare in the Lancashire cotton industry with many mills organizing football, hockey, bowling and swimming clubs.[53] Welfare workers boasted that sports and social groups cemented the relationship between capital and labour.[54] However, trade unionists and many other workers avoided welfare sports provision, believing its sole rationale to be the greater efficiency of capitalist production and this was in part a factor in the foundation of the National Workers’ Sports Association, later the British Workers’ Sports Association, in 1930.[55]

Ross McKibbin has noted that working-class women in inter-war Britain did not have the same opportunities to play sport as their middle-class counterparts, with the paucity of public provision being a contributory factor.[56] For many younger workers, factory-based clubs and teams became their only opportunity to play sport after leaving school and thus a potential factor in their choice of employer; certainly, the level of provision by the larger firms was sometimes on a larger scale than that provided by the local authority.[57] Similarly, some factories were believed to appoint employees because they were good at sport and vital to a competitively successful works team.[58]  By the end of the inter-war years a survey undertaken by the Industrial Welfare Society showed that only 23% of the workforce in heavy industry and 36% of that in light industry were registered as members of works recreation schemes. However, since this was based on responses from only 88 firms, this was a far from comprehensive investigation and it is worth noting that these proportions represented several thousand employees.[59] Furthermore, welfare sport was not confined to large factories; the small paper mill in the Lancashire hamlet of Withnell Fold, for example, was still organizing an annual works sports day with races and an evening dance in 1939 and it seems reasonable to suggest that other small firms not included in the above survey made similar provision.[60] Nevertheless, it was in the larger firms, often formed through merger, in which communication with an expanded workforce necessitated a modern and managerial approach to welfare.[61] Factory sport was not confined to the workplace but became an important constituent element of community sport with factory teams competing in local and regional leagues.[62] Furthermore, the adoption of sport and leisure as elements of a social life based on the workplace extended beyond manufacturing industry to clerical and administrative employment sectors, a trend evident in the composition of inter-war sports leagues. Examples include the presence in the London League in 1938 of teams such as Ford Motors, C.W.S. (Silvertown), Post Office Engineers, and Briggs Motor Bodies, and in the Southern Amateur League the Midland Bank, Lloyds Bank, Civil Service, and Westminster Bank. In the North West, Metropolitan Vickers Rounders Club was a member of the competitions organized through the Salford and District Union of Girls’ Clubs. [63]

It may appear that the harmonization of capital and labour pursued in social idealist theories of reconstruction was to some extent achieved through leisure-based welfare work. However, closer analysis shows this not to have been the case. According to Eleanor Kelly, a prominent figure in the welfare movement, the modern employer’s desire for unity between himself and the worker could be best achieved by the promotion of a community spirit.[64] Voluntary association in leisure and sport was a prime sphere in which community identity could be encouraged. This aspiration was linked to a wider contemporary discussion concerning the social nature of industry. Social and liberal commentators on post-war reconstruction, notably John Hobson, Richard Tawney and Cecil Delisle Burns, understood the harmonization of capital and labour in wider social terms, arguing that industry and the economic sphere were not separate from the social sphere but part of it.[65] At its most radical, their argument was that industry should be understood as a social service and only secondarily as an economic good; in other words industrial practice should be appraised in terms of its social good. In the early inter-war period, this idealist view was expressed by some welfare workers who felt their responsibility to be the amelioration of the harmful social effects of industry. A paper published in Welfare Work in 1922, for example, argued that as ‘capitalist psychology’ led employers to disregard the social contribution of industry, welfare workers had a duty to change the attitude of business to the worker as simply and economic unit. This point was further developed in a consequent issue in an argument that industry should be conducted in terms of community well-being and the interests of the citizen worker[66] Employers, however, conceptualized the harmonization of capital and labour in terms of production and output; the social was subsidiary to the economic. To employers, the factory community was a literal entity, the more all-encompassing the welfare provision, the closer the worker would align his personal interests with those of the sphere of work. A work’s sports club, it was argued, developed from and represented a desire on the part of an employer and his employees to meet on common ground.[67] Leisure provision thus extended beyond sport to the provision of social amenities. Cadbury’s new social centre at Bournville, opened in the mid-nineteen twenties, housed dining and indoor recreation activities, lounge rooms, accommodation for surgeons and dentists, library and reading rooms, and a concert hall with a capacity of 1,200, a Bournville youth club and games rooms. The building combined, as the employer-supporting Journal of Industrial Welfare reported, the utility of a work’s social centre with services such as one associates with a high class club or hotel, a building ‘of the kind that welfare workers dreams are made of’.[68] The increasing influence of industrial psychology shifted the locus of welfare to corporate management. Philip Worsley, Joint General Manager of the Screw Department at Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds in Birmingham, for example, saw welfare work as the cultivation amongst the workers of a higher standard of intelligence and useful knowledge, leading to a more contented feeling about their work and a ‘happier and brighter spirit leading to more cordial relations with their employers’.[69] Factory sport fitted easily into such a model of welfare; at the opening of a new fourteen acres sports ground at Messrs. Hadfield Sheffield, which employed 5,000 men, the owner of the firm described the facility in distinctively capitalist terms as an essential aspect of management, noting, unfortunately erroneously, that no good sportsman had ever emerged from socialism or bolshevism.[70] There were also efforts to address the impacts on the factory of what was seen as ‘badly used leisure’ by encouraging welfare supervisors to liaise with local club leaders in dealing with difficult and mischievous workers.[71] By the early nineteen-thirties sport and leisure were established as a core element of welfare provision, largely due to the efforts of welfare supervisors. As welfare workers aspired to professional status as personnel managers their involvement in the organization of factory sport decreased and by 1935 their journal, now re-titled Labour Management, declared that as welfare was increasingly regarded as part of business practice, the duties of organizing sport and leisure could be delegated to works social committees and from this point they rarely featured in the journal.[72] For Delisle Burns, a true leisure could never be experienced only in a man’s economic activities, which included all provisions by industry including social welfare facilities; essentially welfare-provided sport was inherently utilitarian not in the sense of being of utility to the whole society but to the economic interests of the employer.[73]

