Hockey's Military Stories

Enquiry  Donate

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's Military Stories: An Introduction

This research project was prompted by the enormous interest and publicity that has surrounded the centenary of the start of WW1. We knew that many, indeed thousands, of hockey players were involved and that many lost their lives. The stories do not just relate to serving men but also those...

India's First International Match: Indian Army Team Tour to New Zealand, 1926

India's First International Match: Indian Army Team Tour to New Zealand, 1926

  Captain H V M Cox's hockey stick from the Indian Army Hockey Team tour to New Zealand in 1926.The engraved plate reads:1926 Indian Army Hockey Team v New Zealand.390 goals for. 37 against.Stick used by Captain V M H Cox throughout the tour.   This stick is one of...

Lt Campbell: The First Hockey Player To Die In WW1

Lt Campbell: The First Hockey Player To Die In WW1

Lt Charles Arthur Campbell   It seems highly likely that Lt Charles Arthur Campbell was the first hockey player to make the ultimate sacrifice in WW1 as there were so few others killed, officers or soldiers, before the Battle at Mons. Lt Campbell was born in London but grew up...

Hockey Heroism At The Only Major Sea Battle Of WW1

Hockey Heroism At The Only Major Sea Battle Of WW1

Once the First World War had begun it became obvious that the Royal Navy, traditionally the pride of the British Nation for centuries, would have to play a vital role in what would become both a domestic and global conflict or perish in the attempt. Not for nothing is the...

Lieutenant Eric Walter Poyntz Westmacott RN

Lieutenant Eric Walter Poyntz Westmacott RN

Perhaps the first Naval hockey player to become a casualty of the Great War? Lieutenant Eric Walter Poyntz Westmacott RN was on the left wing for the Royal Navy in 1912 and in 1914 he was reported as "the best player in the Navy team". That was to be his...

Home

About Us & Visiting

Contact Us

Support Us

COVID-19 Collecting

International Focus

News

Features

Quizzes & Games

Education

Library

Oral Histories

Artefacts & Archives

Research & Study Topics

Timeline

Our Partners

BathUni Library Logo     EH Logo on white    FIH Logo Large    HLF compact cmyk   Mercian BLACK 2011 12   WokingBC RGB logo     CMYK Portrait

S5 Box

Login

Register

You need to enable user registration from User Manager/Options in the backend of Joomla before this module will activate.