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Bat and Trap: an ancient game

Bat and trap is the modern name for trapball, a very old game played in England since the Middle Ages. It is definitely older than cricket, and probably older than stoolball. By the time The Boy’s Own Book was published in 1828, it was considered to rank next to cricket in popularity.

The rules of the game
The first of the batsmen will walk to the trap and place the ball on it. The other team will stand on the line between the posts to bowl or even attempt to catch the ball. The batsman strikes the back of the trap with his bat. As the ball raises the batsman attempts to hit it between the goal posts. The batsman is allowed to strike the trap twice without hitting the ball. However, should the batsman strike at the ball and miss then he is out.
If the batsman fails to hit the ball between the posts then he is out. If a fielder catches the ball the batsman is out, with the following provisos: The catcher must have one foot touching the ground on or behind the line, and the ball must be caught in front of the line. The batsman, having struck the ball between the posts, shall then stand well clear of the trap whilst the ball is bowled back.

Bat and Trap on The Level
In Brighton Bat and Trap was traditionally played on The Level and the Bat and Ball public house commemorates this.  Andrew Mills was lucky enough to have his camera at the ready when he saw a group of enthusiasts participating in a Good Friday game.

Bat and Trap played on The Level
Photo by Andrew Mills
Bat and Ball public house
Photo by Tony Mould

Comments about this page

  • Dear Andrew. Do you have any idea who the enthusiasts that you saw playing were? I would be interested in contacting them to talk about the game and the Level.

    By Fiona Stokes (13/08/2010)
  • Hi Fiona. I have no idea who they were. I just happened to be passing with my camera when they were playing.

    By Andrew Mills (10/10/2011)
  • You will find that they are members of the Labour Club because they always play there on Good Friday.

    By John Eaton (26/02/2014)
  • My grandfather, John Stanford, a railway guard, organised the railway workers’ team and played Bat and Trap on the Level, back in the 1920s.

    By Penelope Stanford (27/07/2016)
  • My parent’s pub, the White Hart, York Hill, had a team that always took part every Good Friday. It was good for business as the team returned quite thirsty after all that action! This was during the early 1950s.

    By Barrie Searle (28/07/2016)
  • My mum (Jean James) had a photo of Nanna (Rose Piggott from the Labour Club) and others playing. I’ll try to dig out the next time I’m at mum’s place.

    By Clifford James (06/03/2018)
  • Hi everyone I’m from the Canterbury and District bat and trap league and was wondering if I could use the photographs on our Facebook page please of the pub and the game on the Level. Do they still play the game on Good Friday but obviously not this year.

    By Keith Jakey Janes (17/04/2020)

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