Apr 122016
 

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On this date in 1937 Frank Whittle ground tested the first ever turbojet which he had virtually single handedly designed and built. Whittle’s whole life story is one of triumph over obstacles by sheer guts and determination. His story is also one of brilliance versus the stupidity of “the system,” a story that is seemingly endlessly retold.

Whittle was born in Earlsdon, Coventry, in 1907, and when he was nine years old, the family moved to Royal Leamington Spa where his father, a highly inventive practical engineer and mechanic, purchased the Leamington Valve and Piston Ring Company.  Frank followed in his father’s footsteps at an early age, learning to use the equipment at his father’s company. At the age of 15, determined to be a pilot, Whittle applied to join the RAF.

In January 1923, having passed the RAF entrance examination with a high mark, Whittle reported to RAF Halton as an Aircraft Apprentice. He lasted only two days: being just five feet tall and with a small chest measurement, he failed the medical. He then put himself through a vigorous training program and special diet devised by a physical training instructor at Halton to build up his physique, only to fail again six months later, when he was told that he could not be given a second chance, despite having added three inches to his height and chest. Undeterred, he applied again under an assumed name and presented himself as a candidate at the No 2 School of Technical Training RAF Cranwell. This time he passed the physical and, in September that year, 364365 Boy Whittle, F started his three-year training as an aircraft mechanic.

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Whittle hated the strict discipline imposed on apprentices and, convinced there was no hope of ever becoming a pilot he at one time seriously considered deserting. However, throughout his early days as an aircraft apprentice (and at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell), he maintained his interest in model aircraft and joined the Model Aircraft Society, where he built working replicas. The quality of these attracted the eye of the Apprentice Wing commanding officer, who noted that Whittle was also a mathematical genius. He was so impressed that in 1926 he recommended Whittle for officer training at RAF College Cranwell.

Whittle’s officer training included flying lessons on the Avro 504. He excelled in all his courses and had his first solo flight in 1927 after only 13.5 hours instruction, quickly progressing to the Bristol Fighter and gaining a reputation for daredevil low flying and aerobatics. A requirement of the course was that each student had to produce a thesis for graduation: Whittle decided to write his on potential aircraft design developments, notably flight at high altitudes and speeds over 500 mph (800 km/h). In Future Developments in Aircraft Design he showed that incremental improvements in existing propeller engines were unlikely to make such flight routine. Instead he described what is today referred to as a motorjet; a motor using a conventional piston engine to provide compressed air to a combustion chamber whose exhaust was used directly for thrust – essentially an afterburner attached to a propeller engine.

Whittle graduated in 1928 at the age of 21 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in July. He ranked second in his class in academics, won the Andy Fellowes Memorial Prize for Aeronautical Sciences for his thesis, and was described as an “exceptional to above average” pilot. However, his flight logbook also showed numerous red ink warnings about showboating and overconfidence, and because of dangerous flying in an Armstrong Whitworth Siskin he was disqualified from the end of term flying contest.

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Whittle continued working on the motorjet principle after his thesis work but eventually abandoned it when further calculations showed it would weigh as much as a conventional engine of the same thrust. Pondering the problem he wrote, “Why not substitute a turbine for the piston engine?” Instead of using a piston engine to provide the compressed air for the burner, a turbine could be used to extract some power from the exhaust and drive a similar compressor to those used for superchargers. The remaining exhaust thrust would power the aircraft.

On 27 August 1928 Whittle joined No. 111 Squadron, Hornchurch, flying Siskin IIIs. His continuing reputation for low flying and aerobatics provoked a public complaint that almost led to his being court-martialed. Within a year he was posted to Central Flying School, Wittering, for a flying instructor’s course. He became a popular and gifted instructor, and was selected as one of the entrants in a competition to select a team to perform the “crazy flying” routine in the 1930 Royal Air Force Air Display at RAF Hendon. He destroyed two aircraft in accidents during rehearsals but remained unscathed on both occasions. After the second incident an enraged Flight Lieutenant Harold W. Raeburn said furiously, “Why don’t you take all my bloody aeroplanes, make a heap of them in the middle of the aerodrome and set fire to them – it’s quicker!”

Whittle showed his engine concept around the base, where it attracted the attention of Flying Officer Pat Johnson, formerly a patent examiner. Johnson, in turn, took the concept to the commanding officer of the base. This set in motion a chain of events that almost led to the engines being produced much sooner than actually occurred. Encouraged by his commanding officer, in late 1929 Whittle sent his concept of the turbojet to the Air Ministry to see if it would be of any interest to them. The RAF returned his comment to Whittle, referring to the design as being “impracticable”.

