For most of Sutton’s history the main recreation of the upper classes was hunting. The common people also enjoyed catching wild creatures for the pot and poaching, but there were other diversions as well. Not all these pastimes were innocent - in 1567 Edward Boycher was fined for permitting illicit games to be played in his house, and the court ordered in 1593 “that no one who keeps an inn and who sells ale within the lordship aforesaid should permit any labourer or their sons to play illicit games at table or any other illicit games within their house.”
These court orders were made so that the Constable could control gaming whenever it became too excessive, and other distractions such as “mimes and minstrels leaping about” and “prohibited games in the Churchyard” were also banned. In 1559 it was ordered “that if anyone allows other people to play at bowls in their gardens or plecks he shall forfeit 6s 8d for each offence”.
The writers of an anonymous account of Sutton in 1762 are concerned with more gentlemanly pursuits. “W.H.” says that gaming and whoring are “vices to which the good folk of Sutton are strangers - there has been but one kept mistress in the place these forty years”, to which the next writer, “Agricola”, responds “it is a great mistake, that only one mistress hath ever been kept in Sutton…I hardly ever knew the place without one.” Agricola adds “no place formerly was more noted for hard drinking than Sutton…the bowling-green then flourished, and there the neighbouring gentlemen resorted.”
Many more diversions were available in the nineteenth century. A gentleman of fashion must have his billiard room, but the old bowling green near the Cup Inn finally disappeared when the railway line was built in 1861. In 1870 we hear of balls, Institute lectures, a chrysanthemum show, choral concerts and penny readings. No doubt the older pastimes continued in the pubs even after the advent of the cinema early in the twentieth century, and at least one game is as popular today as it was in 1559 - bowls.