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knur-and-spell


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A game played in the north of England, with a continuous popularity from the mid 1700s to the 1930s, surviving into the later 20th century in some forms as an element of heritage culture. The sport is based upon the striking of a pot knur—a small spherical ball, suspended on a string from a gallows-like contraption known as the spell—with a long stick, rather like a golf club. The sport was popular in particular in regions of north-east Lancashire and south Yorkshire, areas which produced some of the most notable ‘world champions’ of the sport. Matches, or challenges, could be played on common land, often across the fields and moors outside built-up areas and under the patronage of entrepreneurial publicans. Matches were decided in two ways: the shortest number of ‘knocks’ (hits, or strikes) with which a player proceeded between two set points; or the single longest knock or hit, from a set number of attempts. The second of these was the more common mode of competitive play. Also known as ‘poor man's golf’, or ‘tipping’, the sport's popularity declined with the emergence of wider options in the changing leisure economy and consumer culture of the later 20th century.

Subjects: Social sciencesSociology


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