Much Wenlock Dr. William Penny Brookes and Baron de Coubertin – dance


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Dr. William Penny Brookes

Dr. William Penny Brookes (13 August 1809 – 11 December 1895) was an English surgeon, magistrate, botanist, and educationalist especially known for inspiring the modern open international Olympic Games, the Wenlock Olympian Games and for his promotion of physical education and personal betterment.

Motivated by the plight of the working classes, he founded the Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society (WARS) in 1841 for the “diffusion of useful knowledge” which included a library for working class subscribers. Interest groups called “classes” met at the Corn Exchange, the WARS headquarters, and in 1850, the Olympian Class was formed to encourage athletic exercises, ranging from running to football, by holding an annual Games offering prizes for sports competitions. Later, competitions for “cultural” events was added. Following the 1860 Games, the Olympian Class separated from WARS due to an irrevocable difference of opinion between the two organisations, and it changed its name to Wenlock Olympian Society (WOS) in order to emphasise that it was now independent.

Brookes was born, lived, worked and died in the small market town of Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England. He was apprenticed to his father, Dr William Brookes, and later studied in London, England; Paris, France and Padua, Italy, before returning home to Much Wenlock in 1831. His lifelong campaign to get Physical Education on the school curriculum brought him into contact with Baron Pierre de Coubertin. In 1890, the young French aristocrat visited Much Wenlock and stayed with Dr Brookes at his home in Wilmore Street. The Society staged a Games especially for the Baron and, inspired by the event and his discussions with Brookes, Coubertin went on to set up the International Olympic Committee in 1894, which was followed by the Athens 1896 Olympic Games that came under the auspices of the Committee.

Baron de Coubertin

Baron de Coubertin was a French educationalist and historian, founder of the International Olympic Committee. Born into a French aristocratic family, he became an academic and studied a broad range of topics, most notably education and history.

Pierre de Frédy was born in Paris on 1 January 1863 into an established aristocratic family. He was the fourth child of Baron Charles Louis Frédy, Baron de Coubertin and Marie–Marcelle Gigault de Crisenoy. Family tradition held that the Frédy name had first arrived in France in the early 15th century, and the first recorded title of nobility granted to the family was given by Louis XI to an ancestor, also named Pierre de Frédy, in 1477. But other branches of his family tree delved even further into French history, and the annals of both sides of his family included nobles of various stations, military leaders, and associates of kings and princes of France.

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