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Knur and Spell

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Knur and Spell



Nor and Spell: drawing by George Walker, 1814

The engraving and text here are taken from George Walker's book The Costume of Yorkshire, first published in 1814.


Nor and Spell

"This is no doubt the same game, a little varied, which Strutt, in his Sports and Pastimes of England, denominates Northen, or Northern Spell. The little wooden ball is in
Yorkshire called the Nor, and the receptacle, in which it is placed, the Spell. A sight of the Plate will sufficiently explain the nature of the game, which is necessarily played upon an open piece of ground. Upright sticks or stones, placed at certain equal intervals of about twenty yards, serve to regulate the score by determining the distance to which the ball is struck. The player uses a long stick of cane or hazle, to the end of which is fixed a thick solid piece of wood. With this instrument he raises the ball by tipping the sharp end of the spell, and he strikes it while it is in the air. Strutt describes the spell as hung upon a pivot considerably above the ground, the ball as made of leather, and much larger, and the stick as resembling in form the bat used for cricket. In short, it approaches more nearly to the modern game of Trap-ball, and by no means admits of the skill required in the one here represented."

George Walker, The Costume of Yorkshire, London: 1814. Reprinted 1885.

Sidney Oldall Addy has a brief entry in his A Glossary of Words used in the Neighbourhood of
Sheffield (London 1888, vol I p 126):

"KNUR AND SPELL, sb. a game.
The knur is a small round ball, less than a billiard ball. It is put into a cup fixed upon a spring, which being touched causes the ball to rise into the air, when it is struck by a trip-stick. The cup and spring are called the spell. The trip-stick is a slender stick made broad and flat at one end, the knur being struck by the broad part. The game is played on Shrove Tuesday."


The game is still played (Yorkshire Television organised a "World" Championship in the 1960s and '70s), though apparently it has declined rather in favour of Nipsy, which doesn't need such a large playing area. The various implements involved have different names in different areas. More detailed information can be seen at:

The Online Guide to Traditional Games: Knur and Spell (or Knur and Sling)




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