trap ball


Trap-ball or Knur and Spell is an old English game. It can be traced back to the beginning of the fourteenth century and was commonly played in northern England as late as 1825, but has since been practically confined to children. As late as the 1930s exhibition games of knur and spell by veterans drew large crowds to the Rusland Valley in North Lancashire, according to the chronicles of the North West Evening Mail, But even then it was regarded as an archaic game. Knur refers to a hardwood ball, as could be made from a knot of wood. (From Middle High German knorre, knot) Spell is the stick of wood used to strike it. (Probably from Old Norse, spela, or Old High German spilla, stake)

It was played with a wooden trap, by means of which a ball (a knur) of hard wood about the size of a walnut was thrown into the air, where it was struck by the player with the trip-stick, which is a bat consisting of two parts: a 4 ft (~1.2m) long stick made of ash or lancewood; and the pommel, a piece of very hard wood about 6 in. (~150mm) long, 4 in. (~100mm) wide and 1 in. (~25mm) thick. This was swung in both hands, although shorter bats for one hand were sometimes used.

Originally the ball was thrown into the air by striking a lever upon which it rested in the trap, but in the later development of the game, usually called knur and spell, a spell or trap furnished with a spring was used, thus ensuring regularity in the height to which the knur was tossed. The object of the game was to strike the knur the greatest possible distance, either in one or a series of strokes.

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