Pat Johnson remained convinced of the validity of the idea, and had Whittle patent the idea in January 1930. Since the RAF was not interested in the concept they did not declare it secret, meaning that Whittle was able to retain the rights to the idea, which would have otherwise been their property. Johnson arranged a meeting with British Thomson-Houston (BTH), whose chief turbine engineer seemed to agree with the basic idea. However, BTH did not want to spend the ₤60,000 it would cost to develop it, and this potential brush with early success went no further.

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In 1931, Whittle was posted to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe as an armament officer and test pilot of seaplanes, where he continued to publicize his idea. This posting came as a surprise for he had never previously flown a seaplane, but he nevertheless increased his reputation as a pilot by flying some 20 different types of floatplanes, flying boats, and amphibians. Every officer with a permanent commission was expected to take a specialist course, and as a result Whittle attended the Officers’ Engineering Course at RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire in 1932. He obtained an aggregate of 98% in all subjects in his exams, completing the course in 18 months instead of the more normal two years. His performance in the course was so exceptional that in 1934 he was permitted to take a two-year engineering course at Cambridge University, graduating in 1936 with a First in the Mechanical Sciences Tripos.

Still at Cambridge, Whittle could not afford the £5 renewal fee for his jet engine patent when it became due in January 1935, and because the Air Ministry refused to pay it, the patent was allowed to lapse. Shortly afterwards, in May, he received mail from Rolf Dudley-Williams, who had been with him at Cranwell in the 1920s and Felixstowe in 1930. Williams arranged a meeting with Whittle, himself, and another now-retired RAF serviceman, James Collingwood Tinling. The two proposed a partnership that allowed them to act on Whittle’s behalf to gather public financing so that development could go ahead.

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In 1935, through Tinling’s father, Whittle was introduced to Mogens L. Bramson, a well-known independent consulting aeronautical engineer. Bramson was initially skeptical but after studying Whittle’s ideas became an enthusiastic supporter. Bramson introduced Whittle and his two associates to the investment bank O.T. Falk & Partners, where discussions took place with Lancelot Law Whyte and occasionally Sir Maurice Bonham-Carter. The firm had an interest in developing speculative projects that conventional banks would not touch. Whyte was impressed by the 28-year-old Whittle and his design when they met on 11 September 1935:

The impression he made was overwhelming, I have never been so quickly convinced, or so happy to find one’s highest standards met. This was genius, not talent. Whittle expressed his idea with superb conciseness: ‘Reciprocating engines are exhausted. They have hundreds of parts jerking to and fro, and they cannot be made more powerful without becoming too complicated. The engine of the future must produce 2,000 hp with one moving part: a spinning turbine and compressor.’

On 27 January 1936, the principals signed the “Four Party Agreement”, creating “Power Jets Ltd” which was incorporated in March 1936. The parties were O.T. Falk & Partners, the Air Ministry, Whittle and, together, Williams and Tinling. Whittle, Williams and Tinling retained a 49% share of the company in exchange for Falk and Partners putting in £2,000 with the option of a further £18,000 within 18 months. As Whittle was still a full-time RAF officer and currently at Cambridge, he was given the title “Honorary Chief Engineer and Technical Consultant”. Needing special permission to work outside the RAF, he was placed on the Special Duty List and allowed to work on the design as long as it was for no more than six hours a week. However he was allowed to continue at Cambridge for a year doing post-graduate work which gave him time to work on the turbojet.

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The Air Ministry still saw little immediate value in the effort (they regarded it as long-range research), and having no production facilities of its own, Power Jets entered into an agreement with steam turbine specialists British Thomson-Houston (BTH) to build an experimental engine facility at a BTH factory in Rugby, Warwickshire. Work progressed quickly, and by the end of the year 1936 the prototype detail design was finalized and parts for it were well on their way to being completed, all within the original £2,000 budget.

The government and RAF still displayed complete indifference, so Falk and Partners gave notice that they could not provide funding beyond £5,000. Nevertheless Whittle’s team pressed ahead, and the W.U. (Whittle Unit) engine ran in a ground test successfully on 12 April 1937. Tizard pronounced it “streaks ahead” of any other advanced engine he had seen, and managed to interest the Air Ministry enough to fund development with a contract for £5,000 to develop a flyable version. However, it was a year before the funds were made available, greatly delaying development. Whittle was ultimately successful in using his jet in prototype aircraft but one does have to wonder what took officialdom so long to recognize the clear advantage of jets over propellers, and to be inspired by Whittle’s dogged insistence on the rightness of his vision.

