In a work written in 1180 by a certain William FitzStephen, a clerk to the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the following passage: “When the great Fenne or moore is frozen, many people play upon the ice; some stryding as wide as they may; some do slide swiftly; some tye bones to their feet and under their heels and shoving themselves by a little staff do slide as swiftly as a bird flyeth in the air or an arrow from a crossbow.”
It was probably the Vikings who introduced bone skates to England, and they may well have been in use up to Stuart times, when the Dutch introduced the wooden skate with an iron blade.
The Fenmen later developed their open skate known as the Fen Runner.
Although Littleport has a long skating heritage, with great races being held on the river, and from 1892 on The Moors skating ground, Littleport produced no skating champions, unlike our neighbouring villages of Welney and Southery.
The December issue of the Littleport Society Magazine has a feature on the little known Henrick Lindahl, the Norwegian champion skater, and the Littleport Challenge Cup, which he won on three occasions, even beating the great James Smart of Welney.
It accompanies a skating exhibition at the Barn during the winter months, telling the story of the Challenge Cup races and the champions who won it.
The Littleport Society Collection is open at The Barn in the Main Street Car Park every Tuesday afternoon from 1pm to 4pm.
Books about ice skating in the fens: Fen Speed Skating – an illustrated history (£6.99 postage extra); and The Welney Division (£5.00 postage extra), are available for purchase from the Society.
Roger Rudderham – Chairman of The Littleport Society
More on the discovery of the Littleport Baton in Oz!
John Taylor, the author, of the book featured on page 17, told Littleport Life of his amazement when he discovered the baton that featured in the article written by Cathy Gibb-de Swarte about Bill Sharpe and the Littleport Band in our last issue.
As he says, “There I was, ambassador for the Littleport Society, a Littleport lad, on the other side of the world when this baton, presented to Littleport band conductor Teddy Dring in 1916 on his departure for Australia, came into my possession just by chance!”
The Littleport Society Events
Held in the Village Hall 7.30 pm.
Monday 10 December
Christmas Concert with Johnathon White on the organ
Monday 7 January
Old Littleport + Pathe Newsreel film of Littleport War Week
Tuesday 5 February
AGM (Members Only) + Quiz Night with James Gilbert
Tuesday 5 March
The People who Drained The Fens – Dr. Philip Saunders