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Reviving the craft of cricket ball making in the UK

Dukes cricket ballAs Co-Chair of Heritage Crafts, the UK charity set up to support traditional crafts skills, Jay Blades MBE is leading a new initiative to bring cricket ball making back to the UK.

Cricket ball making has been listed as extinct in the UK since the first edition of the Red List of Endangered Crafts was published in 2017. While some of the processes that go into make a cricket ball are done in the UK, the highly-skilled hand-stitching is usually outsourced to other countries.

Heritage Crafts Co-Chair Jay Blades MBE said:

“We are putting a national shout out to trainers and wannabe cricket ball makers. Get in touch! We need to find retired makers, or anyone with knowledge of how to make cricket balls, to contact Heritage Crafts so we can capture those skills and hopefully pass them on to a new generation of cricket ball makers in this country. Come on Britain! Let’s get the ball rolling and bring cricket ball making back!”

The aim is to find serious trainees, perhaps with saddlery skills or a background in leather work, who want to learn how to make cricket balls. Heritage Crafts and partners, including Duke’s Cricket, are raising funds to support the training, so we can bring the craft of making top-level cricket balls back to the UK, the birthplace of cricket.

To register your interest as a potential trainer or trainee, please contact Heritage Crafts at info@heritagecrafts.org.uk.

Cricket ball making (hand stitched)

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Cricket ball making (hand stitched)

 

The making of hand-stitched cricket balls with a cork core and leather covering.

This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.

 

Status Extinct
Craft category Leather; Sporting equipment
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 0
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
0
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
0
Current total no. of leisure makers
0
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The game of cricket began in the Kent-Sussex borders, with hedgerow sticks for bats, the wicket gate of sheep pens for stumps, and droppings rolled with wool for balls. The sport grew popular in the south east of England in the seventeenth century (Countryfile).

A cricket ball has a cork core, layered with tightly wound string and covered with a leather case. The construction details, dimensions, quality and performance of cricket balls are specified by British Standard BS 5993. A test cricket ball is covered with four pieces of leather, while a lower quality balls are covered with two pieces of leather.

Today, no one manufactures hand-stitched cricket balls in the UK. In some cases, the raw materials are sent from the UK to the Indian sub-continent for fabrication, and the balls are then finished in the UK. In value terms, 75 per cent of the value comes from the UK in terms of the raw materials and finishing off. The fabrication skills in India are excellent – but the raw materials and management are lacking.

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Shortage of workers: Dukes Cricket Balls was originally based in Kent and then moved to East London. They brought in workers from South India to make the balls, but when the government changed its immigration regulations to require a degree, this source of workers disappeared.
  • Market issues: It takes 3.5 hours to make a test match quality cricket ball, but consumers only want to pay £5 for a test match quality ball – killed the UK industry
  • Ageing workforce: As the old boys died out, there was no one to replace them as no one wanted to do it.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

Former craftspeople:

  • Dukes Cricket Balls – stopped UK manufacture 4-5 years ago; now supply raw materials to India where the balls are fabricated, and then finished off in the UK
  • Readers – stopped UK manufacture within the last ten years

 

Other information

 

References