Last Night A Short Flight Was Completed

As an RAF pilot Whittle was stationed in a number of places in Britain, but he was not only native to Warwickshire (Coventry and Leamington), but developed the jet there too (Rugby).  I’m very familiar with that part of the country, having lived and worked in Leamington for a time after Oxford, and also having relatives near Coventry. I have especially fond memories of Coventry godcakes which are common in regional bakeries, but you won’t find elsewhere.  Folklore has it that they were originally given as gifts to new parents by godparents. Sounds like a simple rationalization of the name to me.  Nonetheless, they are delicious and easy to make.

All you need are some puff pastry and mincemeat. Puff pastry is a real trial to make, so I rarely make it from scratch these days (see  yesterday’s post http://www.bookofdaystales.com/william-and-mary/ ) Instead I buy it readymade. If you’re lazy you can buy readymade mincemeat too, but I always make my own. However, I make it only at Christmas, so godcakes are a seasonal treat for me nowadays.

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Coventry Godcakes

Cut puff pastry into 4” squares. Place 1 tablespoon of mincemeat towards the edge of one of the points of the square. Brush the edges of the pastry with melted butter , then fold over the pastry diagonally to make a triangle to encase the mincemeat, pressing the edges together. Cut three parallel slits in the top, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, or until the godcakes are golden. They are best eaten warm from the oven.

Mar 232016
 

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The first meeting of the Football League, a league competition featuring professional association football clubs from England and Wales, was held at Anderton’s Hotel in London on this date in 1888. As far as milestones in the history of football in general are concerned, this one is not awfully important – meetings to codify rules and create clubs are probably more significant. However, the date gives me an excuse to celebrate the development of football in all of its manifestations worldwide. It also allows me to dribble on for a bit about how so much of what we take for granted as timeless in the modern world grew out of the ideals of the 19th century.

Let me start with the word “football.” Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word “football” is understood to refer to whichever form of football is the most popular in the regional context in which the word appears. Sports commonly called “football” in certain places include: association football (known as “soccer” in some countries); gridiron football (specifically American football or Canadian football); Australian rules football; rugby football (either rugby league or rugby union); and Gaelic football. These different variations of football are known as football codes.

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Various forms of football can be identified throughout history, often as popular peasant games. Contemporary codes of football, with the exception of Gaelic football, can be traced back to the codification of these games at English public schools during the 19th century. The expansion of the British Empire allowed these rules of football to spread to areas of British influence outside of the directly controlled Empire, though by the end of the 19th century, distinct regional codes were already developing. During the 20th century, several of the various kinds of football grew to become some of the most popular team sports in the world.

Medieval football is a modern term sometimes used for a wide variety of localized football games which were invented and played in Europe during the Middle Ages. Alternative names include folk football, mob football and Shrovetide football. These games may be regarded as the ancestors of modern codes of football, and by comparison with later forms of football, the medieval matches were chaotic and had few rules.

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The Middle Ages saw a huge rise in popularity of games played annually at Shrovetide throughout Europe, particularly in England. The games played in England at this time may have arrived with the Roman occupation but there is little evidence to indicate this. Certainly the Romans played ball games, in particular Harpastum. There is also one reference to ball games being played in southern Britain prior to the Norman Conquest. In the 9th century Nennius’s Historia Britonum speaks of a group of boys playing at ball (pilae ludus). This could have been in either Southern England or Wales. References to a ball game played in northern France known as La Soule or Choule, in which the ball was propelled by hands, feet, and sticks, date from the 12th century.

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These archaic forms of football, typically classified as mob football, would be played between neighboring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people struggling to drag an inflated pig’s bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of a town. By some accounts, in some such events any means could be used to move the ball towards the goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder. Sometimes instead of markers, the teams would attempt to kick the bladder into the balcony of the opponents’ church. These antiquated games went into sharp decline in the 19th century when the Highway Act 1835 was passed banning the playing of football on public highways. This kind of football continues to be played in some parts of the United Kingdom, for example, the Ba game played at Christmas and New Year at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, Uppies and Downies over Easter at Workington in Cumbria and the Royal Shrovetide Football Match on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday at Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

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Few images of medieval football survive. One engraving from the early 14th century at Gloucester Cathedral, England, clearly shows two young men running vigorously towards each other with a ball in mid-air between them. There is a hint that the players may be using their hands to strike the ball. A second medieval image in the British Museum, London clearly shows a group of men with a large ball on the ground. The ball clearly has a seam where leather has been sewn together. It is unclear exactly what is happening in this set of three images, although the last image appears to show a man with a broken arm. It is likely that this image highlights the dangers of some medieval football games.