Juvenile Organizations Committees

A related development in worker’s sport during the war was the introduction of Juvenile Organizations Committees. In 1916, an increase in juvenile delinquency together with a growing concern for the deleterious effects of boys’ leisure on their ability to work effectively, led to the establishment within the Home Office of a Central Juvenile Organizations Committee. This was to oversee the work of local Juvenile Organization Committees, which would bring together voluntary and statutory bodies through which young people’s behaviour could be regulated through socially beneficial leisure activities. Typically, they comprised voluntary bodies such as lads’ and girls’ clubs, educational institutions, churches, social settlements and Juvenile Employment Committees [JOCs] through which sport and leisure activity could be co-ordinated.[74] As G.A. Aitken, Chair of the Central Committee stated, their aim was to investigate ways of encouraging boys and girls, particularly those aged between fourteen and eighteen, to join clubs and to arrange transfers between clubs where this was thought beneficial.[75] The co-ordination of voluntary organizations in sport was crucial because it was the voluntary sector alone which was responsible for the local organization of competitive sport and games and also because there was evidence to suggest that in towns such as Bradford and Leicester, where there were high levels of voluntary effort towards the welfare of young people, there were lower than average rates of delinquency.[76]  In 1918, governmental responsibility for JOCs was transferred to the Education Department, enabling the allocation of grants to voluntary organizations under the 1921 Education Act to provide for social and recreational needs of young persons aged under eighteen.[77] The introduction of the state-sponsored JOCs was an important stage in the development of voluntary – state partnerships; as Madeline Rooff noted in her survey of girls’ organizations, JOCs enabled co-operation between voluntary sports clubs and local education authorities and allowed school playgrounds to be used for organized sport activities.[78] Through their community networks, JOCs were useful to welfare supervisors seeking to enter teams in local competitions and, in 1919, co-operation between them was recommended as good practice.[79] By bringing together the various bodies interested in the welfare of young people JOCs were instrumental in the organization of sports leagues, particularly in football.[80] In Birmingham, for example, the local Juvenile Organization Committee widened its remit to include adults, thus embracing the whole industrial population of the city. Through its JOC, a Civic Recreation League was established which gave support to boys’ and girls’ clubs, recreation halls, playing fields and open-air concerts. Clubs tended to be more successful in recruiting members than works-based provision, and girls in particular enjoyed a wide range of sports through club provision which included swimming, tennis and a ladies’ football club.[81] Another factory reported a thriving sports club with cricket, football (for 492 men and 60 boys), hockey, gymnastics, wrestling and boxing, plus a ladies football team and a hockey section with eighty female members. At the Woolwich Arsenal, which employed women living in hostels, several hockey and football clubs and social events provided an alternative leisure to that of wandering the streets.[82] In Bristol, the JOC merged with the Bristol Social Centres Association to form a Bristol Recreation Council which devised and implemented a Scheme of Recreation for the Industrial Workers of Bristol covering both juveniles and adults and included the welfare provision of sport and leisure by many of Bristol’s leading firms.[83] Elsewhere, the Wallasey JOC organized social clubs in local firms, the St. Helens JOC used the football pitches of a local firm and the West Ham JOC organized netball and other sports for working girls’ clubs.[84] Many JOCs survived into the late nineteen-thirties; that at Barrow was organizing leagues in cricket, football, rugby and netball in 1935 and included for example, the Barrow Steam Laundry Girls’ Club.[85]


