Today there is one surviving handball court in Wales, in the village of Nelson in the Rhymney Valley. But travel back two centuries and the game was a national obsession, with people travelling from far and wide to watch thrilling matches between the sporting heroes of the day. Fortunes were won and lost through side stakes and illegal gambling, and countless bylaws were put in place to try to stop the game spreading to any likely-looking blank wall.
In this book, Nelson handball player Kevin Dicks’ meticulous research traces the long history and varying fortunes of this folk sport, from its medieval churchyard (and possibly even earlier) roots, through its glory years in the 18th and 19th centuries and its links with the mining industry, to its sad decline in the 20th century, and its modernisation today.
A revealing glimpse into social history and the passions of the working man, as well as a fascinating insight into what can fairly be claimed as ‘Wales’ first national sport’.