The traditional Sussex game of Stoolball is a fun, fast, striking and fielding sport played mainly by women across Sussex and the borders of Kent, Surrey and Hampshire. Matches are also played by mixed teams of men and women. There are junior leagues and stoolball is played in many schools.
Literary references to stoolball can be found as early as the 15th century. Then played with a three or four legged milking-type stool it certainly wasn’t the game we know today. Stoolball was played by labouring country-folk, often in churchyards, and is considered to be the ancestor of cricket, baseball and rounders.
The first recorded stoolball match was between women of the East Sussex villages of Glynde and Firle was in 1866 but the first local newspaper report of stoolball being played in Sussex was in Rushlake Green in 1747.
In 1917 stoolball was introduced as a rehabilitation sport for injured WWI soldiers at Chailey Heritage and other local military hospitals by local landowner and KC Major W.W. Grantham. Major Grantham was responsible for stoolball becoming hugely popular; between the wars there were over 1000 teams playing across the UK. Fundraising matches were played annually at Lord’s cricket ground and also at Buckingham Palace.
For the history of stoolball see the Stoolball England website: www.stoolball.org.uk/history/story/