Most people know what a mall is. However, only a few actually know the origins of the term for describing a large shopping centre. That is just my guess, but I don’t think I am too off the mark. Why am I telling you this? Well, in its broadest sense, it has a lot to do with Himmelkron, the Upper Franconian municipality in the district of Kulmbach, where MANN+HUMMEL’s cabin filter centre is located. However, I must go back in time to set the scene.

It all started in the 16th century. At that time, people in central europe were enthusiastic players of a game reminiscent of today’s croquet. Depending on the region, it was called “baille-maille” or “pallamaglia” – but usually shortend to “mail”. To play you needed a small wooden ball (“palla”) and a wooden racket (“mallet”). The game had an irresistible appeal. No matter whether you were rich or poor, young or old, almost everyone wanted to participate in “hitting the ball”.

Baille Maille – the golf of yesteryear

The rules of the game are easily explained: Normally, two players or two teams played against each other. Using a racket, you had to hit a ball as far as possible through a small iron hoop in the distance. The team that scored the lowest number of tries with its balls won. It was a kind of “golf from the past” that was played on “mall alleys” covered with fine sand. These alleys were usually bordered by shady avenues for protection from very intense sunlight – lime trees were particularly preferred.

Gradually more and more European cities created these purpose-built alleys underneath the trees. The French played “boule-mail” and the Spanish played “palamallo” in such avenues. In the Netherlands and Germany, the term “baille-maille” manifested itself as the most popular running game, and so it was in Himmelkron. An avenue of approximately 800(!) lime trees was planted in 1662/1663. It was known well beyond its boundaries and was described as the longest and most beautiful avenue in Europe. You can guess that “mall” was happily played particularly often in these beautiful surroundings. Consequently, the avenue was known as “Baille-Maille-Lindenallee”.

However, a bitter blow came in April 1792. In opposition to Himmelkron’s citizens, the Prussians felled all 800 trees. It would take 200 years for the avenue to return to life again. In 1986, a local group launched an initiative to replant the lime trees. On 28 April 1992, the actual 200th anniversary of the felling, the final lime tree was planted. Since then, the trees have grown and thrived. During local festivals you can see people playing the once so popular baille-maille in the shade of the lime trees. We can also enjoy a lime tree on our employees’ terrace, the so-called “open terrace”. It was given to us by the municipality of Himmelkron at the opening of the new production plant in 2012.

How the shopping mall got its name

Not to go unmentioned: Himmelkron was selected to be part of this year’s state horticultural show in Bayreuth (more information at As you can see, Himmelkron is still worth visiting, even today. From the perspective of the Himmelkroners, the little boxwood ball is the ideal object and possibly the best way to represent our company location in the time capsule at MANN+HUMMEL’s new technology centre.

The following small anecdote reveals how important the mall game really was: It is recorded in the 16th century that English travellers brought “mall” to the British Isles. A playing area near St James’s Palace in London became the favourite place for “mall”, whereupon this tree covered area became known as Pall Mall. Over the decades, the avenue and its surroundings developed into an exclusive area. It was a privilege to saunter along Pall Mall – or “The Mall” as it was usually called. The description represented elegance and is now the home of numerous shopping centres and the name of a brand of cigarettes. Maybe the next time you stroll through a shopping mall, you will also think of Himmelkron.