William Penny Brookes - Founder of the first Olympian Games, held in 1850 in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England

The William Penny Brookes Story

Wenlock Olympian Games 01

In 1809 William Penny Brookes was born in the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. Brookes believed that sport and physical activity not only improved the health of young people but that it could also be used to unite and inspire communities. He campaigned for physical education in schools and petitioned Government over a number of years. Not only did he create and deliver the first Olympian Games in 1850 in Much Wenlock, but he also went on to inspire others around the nation to get involved through forming the National Olympian Association which later went on to host the first Games at Crystal Palace in 1866 in front of 10,000 spectators!

In 1889 Dr Brookes met and spent time with Baron de Coubertin who visited the UK to understand how sports education was practiced in schools. In 1890 the Baron visited Much Wenlock to see the Wenlock Olympian Games and learned of Dr Brookes’ ambitions to host international Games to be held in Athens. Unfortunately, Brookes died just four months before Baron de Coubertin brought his dream to life by helping to create an international Olympic games in Athens in 1896. Since his death, the town of Much Wenlock has maintained and successfully developed his legacy. Each year since (apart from those during war time) the town has hosted an Olympian Games. Over the years some the UK's top athletes have participated including some of today’s Olympic stars. Go to “Wenlock Olympian Society” for more information.


To watch a short video about the William Penny Brookes story, please click above

At 12.49pm on July 6th 2005, Jacques Rogge, the head of the International Olympic Committee announced that London had won the right to stage the 2012 Olympic Games. This announcement was not only incredibly significant to Britain but also to Much Wenlock and the future development of the Brookes legacy. To capture the potential benefits of this once in a lifetime opportunity and to communicate the William Penny Brookes story and promote his beliefs, a foundation has been formed. A number of partners have come together to use their knowledge and experience to help encourage communities around the nation to understand how living the William Penny Brookes philosophy really can change your life!