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While football continued to be played in various forms throughout Britain, its public schools (known as private schools in other countries) are widely credited with four key achievements in the creation of modern football codes. First of all, the evidence suggests that they were important in taking football away from its “mob” form and turning it into an organized team sport. Second, many early descriptions of football and references to it were recorded by people who had studied at these schools. Third, it was teachers, students and former students from these schools who first codified football games, to enable matches to be played between schools. Finally, it was at English public schools that the division between “kicking” and “running” (or “carrying”) games first became clear.

The earliest evidence that games resembling football were being played at English public schools – mainly attended by boys from the upper, upper-middle and professional classes – comes from the Vulgaria by William Herman in 1519. Herman had been headmaster at Eton and Winchester colleges and his Latin textbook includes a translation exercise with the phrase “We wyll playe with a ball full of wynde”.

Richard Mulcaster, a student at Eton College in the early 16th century and later headmaster at other English schools, has been described as “the greatest sixteenth Century advocate of football”. Among his contributions are the earliest evidence of organized team football. Mulcaster’s writings refer to teams (“sides” and “parties”), positions (“standings”), a referee (“judge over the parties”) and a coach “(trayning maister)”. Mulcaster’s “footeball” had evolved from the disordered and violent forms of traditional football:

some smaller number with such overlooking, sorted into sides and standings, not meeting with their bodies so boisterously to trie their strength: nor shouldring or shuffing one an other so barbarously … may use footeball for as much good to the body, by the chiefe use of the legges.

A more detailed description of football is given in Francis Willughby’s Book of Games, written in about 1660. Willughby, who had studied at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, is the first to describe goals and a distinct playing field: “a close that has a gate at either end. The gates are called Goals.” His book includes a diagram illustrating a football field. He also mentions tactics (“leaving some of their best players to guard the goal”); scoring (“they that can strike the ball through their opponents’ goal first win”) and the way teams were selected (“the players being equally divided according to their strength and nimbleness”). He is the first to describe a “law” of football: “they must not strike [an opponent’s leg] higher than the ball”.

English public schools were the first to codify football games. In particular, they devised the first offside rules, during the late 18th century. In the earliest manifestations of these rules, players were “off their side” if they simply stood between the ball and the goal which was their objective. Players were not allowed to pass the ball forward, either by foot or by hand. They could only dribble with their feet, or advance the ball in a scrum or similar formation. However, offside laws began to diverge and develop differently at each school, as is shown by the rules of football from Winchester, Rugby, Harrow and Cheltenham, during between 1810 and 1850. The first known codes – in the sense of a set of rules – were those of Eton in 1815 and Aldenham in 1825.

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During the early 19th century, most working class people in Britain had to work six days a week, often for over twelve hours a day. They had neither the time nor the inclination to engage in sport for recreation and, at the time, many children were part of the labor force. Feast day football played on the streets was in decline. Public school boys, who enjoyed some freedom from work, became the inventors of organized football games with formal codes of rules.

Each school drafted its own rules, which varied widely between different schools and were changed over time with each new intake of pupils. Two schools of thought developed regarding rules. Some schools favored a game in which the ball could be carried (as at Rugby, Marlborough and Cheltenham), while others preferred a game where kicking and dribbling the ball was promoted (as at Eton, Harrow, Westminster and Charterhouse). The division into these two camps was partly the result of circumstances in which the games were played. For example, Charterhouse and Westminster at the time had restricted playing areas; the boys were confined to playing their ball game within the school cloisters, making it difficult for them to adopt rough and tumble running games.

The boom in rail transport in Britain during the 1840s meant that people were able to travel further and with less inconvenience than they ever had before. Inter-school sporting competitions became possible. However, it was difficult for schools to play each other at football, as each school played by its own rules. The solution to this problem was usually that the match be divided into two halves, one half played by the rules of the host “home” school, and the other half by the visiting “away” school.

The modern rules of many football codes were formulated during the mid- or late- 19th century. This also applies to other sports such as lawn bowls, lawn tennis, etc. The major impetus for this was the patenting of the world’s first lawnmower in 1830. This allowed for the preparation of modern ovals, playing fields, pitches, grass courts, etc.

Apart from Rugby football, the public school codes have barely been played beyond the confines of each school’s playing fields. However, many of them are still played at the schools which created them. Public schools’ dominance of sports in the UK began to wane after the Factory Act of 1850, which significantly increased the recreation time available to working class children. Before 1850, many British children had to work six days a week, for more than twelve hours a day. From 1850, they could not work before 6 a.m. (7 a.m. in winter) or after 6 p.m. on weekdays (7 p.m. in winter); on Saturdays they had to cease work at 2 p.m. These changes mean that working class children had more time for games, including various forms of football.

