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Real Photo’s of Knur and Spell Players, BARNSLEY area c1910, most probably Shelley, Wentworth district.

The game details..........Knur and Spell (or Knur and Sling) Knur and Spell is another games whereby men attempt to hit an object as hard as they damn well can (or otherwise swear violently when they miss). The Knur, a hard golf-ball sized ball, is propelled vertically into the air by a Spell, a mechanical device that is tripped when a foot or club presses a lever (like the Trap in Bat and Trap). It would seem that in the Barnsley area the spell (trap) was always used. The sling, used in the Pennine districts of Yorkshire was only encountered by Barnsley players when Yorkshire Television organised the World Championship in the 1960's and 70's. It is simply a little sling that dangles the knur from a stick stuck in the ground. Other than that the games are exactly the same. Nipsy and Knur & Spell happily co-existed for many years but as the much larger fields needed for Knurr were swallowed up by housing estates and factories, this may have led to it's decline.

The Knur (or Potty)

The game around Barnsley was known as Potty Knocking or just Knurr as the Knurr is a ceramic sphere about 15 mm in diameter commonly used in the kettles of the pre war era to stop limescale furring it up. The water in this area is beautifully soft so potties were quite rare. Later on when it was impossible to get them a local ceramic pipeworks, Naylor's of Cawthorne was roped in to produce new ones. Officially or not is lost in the mists of time.

The Spell

The Spell quite rightly is the trap (the same mechanism as for 'Bat and Trap') that throws the potty up and forward, normally a piece of spring steel with a cup at the business end to hold the potty, this had spikes at each corner to enable the trap to be bedded down in grass etc. Screw adjustment to the stop bar allowed very small increments in the height and distance the potty was thrown. The swing of the stick was kept constant, adjustments made until contact was made with the potty, this might take days to get right. When all was set up right the player would trip the trap with the stick and doing a round the head swing would hopefully hit the potty.

The Pummel

Around Barnsley the stick was known as a 'Pummel' with the interchangeable heads as pummel heads. Different heads were used for differing weather conditions. Play was always with the wind if possible and different wood faces would tend to loft the potty to take advantage of the wind or if playing with the wind was impossible, a harder face would be used. These wood faces tended to be fruit woods such as Apple or Plum, stuck onto a Beech head (this giving the weight to the pummel head) giving an appearance similar to a 1 wood in golf, the overall stick length being upwards of 5'6" the shaft being made from Hickory. The shaft end was tapered, this fitted very snugly into a matching joint in the pummell head. To change a head, the whipping that tightened the head/shaft joint together was removed and a lit candle gently run up the joint length. This softened the Bitumen that was used as a form of re-usable glue in the joint and the head removed. Cleaning the joint first, new Bitumen was spread in the joint, the new head fitted and the whipping remade. This whipping was the linen thread used by old time cobblers to sew soles on shoes - "Tatchin end" in Barnsley Speke, no idea of its correct name.