A Load of Old Balls


By: Simon Inglis
RRP: £7.99
Format: 96pp softback 150mm x 150mm
ISBN: 0 9547445 27
Published by English Heritage in October 2005

In museums and trophy cabinets, in cupboards and attics, there are loads of old balls in Britain.

And now, in all their battered glory, Played in Britain presents the best of them, up close and personal.

Stuffed with feathers, inflated by pig's bladders, hand-sewn and leather bound, chipped and cracked – but not always round – here are the balls which British sportsmen and women have kicked and thwacked, hurled and chased over the centuries.

In deepest Sussex we follow the mysterious stoolball, contested by such teams as the Plumpton Shrimps and the Hayward Heath Bluebells. From the MCC collection lands the world's oldest cricket ball, knocked around Lord's by William Ward in 1820, while bouncing across the line from the National Football Museum comes the famous orange panelled ball with which England won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966.

On other pages we catch the gnarled remains of a leather hulk fought over by the boys at Harrow, the leather and hair balls swatted around tennis courts by the likes of Henry VIII, and the lignum vitae wooden bowls once belonging to WG Grace. Skittle balls, billiard balls, tenpin bowls and the rugby ball that won the World Cup for England in 2003 - why are they that shape, we ask - gutta percha golf balls from St Andrews and tennis balls from Wimbledon, the nation's finest are all here in all their intimate detail.

'New balls, please!' we hear the umpire cry.

No thank you. This Load of Old Balls will do just fine.