This paper has argued that the First World War was of major importance to the growth of work-based sport and leisure provision in the inter-war decades. In particular, the Ministry of Munitions, through its wartime interventions in the welfare of boy, girl and women workers, laid the foundations not only of a new mode of industrial welfare in which sport and leisure were core elements, but also ushered in a new post-war model for the organization of sport at a community level through the introduction of Juvenile Organizations Committees. The extraordinary industrial demands of the war obliged the state to intervene in their leisure to enhance the physical, social and mental well-being of the women, boys and girls who entered the munitions factories, establishing a mode of welfare provision that was adhered to almost seamlessly at the close of the war. While factory-based sport existed before the war, its expansion after the war owed much to the appointment of welfare supervisors and the emergence of a discourse of welfare in which recreation and sport were widely argued to be beneficial not only to industry but to employing organizations in general. Moreover, the factory became one of the largest providers of sport and leisure facilities in the inter-war period; few municipalities had as extensive a range and none could offer a similar degree of organization of activities.

The role of Juvenile Organizations Committees, established to address behavioural problems of unique importance to the war effort, have not been extensively investigated. Their brief was not restricted to industry, but their rationale of providing active leisure at a community level had as an objective the improvement of the efficiency of industrial production. As has been shown, they were widely given active support by employers. They were, however, also important for the development of local networks through which sport and leisure could be co-ordinated and their contribution to the rapid and marked growth of community-based organized sport was significant. Records of the activities of JOCs are patchy and likely to be geographically distributed and much further research is needed to understand more fully their extraordinary contribution to the development of community sport in inter-war Britain. While the reorganization of industry along social lines was an objective of liberal and progressive reformers, welfare sport, although conceptualized in idealist terms by some welfare workers in the early stages of the inter-war period, was strictly an economic undertaking, seeking to create communal bonds between employers and corporate management in much the same way as early industrialists had sought to establish personal bonds. While welfare-provided factory sport was essentially concerned to maintain a capitalist industrial ideology, that so many workers gained enjoyment from it and voluntarily took part remains a fact that cannot be ignored. However, it reflected a utilitarian approach to sport which, to social idealists such as Cecil Delisle Burns, could not be understood as leisure because it performed a utilitarian function rather than providing a space free from fixed social relationships, particularly the economic relationship between employer and employee.



[1] Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century (Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1978), 186; Graham Dangerfield, The Strange Death of Liberal England (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1935), 14. See also Robert Ensor, England 1870-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 556.

[2] Robert Ensor, England 1870-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 556.

[3] Home Office, Welfare and Welfare Supervision in Factories and Workshops (London: HMSO, 1919), 2.

[4] Patrick Joyce, Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (London: Methuen, 1982); Stephen G. Jones, Workers at Play: A Social and Economic History of Leisure 1918-1939 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986), 69-732; Stephen G. Jones, ‘Cotton Employers and Welfare Between the Wars’ in J.A. Jowitt and A.J. McIvor (eds.) Employers and Labour in the English Textile Industries 1850-1939 (London: Routledge, 1988), 64-83; Stephen G. Jones, ‘Work, Leisure and the Political Economy of Cotton Districts Between the Wars’, Textile History 18 no.1 (1987): 33-57.

[5] Steven Crewe, ‘What about the Workers? Works-based Sport and Recreation in England c.1918–c.1970’, Sport in History 34 no. 2 (2014): 544-568; Michael Heller, ‘Sport, Bureaucracies and London Clerks 1880–1939’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 25 no. 5 (2008): 579-614; Simon Phillips, ‘Fellowship in Recreation, Fellowship in Ideals’: Sport, Leisure and Culture at Boots Pure Drug Company, Nottingham c. 1883-1945’, Midland History 29 no. 1 (2004): 107-123.