Sports clubs dedicated to playing football began in the 18th century, for example London’s Gymnastic Society which was founded in the mid-18th century and ceased playing matches in 1796.The first documented club to bear in the title a reference to being a ‘football club’ were called “The Foot-Ball Club” who were located in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the period 1824–41. The club forbade tripping but allowed pushing and holding and the picking up of the ball. In 1845, three boys at Rugby school were set the task of codifying the rules then being used at the school. These were the first set of written rules (or code) for any form of football. This further assisted the spread of the Rugby game.

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In Europe, early footballs were made out of animal bladders, more specifically pig’s bladders, which were inflated. Later leather coverings were introduced to allow the balls to keep their shape. However, in 1851, Richard Lindon and William Gilbert, both shoemakers from the town of Rugby (near the school), exhibited both round and oval-shaped balls at the Great Exhibition in London. Richard Lindon’s wife is said to have died of lung disease caused by blowing up pig’s bladders. Lindon also won medals for the invention of the “Rubber inflatable Bladder” and the “Brass Hand Pump”. In 1855, the U.S. inventor Charles Goodyear – who had patented vulcanized rubber – exhibited a spherical football, with an exterior of vulcanized rubber panels, at the Paris Exhibition Universelle. The ball was to prove popular in early forms of football in the U.S.A.

In 1848, at Cambridge University, Mr. H. de Winton and Mr. J.C. Thring, who were both formerly at Shrewsbury School, called a meeting at Trinity College, Cambridge with 12 other representatives from Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury. An eight-hour meeting produced what amounted to the first set of modern rules, known as the Cambridge rules. No copy of these rules now exists, but a revised version from circa 1856 is held in the library of Shrewsbury School. The rules clearly favor the kicking game. Handling was only allowed when a player catches the ball directly from the foot entitling him to a free kick and there was a primitive offside rule, disallowing players from “loitering” around the opponents’ goal. The Cambridge rules were not widely adopted outside English public schools and universities (but it was arguably the most significant influence on the Football Association committee members responsible for formulating the rules of Association football).

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By the late 1850s, many football clubs had been formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various codes of football. Sheffield Football Club, founded in 1857 in the English city of Sheffield by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, has been recognized as the world’s oldest club playing association football. However, the club initially played its own code of football: the Sheffield rules. The code was largely independent of the public school rules, the most significant difference being the lack of an offside rule.

The code was responsible for many innovations that later spread to association football. These included free kicks, corner kicks, handball, throw-ins and the crossbar. By the 1870s they became the dominant code in the north and midlands of England. At this time a series of rule changes by both the London and Sheffield FAs gradually eroded the differences between the two games until the adoption of a common code in 1877.

During the early 1860s, there were increasing attempts in England to unify and reconcile the various public school games. In 1862, J. C. Thring, who had been one of the driving forces behind the original Cambridge Rules, was a master at Uppingham School and he issued his own rules of what he called “The Simplest Game” (these are also known as the Uppingham Rules). In early October 1863 another new revised version of the Cambridge Rules was drawn up by a seven member committee representing former pupils from Harrow, Shrewsbury, Eton, Rugby, Marlborough and Westminster.

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At the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, London on the evening of October 26, 1863, representatives of several football clubs in the London Metropolitan area met for the inaugural meeting of The Football Association (FA). The aim of the Association was to establish a single unifying code and regulate the playing of the game among its members. Following the first meeting, the public schools were invited to join the association. All of them declined, except Charterhouse and Uppingham. In total, six meetings of the FA were held between October and December 1863. After the third meeting, a draft set of rules were published. However, at the beginning of the fourth meeting, attention was drawn to the recently published Cambridge Rules of 1863. The Cambridge rules differed from the draft FA rules in two significant areas; namely running with (carrying) the ball and hacking (kicking opposing players in the shins). The two contentious FA rules were as follows:

9. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries’ goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark he shall not run.

10. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries’ goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.

At the fifth meeting it was proposed that these two rules be removed. Most of the delegates supported this, but F. M. Campbell, the representative from Blackheath and the first FA treasurer, objected. He said: “hacking is the true football”. However, the motion to ban running with the ball in hand and hacking was carried and Blackheath withdrew from the FA. After the final meeting on 8 December, the FA published the “Laws of Football”, the first comprehensive set of rules for the game later known as Association Football. The term “soccer”, in use since the late 19th century, derives from an Oxford University abbreviation of “Association.” It was still common in Oxford in my time to create slang terms by abbreviating a word and adding /-er/ as in champers (champagne), brekker (breakfast), and rugger (rugby). So “soccer” comes from asSOCiation.

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The first FA rules still contained elements that are no longer part of association football, but which are still recognizable in other games (such as Australian football and rugby football): for instance, a player could make a fair catch and claim a mark, which entitled him to a free kick; and if a player touched the ball behind the opponents’ goal line, his side was entitled to a free kick at goal, from 15 yards (13.5 meters) in front of the goal line.

