Item of the Month- February
Practice Makes Perfect! Women’s Edwardian Practice Cricket Bat, 1904-1908
Joseph William Wallis came to Heslington near York, along with his wife and family, five boys and one girl, Hilda (who was born in in 1899) to run the Charles XII public house. His reputation of being a firm but friendly landlord – no swearing, and no darts or dominoes on Sundays – preceded him, as did his love for cricket and his passion to establish a Heslington village team.
This he did with great fervour and it wasn’t long before Heslington and its supporters were travelling on farm carts or by any other available means to other villages to enjoy a good day’s cricket. They were good and got even better. In fact, so dedicated was `Joe’, and so keen were the team and supporters, that he dedicated an upstairs room in the pub to become their clubroom.
It wasn’t long before a football team was established but, in truth, cricket remained Joe’s first love. Indeed, he was recognised as a formidable slow left-hand bowler himself.
To complement the men’s team, Heslington also raised a ladies’ team and, naturally, when Hilda was at a suitable age, Joe encouraged her to join the team. She duly did this, eventually becoming its captain, with a good deal of success, and displaying the same fervour and commitment to cricket as her father. It is believed that this bat was used by Hilda herself, between the years 1904 and 1908.
Practice cricket bats are cut narrower than standard ones to force the batsman/batswoman to focus on position of the bat in relation to the ball to ensure contact. It has also been speculated that the narrow nature of the women’s versions was developed during this period to compensate for the restrictions caused by their long Edwardian dresses.
This recent acquisition is an important addition to the Yorkshire Cricket Archive’s growing collection of artefacts and memorabilia relating to women’s cricket in the county, and the bat may be viewed in the Yorkshire Cricket Museum.
Photograph 1: The Wallis family pictured outside the Grey Horse at Elvington where Joe was the landlord before moving to the Charles XII, Heslington, where he formed the men’s and women’s cricket teams. The full names of some of the group are not known.
Photograph 2: Hilda Wallis pictured in her early 20s when she would have been a member of the Heslington Ladies’ Cricket Club team and making good use of her bat. The photograph was taken in the back yard of the Charles XII pub.
Photograph 3: Joe Wallis in bowling mode