Knur & spell

Knur & spell – aka Billeting, Billets, Poor man's golf, and Spell & Trap - was a popular game in the district until the early part of this century.

The wooden, clay or earthenware ball about the size of a golf ball – the knur – was held and released by the mechanism of a spell, or suspended in a loose sling. The word is sometimes spelled knurr or nurr. In some forms of the game, the knur was a knot of wood cut out of a tree. Some newspaper reports specify that the game is

to be played with holly knurs

The knur was then struck with a clubbed stick – known as the buckhead, pummel, or tribbit - the aim being to hit the knur the greatest distance.

The stick was about 4 ft in length, and had a hard wooden head about 6 ins long, 4 ins wide and 1 ins thick.

The longest shot is known as a cut.

The player – or laiker – is supported by a baumer or caddy.

The game is recorded in the 14th century.

The game was regularly played at local venues such as Blackheath Barrow, Gun Club Field, Lightcliffe, Popples Common, Rive Rocks, Todmorden and Spring Rock Inn, Greetland.

The game was frequently accompanied by betting, and often for very high stakes. At Stainland, the winner of the game received a copper kettle.

Shrove Tuesday and Good Friday were popular dates for the game to be played.

The name of the game may be derived from the dialect word spell, or from the Middle English knirre spel meaning knot game.

It is said that the game died out because no more clay knurs were being made

See Bottomley Arms, Shelf, Golden Eagle, Halifax, Heptonstall Museum, Lower George, Halifax, Wraggles Inn, Halifax, The Crispin Inn: Shibden Hall, Windmill Tavern, Northowram and Yorkshire Film Archive

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:13 / 15th May 2021 / 5627

Page Ref: MMK30

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