Need I go on? The point I am trying to make is that the 19th century was a watershed period in so many ways. It was an industrial era in which Britain was transformed in myriad ways – among them, the development of amateur and professional games, such as various codes of football, with formal rules and matches.

I’ve already given some thought for cooking and rugby here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/william-webb-ellis/ Association football is more of a challenge. You can’t really pinpoint a single place of origin. Nor can you associate food with it in the same way that you can in the U.S. with its tradition of tailgate parties, Super Bowl events, and the like. When I played football in England or went to matches, food was not an issue (nor was there a tradition of televised matches beyond Saturday evening Match of the Day which my mates and I watched in the college television room drinking beer).

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So let’s focus on the oldest surviving independent club (as recognized by the FA and FIFA), that is, the first club that was organized solely for football playing and not associated with an institution such as a school, university, or hospital – Sheffield Football Club. This brings me to South Yorkshire cooking. I’ve covered the mainstays already in previous posts, so let’s cut straight to Yorkshire Curd Pie. This is a 2-day process. You have to make the curds on one day, then the pie on the second.

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Yorkshire Curd Pie

Heat 2 pints (5 cups) of full cream milk in a large pan over medium-low heat. As it comes to a gentle simmer, add the juice of a lemon. Turn the heat to low and gently stir while the curds form. Stir carefully so as not to break the curds. When the mixture is watery with creamy lumps in it, turn off the heat and let the mix cool. Drain the curds overnight in a cool place by placing a double thickness of cheesecloth in a fine sieve and pouring the curd mix into it over a bowl to collect the whey (which can be used for other baking).

Cream 50g of unsalted butter with 50g of caster sugar in a mixer, then add a beaten egg. When fully incorporated, gently stir in the prepared curds and 25g of currants.

Line a 20 cm pie dish with pastry and pour in the filling mix.

Bake in a 180°C/350°F oven for about 40 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust is golden. Cool and serve in slices with whipped cream or golden syrup (or both).

Nov 242013
 

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Today is the birthday (1806) of Rev. William Webb Ellis, an Anglican clergyman who is famous for allegedly being the inventor of Rugby football whilst a pupil at Rugby School. Webb Ellis’s name is firmly established in rugby union folklore and the William Webb Ellis Cup is presented to the winners of the Rugby World Cup.

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Webb Ellis was born in Salford, Lancashire (some sources say he was born in Manchester as Webb Ellis himself said he was born there in the 1851 census when he later moved to the city). He was the younger of two sons of James Ellis, an officer in the Dragoon Guards, and Ann Webb, whom James married in Exeter in 1804. After his father was killed at the Battle of Albuera in 1811, his mother decided to move to Rugby in Warwickshire so that William and his older brother Thomas could receive an education at Rugby School with no cost as a local foundationer (i.e. a pupil living within a radius of 10 miles of the Rugby Clock Tower). He attended the school from 1816 to 1826 and was recorded as being a good scholar and cricketer, although it was noted that he was “rather inclined to take unfair advantage at cricket.” The incident in which Webb Ellis supposedly caught the ball in his arms during a football match (which was allowed) and ran with it (which was not) is supposed to have happened in the latter half of 1823.

After leaving Rugby in 1826, he went to Brasenose College, Oxford, aged 20. He played cricket for his college, and for Oxford University against Cambridge University in a first-class match in 1827. He graduated with a BA in 1829 and received his MA in 1831. He entered the Church and became chaplain of St George’s Chapel, Albemarle Street, London (closed c.1909), and then rector of St. Clement Danes in The Strand. He became well known as a low church evangelical clergyman. In 1855, he became rector of Magdalen Laver in Essex. A picture of him (the only known portrait) appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1854, after he gave a particularly stirring sermon on the subject of the Crimean War.

He never married and died in the south of France in 1872, leaving an estate of £9,000, mostly to various charities. His grave in le cimetière du vieux château at Menton in Alpes Maritimes was rediscovered by Ross McWhirter (co-editor of Guinness World Records) in 1958, and has since been renovated by the French Rugby Federation.

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The sole source of the story of Webb Ellis running with the ball originates with Matthew Bloxam, a local antiquarian and former pupil of Rugby. On 10 October 1876, he wrote to The Meteor, the Rugby School magazine, that he had learnt from an unnamed source that the change from a kicking game to a handling game had “…originated with a town boy or foundationer of the name of Ellis, Webb Ellis”.

