A Brief History of Croquet

Whilst stick and ball games have been played throughout history, records of ball and hoop games are more contemporary. In the middle ages in England and Europe one game known as "Pall Mall" was played in London and from which the well-known street is named. This involved hitting a single ball through very wide hoops. The origins of the modern game are vague and it is probably not directly related to Pall Mall.

The modern game is reputed to have started in Ireland in the 1830s and taken to England during the 1850s. It became an instant success, one reason being because it provided the first opportunity for women to participate in an outdoor sport on an equal basis with men. Over the next 30 years standard rules were established and national competitions commenced. It is curious to note that the putting of your foot on the ball during the croquet stroke was outlawed in 1870, yet it still persists in 'home-brewed' rules of croquet to this day.

The first national headquarters was the Wimbledon All England Croquet Club, founded in 1868, which later was to become the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The game flourished until the rise of Sphairistike, which was introduced in 1877. This game, later thankfully renamed to lawn tennis, overshadowed croquet and towards the end of the century croquet was in decline.  It is no accident that the size of a tennis court is exactly half that of a croquet lawn. In the century's last decade however tournaments re-established themselves and the game entered a stable period of popularity during the Edwardian era. In 1896 the United All-England Croquet Association was founded to be renamed the Croquet Association (CA) in 1900. In 1900 croquet featured as a demonstration sport in the Olympics in Paris and players from France won all the medals.

The CA could claim 2300 members in 1914, but the start of first world war hit the sport. At the end of the war the membership had fallen to 1400 reflecting the number of clubs that never reopened after the war. Between the wars the nature of the game changed. Prior to this time there were multiple variations of the court layout and rules. The current Willis lawn setting (6 hoops and one peg) was established, as too was International play. The game had spread rapidly, in particular to Australia and New Zealand and many other British colonies  Sir MacPherson Robertson presented a trophy for the first Test Match in 1925, which generated much enthusiasm and is still fiercely competed for.

The inter-war years also saw croquet propagate down from the aristocracy and the rise of women as recognised and expert players. One Miss D.D. Steel beat all-comers in 1929-34. The rules underwent significant modernisation between the wars. The sequence game, where the balls are played in the colour order according to the bands on the peg, was abolished. The Americans still play a form of this traditional game. The outbreak of war again damaged croquet's popularity and the sport had a very low profile until the 1960s. An injection of some younger players in 1962 added momentum and there has a gradual resurgence and now croquet is again as popular as it was at the end of the last century. (Author: Dr Ian Plummer.)

There are two forms of Croquet played in the UK. They are Golf Croquet, sometimes referred to by its initials GC and Association Croquet, AC. Both forms of the game use the same playing lawn and set up of the hoops. Both forms of the game are played at Bransgore Croquet Club. The two games are described like this (with thanks to the Croquet Association).

Association Croquet

Association Croquet is the original version of the game sometimes compared to ‘chess on grass’ because it has many combinations of moves to achieve the object of the game.

 The game is played by two players (or sides) each with two balls. The  objective is to score 12 hoop-points and a peg-point with each ball before the  other side does the same. Through careful play, a player can keep the tactical  advantage, hence improving his chances of winning by making life difficult for  the opponent. More importantly, he can earn additional strokes, so allowing  breaks to be played and scoring many hoop points in a single turn.

 A top-class player can win a game in only two turns.

If you would like to learn more about Association Croquet there is much more on the website of the Croquet Association which can be found by clicking this link - Association Croquet (Opens in a new window)      

Golf Croquet

Golf Croquet is a game with a long history but in which has there has been a recent resurgence of interest at all levels. Compared with Association Croquet it has simpler rules and is more interactive (each turn is just a single stroke), but it requires a similar level of accuracy and tactical awareness.

 The players follow a course contesting each hoop in turn; as soon as one hoop is scored all players move on to contest the next - a simple idea that leads to rich tactical thinking.

If you would like to learn more about Golf Croquet there is much more on the website of the Croquet Association which can be found by clicking this link - Golf Croquet (Opens in a new window)   

For more on the history of the game, go here:- Croquet history and more(Opens in a new window)

 

Bransgore Croquet Club