CNN

London, England (CNN) -- An extract from an 18th-century diary containing the oldest known reference to baseball is among the items on display in a new exhibition in London exploring the English origins and cricketing connections of America's national sport.

While baseball was once claimed to have been invented in the U.S. in the mid-19th century, recent findings suggest a sport of the same name may have evolved decades earlier alongside cricket, crossing the Atlantic with English settlers to the American colonies.

One notable discovery found in a shed in a village in Surrey, southern England, in 2008 was a handwritten 18th-century diary belonging to a local lawyer, William Bray.

"Went to Stoke church this morn.," wrote Bray on Easter Monday in 1755. "After dinner, went to Miss Jeale's to play at base ball with her the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford and H. Parsons. Drank tea and stayed til 8."
Gallery: Baseball's English origins

Julian Pooley, a historian at the Surrey History Centre who verified the diary, said Bray's precise printing of the words "base ball" suggested the sport may have been new to him.

"He writes in a particular type of handwriting but when he comes across a new word he often wrote it in a clear way as if he wanted to remember it," Pooley told CNN.

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