Cricket: A very Flemish game

If you are a cricket fan you will know that the ICC Champions Trophy started yesterday. This guest post by Dr Jaap Harskamp (formerly Curator of Dutch & Flemish collections at the British Library) gives some interesting background to the history of the game and connections with Flanders and the Flemish.

During the medieval period Flanders dominated the European textile industry, but had to import wool from England since its own production was insufficient in quantity. In return, England imported Flemish cloth. To remind the nation of the importance of the trade, Edward III ordered that the Speaker of the House of Lords should sit on a woolsack. Large numbers of Flemish immigrants crossed the Channel and settled in England. Weavers Lane in Southwark, is a reminder that Flemish craftsmen once occupied the area. Immigrants also established the so-called New Draperies, first into Norwich and then to villages in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex during the 1570s, producing fabrics that were lighter and cheaper than the traditional woollens.

Cricket originated in the sheep-rearing country of the South East, where the short grass of its fields made it possible to bowl a ball of wool at a target. That target was usually the wicket-gate of the sheep pasture, which was defended with a bat in the form of a shepherd’s crooked staff. The word wicket – in the original sense of a small door or grille – was derived from Anglo-Norman French and Old Northern French ‘wiket’. The word was also in use in Middle Dutch. Continue reading