[6] Joyce Kay, ‘Maintaining the Traditions of British Sport’? The Private Sports Club in the Twentieth Century’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 30 no. 14 (2013): 1655-1669; A. Smith, ‘Cars, Cricket, and Alf Smith: The Place of Works-based Sports and Social Clubs in the Life of Mid-Twentieth-Century Coventry’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 19 no. 1 (2002): 137-150; Wray Vamplew, ‘Theories and Typologies: A Historical Exploration of the Sports Club in Britain’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 30 no. 14 (2013): 1569-1585.

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[8] See for example Noelle Whiteside, ‘Industrial Welfare and Labour Regulation in Britain at the Time of the First World War’, International Review of Social History, 25 (1980): 307-331.

[9] John Ruskin, Unto This Last and Other Essays (London: Dent, 1907), 129-30 [essay orig. 1850]; William Morris, Factory Work as It Is and Might Be. (New York: New York Labor News, 1922), 13.

[10] A.N. Wilson, After the Victorians (London: Hutchinson, 2005), 120-121; Robert Ensor, England 1870-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 438-444.

[11] Labour Party Labour and the New Social Order. A Report on Reconstruction (London: The Labour Party, 1918).

[12] Arthur Clutton Brock, ‘Work and Leisure’ Report on the National Conference on the Leisure of the People (Manchester, 1919), 7-13.

[13] John A. Hobson, Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation (London: Macmillan, 1914); Cecil Delisle Burns, Industry and Civilization (London: Allen and Unwin, 1925).

[14] R.H. Tawney, The Acquisitive Society (New York; Dover Publications, 2004), 51 [orig. pub. 1920]; for Burn’s contribution to the inter-war discourse of leisure see Robert Snape, ‘The New Leisure, Voluntarism and Social Reconstruction in Inter-War Britain’, Contemporary British History, DOI:10.1080/13619462.2014.963060, published online: October 1, 2014.

[15] Ernest G.W. Souster, The Design of Factory and Industrial Buildings (London: Scott, Greenwood, 1919); Eleanor T. Kelly, (ed.) Welfare Work in Industry (London: Pitman, 1925). The idea of the factory as a community dates back to the late eighteenth century, being an aim of the Greg Brothers at their mill at Styal near Manchester. See Mary B. Rose The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill: The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm 1750-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 102-113.

[16] K.E. Wilkinson, ‘The Relation of Welfare Work to Outside Organizations’ Welfare Work 3 no. 35 (November 1922): 204-205. This suggestion was made by the Employment Manager of the Liverpool firm of Messrs Ayrton Saunders & Co. Ltd.

[17] Hobson, Work and Wealth, 9.

[18] J.F. Wilson, British Business History 1720-1994 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 34.

[19] David Sunderland, Social Capital, Trust and the Industrial Revolution: 1780–1880 (London: Routledge, 2007), 198; J.F. Wilson, British Business History 1720-1994 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 34-35.

[20] Patrick Joyce, Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (London: Methuen, 1982), 168-172. See also Mary B. Rose, The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill. The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm 1750-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 102-3.

[21] Mike Huggins, The Victorians and Sport (London: Hambledon and London, 2004), 36.

[22] Jose Harris, Private Lives, Public Spirit: Britain 1870-1914 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994), 126-142.

[23] Budgett Meakin, Model Factories and Villages: Ideal Conditions of Labour and Housing (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1905).

[24] Lindy Biggs, The Rational Factory: Architecture, Technology, and Work in America’s Age of Mass Production (London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 63-66.

[25] Lindy Biggs Rational Factory, 69; A.G. Johnson, Leisure for Workmen and National Wealth (London: P.S. King, 1908).

[26] Budgett Meakin Model Factories and Villages, 214; William Lever, The Buildings Erected at Port Sunlight and Thornton Hough. Paper presented to Meeting of the Architectural Association, March 1st 1902. See also E. Robertson, M. Korczynski and M. Pickering, ‘Harmonious Relations? Music at Work in the Rowntree and Cadbury Factories’, Business History, 49 no. 2 (2007): 211-234 and David J. Jeremy, ‘The Enlightened Paternalist in Action: William Hesketh Lever at Port Sunlight before 1914’, Business History, 33 no. 1 (1991): 58-81.

[27] William Lever, The Six Hour Day and Other Industrial Questions (London: Stanley Unwin, 1918).

[28] Edward Cadbury, Experiments in Industrial Organization (London: Longmans Green, 1912), 233; Howard R. Stanger, ‘From Factory to Family: the Creation of a Corporate Culture in the Larkin Company of Buffalo, New York’, Business History Review, 74 no. 3 (2000): 407-433.

