Sussex Stoolball plays a role in the rehabilitation of WWI soldiers.
Our next Conversation Cafes session takes place at Jubilee Library, Brighton on Wednesday March 9th 2.30-4.30pm.
In our March session of Conversation cafes at Jubilee Library for the Boys on the Plaque project, we’ll look at the rich history of stoolball from its early origins, via the Victorians and WWI through to the present day. This will be presented by Stoolball England officer Anita Broad.
The traditional Sussex sport of stoolball, which originated in Medieval times, is still played enthusiastically across Sussex today. However, during the First World War the game was reinvigorated as an opportunity to continue the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers.
Traditionally a rural village women’s game, stoolball played a significant part in the rehabilitation of soldiers injured in WWI. The eccentric Sussex landowner Maj. W W Grantham of Barcombe and Chailey was solely responsible for the promotion of the sport nationally and internationally, both as an ideal sport for rehabilitation and a fund-raising resource.
Maj. Grantham began organising stoolball matches at the Princess Louise Military Hospital at Chailey Heritage and games were played against the soldiers at the Limbless Hospital for Men at the Brighton Pavilion. The popularity of the game quickly extended around the country and between the wars there were over 1000 teams playing stoolball.
Stoolball has always been a sport heavily connected with Sussex and dates back to the Middle Ages where players would use their hand to defend a wooden stool from being hit by the ball. In its modern format, it resembles a mix of cricket and baseball with a wicket comprising a square piece of wood elevated at around head height and teams aiming to score runs with the bat whilst preventing the opposition from catching or bowling them out.
Major William Wilson Grantham is, in many ways, the modern favour of stoolball. He was serving on a military tribunal in Britain with the 6th Royal Sussex Regiment when his eldest son received a serious injury on the Western Front. There were a variety of methods used for the treatment and recuperation of wounded soldiers during the war, such as military massage. The possibility for also participating in sporting activity and contest was highly appealing to the army but they were wary of games such as football, rugby and even cricket and tennis being to strenuous and physical for these men and, as a result, likely to exacerbate their injuries.
In response to this need, Major Grantham pioneered an inaugural stoolball match between wounded soldiers and elderly lawyers (including himself). The soldiers ran out victorious. Following the success of the match, Major Grantham began organising regular games in Sussex for injured soldiers.
Such was the benefit of the sport it was played by both wounded soldiers and children at the St Nicholas Home for Raid Shock Children at Chailey Heritage.
Lowther’s Lambs at The Boar’s Head: a talk by Dr Chris Kempshall
Date(s) – 29/06/2016
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Location: The Keep
29th June 2016, 5.30pm-6.30pm. £3.00
On 30 June 1916 the men of the Southdowns Battalions, ‘Lowther’s Lambs’, went over the top at ‘The Boar’s Head’, near Richebourg in France. What happened next has become known as ‘The Day that Sussex Died’. This talk will tell the story of what happened that day, and how these volunteer battalions gave their lives in an attempt to ensure success for the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Dr Chris Kempshall is Associate Tutor at the University of Sussex and Associate Lecturer for the University of Kent, UK, specialising in allied relations on the Western Front and modern representations of the war. He is also Project Officer for East Sussex County Council’s First World War Centenary Project.
Admission: £3.00 (Please pay on the door and arrive at least 15 minutes before the talk)
Booking is essential. Please use the form below to book your place:
Thank to those who attended the Conversation Cafe, including members of Brighton and Hove U3A, yesterday at Jubilee Library, Brighton (one of the project partners is Brighton and Hove Libraries service). There was a good turnout with much to share on the theme of family memories of WWI with a number of the group bringing in artefacts, letters, maps and more of near and distant relatives who’d served or fallen during the Great War as you can see from the images on this page.
We also discussed the book we’d be reading as part of the project, the WWI related book A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie, which the group were on the whole, ambivalent about despite the good reviews from book sellers. Brighton featured in the book in a small way, but it also tackled big themes including colonialism, love, religion, war, class and more, which was a lot to process we felt! We will be moving onto our next Great War themed book kindly supplied by Brighton and Hove Libraries Service in February 2016.
The Research group from the Boys in the Plaque Project led by Ross Hammond also joined the group to talk about the information and photos unearthed about the aforementioned ‘Boys’ and what happened to them. Lots of intrepid detective work being done this year it seems, and really fascinating to hear the news.
Our next event is on Wednesday February 10th at Jubilee Library with Dr Chris Kempshall of the WWI in East Sussex project, who will speak to the group on this theme: http://www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/ Sessions are free and all are welcome.
This was mentioned yesterday by Project Manager Clare Hankinson who is based with partner Fabrica gallery.
This will be a group session to discuss our own families and their roles in WWI, with personal experiences, photos and memories – wherever in the UK or Commonwealth they were from. If you have any items to share or anecdotes related to this theme, do bring them along to the session, if not, then come along and find out more about more intimate experiences from those who have reminiscences to share.
May 11th – Meet at Fabrica Jo Palache of Brighton Museum, talks about piecing together stories of soldiers at the Pavilion Military Hospital and for the ‘War Stories’ exhibition.’
June 8th – Meet at Jubilee Library Professor June Purvis discusses the Suffragettes role in WWI and beyond.
July 13th – Meet at Fabrica Dr Anne Logan discusses the role of women in the First World War
August 10th – Meet at Fabrica The Boys on the Plaque research group to give a presentation on soldiers from the city of Brighton and Hove to the group
September 14th – Meet at Jubilee Library A final session and discussion of our themes and events. This session will host visitors from the WWI themed Brighton’s Graphic War book project from QueenSpark Books.
A big thank you to Margaret Curson of the Brighton and Hove Libraries Service Rare Books Archive for her fascinating talk about the archives and special collection related to World War One at Hove Library in December 2015.
This event was part of our monthly Conversation Cafe session, as part of the Fabrica run Boys on the Plaque project, and funded by the Heritage Lottery.
We really enjoyed looking through some rare and special resources at this library, complete with its’ own WWI War memorial.
The annexe at Hove Library was once a smoking balcony for readers at the library, but a behest in the early part of the 20th century, allowed for the room to be re-built as part of Hove Library proper.