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Ewhurst Stoolball Club treasurer Emily Riley on the history of a fascinating game and why you should join your local club
What is Stoolball? A question we always seem to hear when trying to recruit.
Historical references to Stoolball date back to the 15th Century. A game involving throwing something at a stool to knock it over whilst other players tried to defend the stool was played often in churchyards by country folk. It is therefore not a wild assumption that Stoolball may have been a forerunner to baseball and even cricket!
The game of Stoolball received official standardisation in Victorian times and the first recorded match was in 1866 between the E. Sussex villages of Glynde and Firle. In l917 Major W.W. Grantham became an ambassador for the sport, promoting it both nationally and internationally. By 1930 there were over 1,000 teams around Britain but during the Second World War the game reverted back to Sussex. Major Grantham formed the Stoolball Association of Great Britain at Lords Cricket Ground in 1924; this was replaced in 1979 by the National Stoolball Association, which in 2008 became Stoolball England.
Today there are hundreds of teams across Sussex, Kent and Surrey, mostly made up of women. There are also teams in India, Sri Lanka and Australia.
The modern version of the game is played by two teams who compete to score the most runs. There are two wickets standing at shoulder height, about 14 metres apart. The bats are willow, with a round face and a long, sprung handle. The ball, small and hard, is bowled underarm towards one wicket.
Just like cricket, batsmen score by hitting the ball into the field and running between the two wickets. They can also hit the ball beyond a boundary line to score 4 or 6. Batsmen can be bowled, caught or run-out, or even body-before-wicket.
Ewhurst Stoolball Club was formed in 1972 with its first recorded match against Guildford in May 1973. The annual subscription at that time was 50p, with 5p match fees for each match played. In those days the Club played friendly matches mostly against other local teams and in 1976 Ewhurst made their mark by losing out in the final of a knockout tournament played at Oakwood Hill. In 1977 Ewhurst joined the Surrey Ladies Stoolball Association and a uniform of red tops and navy skirts was introduced. These are the colours the Club uses today although skirts seem to have become skorts.
In 2013 Ewhurst Stoolball Club celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a wonderful Open Day and Allcomers Match involving men and women. Great fun was had by all and now we look forward to the next 40 years.
There are two League divisions for Surrey and in 1979 Ewhurst proudly won the Second Division Trophy and in 1995 the Club was joint winner with Holmbury St. Mary. Currently Ewhurst tends to sit in the top half of the B Division. The Club continues to strive for a repeat performance but it cannot do this without attracting new members.
Anyone can play Stoolball! You don’t have to be really fit, and it’s a great way to make friends. Anyone from the age of 12 can play and some people play league Stoolball right into their 70s. Friendly and League matches are played against other local teams with a welcoming atmosphere and a proud tradition of sandwiches and tea after the game.
There’s no better way to enjoy a summer evening, represent your village and meet new people so come and find out more and spread the word about Stoolball.
Indoor pre-season training evenings will commence this year on Wednesday 26th February (venue to be confirmed). All newcomers are welcome to come along and learn the game.
For more details, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ewhurststoolball.co.uk
This season’s opening night is scheduled for Wednesday 2nd April at 6.30pm on Ewhurst Cricket Ground. The team will then meet every Monday and Wednesday for training or matches.