[29] E.D. Proud, Welfare Work. Employers’ Experiments for Improving Working Conditions in Factories (London: G. Bell, 1916).

[30] Proud, Welfare Work, 185-7.

[31] A. Woollacott, ‘Maternalism, Professionalism and Industrial Welfare Supervisors in World War 1 Britain’, Women’s History Review, 3 no. 1 (1994): 29-56.

[32] J.F. Wilson, British Business History, 1720-1994 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 162.

[33] Arthur Marwick, The Deluge. British Society and the First World War (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2nd ed.1991), 131.

[34] Great Britain. Ministry of Munitions, Health of Munitions Workers Committee. Final Report. Industrial Health and Efficiency (London: HMSO, 1918). Cmd.9065.

[35] Great Britain. Ministry of Munitions. Health of Munition Workers Committee. Final Report. Industrial Health and Efficiency (London: HMSO), 15.

[36] Great Britain. Ministry of Munitions Health of Munitions Workers Committee. Final Report. Industrial Health and Efficiency (London: HMSO, 1918), 103.

[37] Jean Williams, A Game for Rough Girls? A History of Women’s Football in Britain (London: Routledge, 2003), 27-31; J.F. Lee, The Lady Footballers. Struggling to Play in Victorian Britain (London: Routledge, 2008), 117-119.

[38] Barbara Jacobs, The Dick Kerr’s Ladies (London: Robinson, 2004), 28-31. Dick Kerr Ladies attracted a crowd of 10,000 to a match at Deepdale, the ground of Preston North End, on Christmas Day 1917 and later played a game against a team of ladies from Barrow-in-Furness munitions works in 1918.

[39] V. Long and H. Marland, ‘From Danger and Motherhood to Health and Beauty: Health Advice for the Factory Girl in Early Twentieth-Century Britain’, 20th Century British History, 20 no. 4 (2009): 454-481.

[40] Marwick, The Deluge, 158.

[41] Great Britain. Ministry of Munitions Health of Munitions Workers Committee. Final Report. Industrial Health and Efficiency (London: HMSO, 1918), 110.

[42] Boys’ Welfare Association. Scheme of Boys’ Welfare Supervision (Westminster, 1919).

[43] R.M.S. Pilkington, ‘Boys’ Clubs’, Boys’ Welfare Journal, 1 no. 5 (March 1919): 69-70.

[44] Home Office Welfare and Welfare Supervision in Factories and Workshops (London: HMSO, 1919).

[45] The Industrial Council Plan in Great Britain. Report of the Whitley Committee on Relations between Employers and Employed of the Ministry of Reconstruction (Bureau of Industrial Research: Washington, 1919), 91.

[46] A.J. McIvor, ‘Manual Work, Technology and Industrial Health 1918-39’, Medical History, 31 (1987): 160-189.

[47] Wilson, British Business History, 163.

[48] E.C. Boothman, R. Fitzgerald and R. Pope, ‘Markets, Management and Merger: John Mackintosh & Sons, 1890-1969’, Business History Review, 74 no. 7, (2000): 555-602.

[49] Madeline Rooff, Youth and Leisure: A Survey of Girls’ Organisations in England and Wales (Edinburgh: Constable 1935), 66.

[50] Report on the Uses of Leisure in Liverpool (Liverpool: Liverpool Council of Voluntary Aid, 1923), 8.

[51] D. Caradog Jones, The Social Survey of Merseyside Vol. 3 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1934), 310.

[52] Simon Phillips, ‘Fellowship in Recreation, Fellowship in Ideals’: Sport, Leisure and Culture at Boots Pure Drug Company, Nottingham c. 1883-1945’, Midland History, 29 no. 1 (2004): 107-123.

[53] S.G. Jones, ‘Work, Leisure and the Political Economy of the Cotton Districts between the Wars’, Textile History 18 no. 1 (1987): 33-58.

[54] ‘Obstacles to Welfare Work: Fear and Ignorance’, Observer, September 15, 1929, 21. This comment was made by the Welfare Supervisor of Messrs’ J. Lyons and Co. at a conference of the Industrial Welfare Society.

[55] F. Hodges, Industrial Welfare: Its Place in our National Life (London: Industrial Welfare Society, 1922); S.G. Jones, Sport, Politics and the Working Class: Organised Labour and Sport in Interwar Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 106-11.

[56] Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures. England 1918-1951 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 333-367.