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On 22 December 1880, in another letter to The Meteor, Bloxam elaborates on the story:

A boy of the name Ellis – William Webb Ellis – a town boy and a foundationer . . . whilst playing Bigside at football in that half-year [1823], caught the ball in his arms. This being so, according to the then rules, he ought to have retired back as far as he pleased, without parting with the ball, for the combatants on the opposite side could only advance to the spot where he had caught the ball, and were unable to rush forward till he had either punted it or had placed it for some one else to kick, for it was by means of these placed kicks that most of the goals were in those days kicked, but the moment the ball touched the ground the opposite side might rush on. Ellis, for the first time, disregarded this rule, and on catching the ball, instead of retiring backwards, rushed forwards with the ball in his hands towards the opposite goal, with what result as to the game I know not, neither do I know how this infringement of a well-known rule was followed up, or when it became, as it is now, a standing rule.

Bloxham’s first account differed from his second one four years later. In his first letter, in 1876, Bloxham claimed that Webb Ellis committed the act in 1824. In his second letter, in 1880, Bloxham put the year as 1823.

The claim that Webb Ellis invented the game did not surface until four years after his death and doubts have been raised about the story since 1895, when it was first investigated by the Old Rugbeian Society. The sub-committee conducting the investigation was “unable to procure any first hand evidence of the occurrence.”

Among those giving evidence, Thomas Harris and his brother John, who had left Rugby in 1828 and 1832 respectively (i.e. after the alleged Webb Ellis incident) recalled that handling of the ball was strictly forbidden. Harris, who requested that he “not [be] quote[d] as an authority”, testified that Webb Ellis had been known as someone to take an “unfair advantage at football.” Harris, who would have been aged 10 years at the time of the alleged incident, did not claim to have been a witness to it, additionally, he stated that he had not heard the story of Webb Ellis’ creation of the game.

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Thomas Hughes (author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays) was asked to comment on the game as played when he attended the school (1834–1842). He is quoted as saying “In my first year, 1834, running with the ball to get a try by touching down within goal was not absolutely forbidden, but a jury of Rugby boys of that day would almost certainly have found a verdict of ‘justifiable homicide’ if a boy had been killed in running in.”

It has been suggested by Dunning and Sheard (2005) that it was no coincidence that this investigation was conducted in 1895, at a time when divisions within the sport led to a schism; the split into the sports of rugby league and rugby union. Dunning and Sheard suggest that the endorsement of a reductionist origin legend by the Rugbeians was an attempt to assert their school’s position and authority over a sport that they were losing control of.

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A plaque, erected in 1895, at Rugby School bears the inscription:

THIS STONE

COMMEMORATES THE EXPLOIT OF

WILLIAM WEBB ELLIS

WHO WITH A FINE DISREGARD FOR THE RULES OF FOOTBALL

AS PLAYED IN HIS TIME

FIRST TOOK THE BALL IN HIS ARMS AND RAN WITH IT

THUS ORIGINATING THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURE OF

THE RUGBY GAME

A.D. 1823

The 'Foul' That Started Rugby Football

Here is a description of tea time at Rugby from Tom Brown’s Schooldays when Tom is newly arrived:

“Tea’s directly after locking-up, you see,” said East, hobbling along as fast as he could, “so you come along down to Sally Harrowell’s; that’s our school-house tuck-shop—she bakes such stunning murphies, we’ll have a penn’orth each for tea; come along, or they’ll all be gone.”

Tom’s new purse and money burnt in his pocket; he wondered, as they toddled through the quadrangle and along the street, whether East would be insulted if he suggested further extravagance, as he had not sufficient faith in a pennyworth of potatoes. At last he blurted out,—

“I say, East, can’t we get something else besides potatoes? I’ve got lots of money, you know.”

“Bless us, yes, I forgot,” said East, “you’ve only just come. You see all my tin’s been gone this twelve weeks, it hardly ever lasts beyond the first fortnight; and our allowances were all stopped this morning for broken windows, so I haven’t got a penny. I’ve got a tick at Sally’s, of course; but then I hate running it high, you see, towards the end of the half, ’cause one has to shell out for it all directly one comes back, and that’s a bore.”

Tom didn’t understand much of this talk, but seized on the fact that East had no money, and was denying himself some little pet luxury in consequence. “Well, what shall I buy?” said he; “I’m uncommon hungry.”

“I say,” said East, stopping to look at him and rest his leg, “you’re a trump, Brown. I’ll do the same by you next half. Let’s have a pound of sausages, then; that’s the best grub for tea I know of.”

“Very well,” said Tom, as pleased as possible; “where do they sell them?”

“Oh, over here, just opposite;” and they crossed the street and walked into the cleanest little front room of a small house, half parlour, half shop, and bought a pound of most particular sausages; East talking pleasantly to Mrs. Porter while she put them in paper, and Tom doing the paying part.

