A bit of an odd phenomenon I thought on Monday as we were walking across Wenlock’s Church Green. And not only because we had sunshine – a rare event over the past few months – but also because the willow tree appeared to emitting its own light. The sunshine was also catching the edge of William Penny Brookes’ grave (1809-1896), he who was the town’s enlightened physician and who in 1850 recreated the Olympian Games as an annual town event. These games attracted national and later international interest. Brookes was in correspondence with Baron Coubertin (often given the credit for masterminding the modern Olympics) who visited Wenlock to see the games for himself. The model that William Brookes had perfected, down to the designing of the medals, was the actual inspiration for the creation of the modern Olympic Movement.
Brookes was a man who operated on many fronts when it came to improving community wellbeing. He was responsible for the arrival of the railway and the gas works, founded a library and the Agricultural Reading Society for working people, conducted trials on children’s bodily fitness and lobbied for the introduction of physical education to British schools. The link above gives a brief summary of his life and legacy to the town, and indeed to the world at large. The house where he lived stands opposite the church, marked with the requisite blue plaque. He is well remembered.