[57] A.S. Smith, ‘Cars, Cricket, and Alf Smith: The Place of Works-based Sports and Social Clubs in the Life of Mid-Twentieth-Century Coventry’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 19 no. 1 (2002): 137-150; Helena Chance, ‘Mobilising the Modern Industrial Landscape for Sports and Leisure in the Early Twentieth Century’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 29 no. 11 (2012): 1600-1625.

[58] This was the subject of a discussion at the Trade Unions Congress General Council at which the potential of factory sport to weaken the interest of young workers in trade union activities. ‘Trade Union Sport: Suggested Alternative to Factory Clubs’, Manchester Guardian, February 26, 1926, 16.

[59] Henry Durant, The Problem of Leisure (London: George Routledge, 1938), 241.

[60] Withnell Fold Paper Mill, Official Programme of the Eighth Annual Sports Day, Saturday June 3rd, 1939. Chorley, Lancashire.

[61] J.F. Wilson, British Business History 1720-1994 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 160.

[62] Steven Crewe, ‘What about the Workers? Works-based Sport and Recreation in England c.1918–c.1970’, Sport in History, 2014; Michael Heller, ‘Sport, Bureaucracies and London Clerks 1880–1939’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 25 no. 5 (2008): 579-614.

[63] ‘Amateur Games’, Observer, April 24, 1938, 30; ‘In Manchester’, Manchester Guardian, September 17, 1934, 12.

[64] E.T. Kelly, (ed.) Welfare Work and Industry (London: Pitman, 1925), 2.

[65] J.A Hobson, Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation (London: Macmillan, 1914), 241-2; R.H. Tawney, The Acquisitive Society (New York; Dover Publications, 2004) [orig. pub. 1920]; Cecil Delisle Burns, Industry and Civilization (London: Allen and Unwin, 1925); Cecil Delisle Burns, Government and Industry (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1920), 81-82.

[66] Miss Bondfield, ‘Industry as a Social Service’, Welfare Work, no. 26 (February 1922): 27; E.T. Kelly, ‘The Relation of Industry to the Welfare of the Community’, Welfare Work 4 no. 43 (July 1923): 123-4.

[67] J.G. Paterson,’ Industry and Leisure: Works Sports Clubs’, Industrial Welfare and Personnel Management, 16 no. 187 (July 1936): 26-32.

[68] ‘Bournville’s New Social Centre’, Journal of Industrial Welfare, 9 no. 99 (March 1927): 94-95.

[69] Philip J. Worsley, ‘Welfare Work from the Employer’s Point of View’, Welfare Work, 2 no. 23 (November, 1921): 164-5.

[70] ‘The Value of Sport: Common Meeting Ground for Anglo-Saxons’, Observer, May 27, 1923, 15.

[71] H. Chapman, ‘A Plea for Co-operation between Welfare Workers and Club Leaders’, Welfare Work, 10 no. 118 (October 1929): 180.

[72] ‘Editorial’, Labour Management, 17 no. 182, (March 1935): 41.

[73] Cecil Delisle Burns, Industry and Civilization (London: Allen and Unwin, 1925), 32-35.

[74] Pearl Jephcott, ‘Work among Boys and Girls’ in Mess, Voluntary Social Services, 130.

[75] G.A. Aitken, ‘The Adolescent’, The Times, October 1, 1917, 11.

[76] Charles E. Russell, The Problem of Juvenile Crime (London: Humphry Milford, 1917).

[77] P.F. Beard, ‘Voluntary Youth Organizations’ in A.F.C. Bourdillon (ed.) Voluntary Social Services: Their Place in the Modern State (London: Methuen, 1945), 135-149.

[78] Madeline Rooff, Youth and Leisure. A Survey of Girls’ Organizations in England and Wales (Edinburgh: CUKT and National Council of Girls’ Clubs, 1935), 45-48.

[79] R.M.S. Pilkington, ‘Boys‘ Clubs’, Boy’s Welfare Journal, 1 no. 5 (March 1919): 69-70.

[80] Rooff, Youth and Leisure, 48.

[81] Great Britain, Ministry of Munitions, Health of Munitions Workers Committee. Final Report. Industrial Health and Efficiency, 117.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Bristol Juvenile Organizations Committee. Handbook 1920-21 (Bristol: E.S.A. Robinson, 1920), 47.

[84] Juvenile Organizations Committee, Notes on Work and Progress of Local Committees (London: Board of Education, 1920).

[85] Barrow-in-Furness Juvenile Organizations Committee. Tenth Annual Report, (1935), 10.