Jump to content
Stu

Knur & Spell

Recommended Posts

Knur and Spell

I found this one reading up some village sports

The “Nipsy” version was what the lads used to play

It was played with a piece of wood sharpened at both ends which was placed in a slight depression in the ground then tipped and struck whilst it was rising with a club resembling a golf driver. The winner being the one who could strike it furthest.

I know it was played in Grenoside.

Was it played anywhere else in Sheffield and the surrounding villages?

From what I can gather the official Knur and Spell consisted of a short stake (tee) about 4 inches long upon a which a numbered ball was placed and then whacked with a long club like a long driver used in golf. The furthest ball being the winner

"As late as the 1970s, a sport peculiar to the north of England was still being played in the Calder Valley.

Knur and spell – more usually billets or billeting, a variation of the ancient game played locally, attracted huge support in its heyday, with hundreds of pounds changing hands.

Knur and spell is believed to have originated in medieval times and was often played on Shrove Tuesday and Good Friday. It could be even older: the name derives from the Norse for ball game – “nurspel,” indicating that it may have come over with the Vikings, although “spell” is also a North Country word for a piece of wood.

The game was at the height of its popularity in the 19th century, played mainly in South Yorkshire and Lancashire. Billets, or billeting, acquired an equally enthusiastic following in the Calder Valley area where players congregated on any large open field and competed for prizes such as copper kettles.

Interest dwindled as wages rose and working men were able to afford to indulge in sports such as golf. (What kind of working men were they?)

There are still many, however, who have fond memories of knur and spell: truly the games of the labouring classes."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nipsy must have been played around Woodhouse,

my mate found a couple of the nipsy's under the floorboards.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From a Rootsweb mailing list:

Herbert Watson Crawshaw and his son Ernest ("Jim") were experts at "Knur and Spell":

Herbert Crawshaw was a great player and it is said that he could drive a

knur (potty) from Green Moor Top (Pennine) into Station Road at Deepcar.

Jim's career was lived in a different era to his father, Jim's record knock

was 262.5 yards. Then came the "Knur and Spell" challenge to the world from

Stocksbridge,
Yorkshire Sport
staked £200 for anyone who could beat Jim,

but there were no challengers so Jim Crawshaw became the World Champion.

Our new world champion was filmed by the Pathe Gazette at Green Moor before

a large crown on the 1st April 1929, drinks flowed freely. Yes! It was the

1st of April but Jim was no fool! [Fox Magazine 1959].

Hugh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparent local Champions (dates unknown) but in the 1920s era

Joe Machin World Champion - Championships at Queen's Ground Barnsley

Henry Mollart Grenoside

Jimmy Deardon

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was always under the impression that this game was usually a village pastime and not generally played in towns, I may be wrong and perhaps someone may put me right on this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 01/08/2019 at 06:41, tozzin said:

I was always under the impression that this game was usually a village pastime and not generally played in towns, I may be wrong and perhaps someone may put me right on this.

I think you're correct, Tozzin.  There was a Knur and Spell Handicap organised by Mr J. Bonsell in June 1890 at the Belle Vue Hotel in Cricket Road. Even in rural Grensoside in 1912 neighbours objected to knur and spell taking place in a field next to the Angel Inn due to damage and bad language.  In 1935 it was still played regularly on Saturday afternoons between Stocksbridge and Deepcar.  Around Sheffield it was also known as "Peggy".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×