Stoolball (England)

Name of sport (game)


Name in native language


Place of practice (continent, state, nation)

Stoolball is a bat and ball game now played mainly in the counties of Sussex, Kent and Surrey (England).


It has its origins from at least the 15th century and some argue that cricket is derived from stoolball. It is game for both sexes: both adults and older children.
The origins of the game, and indeed its name, comes from placing milking stools on the ground and defending them with a hand. The stools were also suspended from trees.

base stoolball orig

The game we know as baseball may be relatively modern, but it has medieval roots. Many bat-and-ball games were played throughout the Middle Ages at religious festivals and events. One game, stool ball (sometimes possibly stow ball, or stob ball, or stump ball) dates back at least to the 14th century, and many historians believe that it is the common ancestor of both baseball and cricket. It was also the first bat-and-ball-type game known to have been played in North America (at Plymouth in 1621 at Christmastime, no less, much to the chagrin of Governor Bradford). In this game, the pitcher tries to hit a stool or stump with the ball, while the batter tries to defend the target using bare hands or a bat.
Stool ball was known for being played by both women and men together, and there are indications that it was a sort of springtime ritual, played at Eastertime. Some of the poetic mentions of the game imply an undertone of sexuality; "playing at stool ball" was used at least once as an euphemism.

The Ancient National Game of Stoolball A Match at Horsham Park The Gazetter 1878The Ancient National Game of Stoolball - A Match at Horsham Park', The Gazetter, 1878

In many stool ball games, tansy-cakes were the traditional winners' prize. Tansy-cakes were a traditional Eastertime food, so this is another connection of stool ball to Easter celebrations.
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what the rules of the period versions of stool ball were. Since it was a folk game, it was likely to have varying rules at various times and places. From post-period references to the game, we know that in some versions of the game, there was no bat, and bare hands were used instead. Other versions had no baserunning, just a single stool or stump base that the batter was expected to defend. But bats and running the bases were included in some versions, too.

In the following centuries the rules were formalised and the stools replaced with the wickets mounted on posts or stakes. There was a great revival during the First World War when the game was thought suitable for the recuperating wounded soldiers and even a match was placed at Lord's, the home of cricket, in 1917.
The game remained popular until the Second World War when social changes meant a decline in its popularity.

Edward Martin A game of Stoolball at West Tarring Sussex 1856
Edward Martin, A game of Stoolball at West Tarring, Sussex, 1856


Like cricket it has eleven players-a-side who play in much the same positions. The wickets are a square board of wood on top of a wooden post or stake. The batter defends the board with a bat shaped rather like an elongated table tennis bat and made of willow. The wickets are sixteen yards apart.

The bowler, and this is what make the game so suitable for all, can only bowl underarm to try and to hit the wicket. The batsman meanwhile has to try and hit the ball and score runs by running between the wickets. There are eight balls an over.
The pitch is smaller than cricket - 90 yards diameter - and does not have to be level, which harks back to its earliest origins when in the 15th century there were complaints of the game being played in churchyards after Sunday service.

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Current status





Stoolball England  
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tel.: +44 7708 197740

Ditchling Stoolball Club 
Tel.: 07967383735 
Ditchling Stoolball Club

West Kent Ladies Stoolball League 
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West Kent Ladies Stoolball League

Worthing Ladies Stoolball Club
Tel: 01903 261806
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Worthing Ladies Stoolball Club

Fletching Stoolball Club
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Fletching Stoolball Club logo

Stedham Stoolball Club