From Porter’s they adjourned to Sally Harrowell’s, where they found a lot of School-house boys waiting for the roast potatoes, and relating their own exploits in the day’s match at the top of their voices. The street opened at once into Sally’s kitchen, a low, brick-floored room, with large recess for fire, and chimney-corner seats. Poor little Sally, the most good-natured and much enduring of womankind, was bustling about with a napkin in her hand, from her own oven to those of the neighbours’ cottages, up the yard at the back of the house. Stumps, her husband, a short, easy-going shoemaker, with a beery humorous eye and ponderous calves, who lived mostly on his wife’s earnings, stood in a corner of the room, exchanging shots of the roughest description of repartee with every boy in turn. “Stumps, you lout, you’ve had too much beer again to-day.” “‘Twasn’t of your paying for, then.”—”Stumps’s calves are running down into his ankles, they want to get to grass.” “Better be doing that, than gone altogether like yours,” &c. &c. Very poor stuff it was, but it served to make time pass; and every now and then Sally arrived in the middle with a smoking tin of potatoes, which were cleared off in a few seconds, each boy as he seized his lot running oft to the house with “Put me down two-penn’orth, Sally;” “Put down three-penn’orth between me and Davis,” &c. How she ever kept the accounts so straight as she did, in her head and on her slate, was a perfect wonder.

East and Tom got served at last, and started back for the School-house just as the locking-up bell began to ring; East on the way recounting the life and adventures of Stumps, who was a character. Amongst his other small avocations, he was the hind carrier of a sedan-chair, the last of its race, in which the Rugby ladies still went out to tea, and in which, when he was fairly harnessed and carrying a load, it was the delight of small and mischievous boys to follow him and whip his calves. This was too much for the temper even of Stumps, and he would pursue his tormentors in a vindictive and apoplectic manner when released, but was easily pacified by twopence to buy beer with.

The lower school-boys of the School-house, some fifteen in number, had tea in the lower-fifth school, and were presided over by the old verger or head-porter. Each boy had a quarter of a loaf of bread and pat of butter, and as much tea as he pleased; and there was scarcely one who didn’t add to this some further luxury, such as baked potatoes, a herring, sprats, or something of the sort; but few, at this period of the half-year, could live up to a pound of Porter’s sausages, and East was in great magnificence upon the strength of theirs. He had produced a toasting-fork from his study, and set Tom to toast the sausages, while he mounted guard over their butter and potatoes; “’cause,” as he explained, “you’re a new boy, and they’ll play you some trick and get our butter, but you can toast just as well as I.” So Tom, in the midst of three or four more urchins similarly employed, toasted his face and the sausages at the same time before the huge fire, till the latter cracked; when East from his watch-tower shouted that they were done; and then the feast proceeded, and the festive cups of tea were filled and emptied, and Tom imparted of the sausages in small bits to many neighbours, and thought he had never tasted such good potatoes or seen such jolly boys. They on their parts waived all ceremony, and pegged away at the sausages and potatoes, and, remembering Tom’s performance in goal, voted East’s new crony a brick. After tea, and while the things were being cleared away, they gathered round the fire, and the talk on the match still went on; and those who had them to show, pulled up their trousers and showed the hacks they had received in the good cause.

It is not difficult to make good sausages as long as you have the proper equipment. You will need a meat grinder with a nozzle attachment for stuffing the casings.  Once you get the hang of it you can make a marvelous variety of sausages from scraps and oddments. My favorite is lamb with rosemary and garlic.  Here is a recipe for a classic English banger, best served with mash and gravy.  Make sure the pork is fatty (about 20% fat), otherwise the sausages will be too dry when cooked.

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Classic English Bangers

Ingredients:

5 lbs ground pork
1 tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp ground ginger
½  sp sage
½ tsp mace
3 tbsps salt
3 ozs breadcrumbs

15’ – 18’ sausage casings

Instructions:

Chill the pork and then run it through the medium blade of a grinder. Mix in the other ingredients (except the casings) and run the mixture through again.  Chill.

Soak the casings for about 15 minutes in warm water, then run warm water through them.

Attach the filling nozzle to the grinder head and thread the casing on to it.  Tie off the end of the casing and start extruding the filling.  With a little practice you will get the knack of allowing the casing to flow off consistently so that the sausages are even in diameter. Leave a few inches of empty casing at the end to be able to tie it off in a knot.

You will end up with one long sausage. Twist the roll a couple of turns every 6” or so, to make individual sausages, twisting in the opposite direction each time.

Hang the sausages to dry on a clothes horse or rack for about an hour, then refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.  It pays to refrigerate them overnight to allow the flavors to marry.