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The Origins of Football

9th June 2021

John Harvard's father Robert was Shakespeare's butcher in Southwark, London and the boy attended school above the pub....

We leave the church and cross Green Dragon Court
where Robert Harvard had his butcher's shop.
It's part of Borough Market now and busy
everyday with visitors from other parts
of London as it was in Harvard's day.
Inflated bladders hung up were the sign
and there was once a street in London called
Blow Bladder Lane where many butchers were. 
And sometimes bladders fell and bounced along 
the cobbles evenly and so begat
the game of football in its many codes. 

The writer Daniel Defoe in his Journal
of the Plague Year Sixteen Sixty Five
refers to this. It was legitimate to blow up
bladders but not any joint of meat
as butchers if they were dishonest might
pump air into their steaks to make them look
much bigger. Defoe links this with
the plague because the councils were aware
that unhygienic food shops were a likely 
culprit in the spread of a contagion
and new laws were passed which tightened up 
the practice. After sixteen sixty five  
all butchers were constrained to slaughter beasts
in licensed abattoirs and no more in
their premises. Robert Harvard, butcher,
lived through several epidemics till he
died of plague in sixteen twenty five
along with three of his own children and
some forty thousand other Londoners.
That outbreak's never even mentioned now. 

The loss of almost all his siblings and
his father meant John Harvard had few reasons
not to join his fellow graduates
of Cambridge's Emmanuel, all puritans,
across the ocean in America....