Friday, March 21, 2014

Moving With the Times - Battledore and Shuttlecock, Part 1

"Would you recommend our delicate damsels and gossamer girls to ride, drive, walk, row, run, dance, play, sing, jump the rope, throw the ball, pitch the quoit, draw the bow, and play the shuttlecock and thus give their cheeks a natural roseate hue, instead of an artificial one...Twill spoil trade in drugs and paints and drive physicians to physical labor."

We've been discussing the mid-19th century "Exercise Craze", a craze that encouraged parents, especially mothers, to provide more physical activities for their children, as it was thought that they were becoming too sedentary - sound familiar?

Childhood games are, of course, important in teaching body movement. But most the activities listed in the above quote are not really realistic for an indoor workshop - except for Battledore and Shuttlecock, which was considered appropriate for the parlor and outdoors.

Battledore and shuttlecock was not a competitive sport. Probably the most intriguing aspect of the game was that it was a cooperative sport with the players trying to see how long they could keep the shuttlecock in the air. It did not pit player against player, a rather refreshing concept in the 21st century!

The game was usually played by children, families, and young adults during the 18th and 19th century. It is reported that the record for the number of hits made, before the shuttlecock succumbed to gravity, was 2117 hits accomplished by an exhausted family in Somerset, England in 1830.

The battledores were made of parchment or rows of gut stretched across wooden frames.

The shuttlecock was made of a light material, typically cork, topped with feathers.

The Boy's Own Toy-Maker, circa 1854, had the following instructions:

"Battledores, as the name implies, were formerly all made of wood; they may be easily cut out of a piece of flat deal, not thicker than a quarter of an inch—the spades about five inches in length, and the same in breadth; the handles about six or seven inches long; and they will serve every purpose for young beginners
to practice upon. 

The best kind are made as follows: procure a slip of lance-wood, about sixteen inches long, an inch and a half broad, and a quarter of an inch thick, the edges of the outside slightly rounded; to make it, bend to the shape of the spade of the battledore, cut a slight nick, about an inch apart, all along the inside, and not quite half way through the wood; boil or steam it with hot water, and it will curve to the shape, the two ends being bevelled off to fit to the handle; this must be previously prepared quite round, except at the end to which the spade is attached, which must be quite square at the sides, and tapering a little at the extreme end. The spade end must then be glued to the two sides of the handle, and afterwards firmly bound round the join with fine waxed string; it must then be allowed to dry; "

"in the meantime prepare your covering of parchment, cut round to the shape of the spade with a margin large enough to turn over the wood-work. "

"The ends, to turn over nicely, must be cut out in this form; the skin must then be soaked in water, the damp taken off, and the ends glued round the woodwork, and when dry you will have a superior battledore.

The handle may be finished off by binding a strip of coloured leather or velvet all round it.

To make a Shuttlecock. Cut a piece of' sound cork to this shape, in it fix a short brass-headed nail at the lower end. Procure five grey goose feathers, about four and a half inches long, not too full, and all the same size; fix the ends of these into the top of the cork in a circle— each one standing in an oblique direction to the other, and your shuttlecock with the battledore will be ready for play."

My next post will document our creation of a pair of battledores and shuttlecocks, using the above instructions - soon, I promise!

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