Hockey 50 Years Ago

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Gloucester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, was built in 1100 as a Norman abbey church and has one of the largest medieval stained glass windows in England, known as the Great East Window. It measures 22 x 10.4 metres.

The window dates from c.1350 and commemorates the Battle of Crecy in Northern France in 1346. It depicts the Coronation Of The Virgin, and the figures consist of winged angels, apostles, saints, kings, and abbots. The armorial shields in the lower lights are those of King Edward III, the Black Prince, whose knightly companions and others who took part in the victory at Crecy, and who in some degrees were connected with Gloucestershire.

Among the armorial shields in the lower right side of the window is a medallion of about 60 cm in diameter showing a man – known as 'the Crecy man' – apparently preparing to strike a ball with a curved stick (see photographs below).

There are many theories about who this man is and what game he is playing. Some believe this is a portrait of the maker of the glass window – a kind of signature – and that he was not living far from Gloucester.

Other claims suggest that the window was made in Rouen, but as England was at war with France it is unlikely that the order for the manufacture of the window would be awarded to a Frenchman.

If the artist was a local man from Gloucestershire, he might be playing similar to Bandy-Ball – the local game of 'Not' – which is described in Grose's Provincial Glossary from 1787 as, "A game used in Gloucestershire, where the parties, ranged on opposite sides, with each a bat in their hands, endeavour to strike a ball to opposite goals. The game is called not, from the ball being made of knotty piece of wood."

Other theories suggest that the man is playing the old English game of 'cambuca' or, if the window was made on the continent, the French 'choule à la crosse' or the Dutch 'colf'.

Whatever form or derivative of hockey it may be, the image presents a very lifelike stance of a hockey player. Indeed, there is speculation that it came from a medieval coaching manual! It is even more impressive as it is crafted from stained glass, which is not the most exact art form.

Very grateful acknowledgements to Carl Giden and Patrick Houda of The Society For International Hockey Research (SIHR).

GloucesterCathedral 01GloucesterCathedral 02

One of the first questions asked by visitors to The Hockey Museum (THM) or one of our exhibitions is, "How old is hockey?" The question is nigh impossible to answer and it would depend on what is meant by "hockey". The organised game that we might recognise today undoubtedly started in the 1870s. Earlier forms of a team game, mainly in schools, was played for over a century before that.

However, one of the most natural things for a human being to do as a recreation is to take up a stick, a club or a bat to strike an object. Such recreation definitely takes us back millennia, certainly back to Egypt around 2000BC and most likely well before that. Such activity is known to have taken place on at least four continents.

THM is bringing together a collection of images and objects that is helping to capture this ancient history of our sport. Various examples of these appear elsewhere on this website but this article aims to bring them together in an occasional series, though not in chronological order.

Hockey 50 Years Ago: An Introduction

This style of feature appears regularly in many publications and websites. Because hockey was blessed with excellent magazines for both the women’s and men’s games throughout the 20th century we...

August 1965

The end of season and mid-summer editions of both the women's and men's magazines had a great deal of coverage of the Easter Hockey Festivals. These wonderful sporting and social...

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