A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The four principal pastimes especially associated with Middlesex are Archery, Tennis, Rowing, and Polo, all of which may be said to have originated in the county. (fn. 1)
Owing to the fact that the bow was the principal weapon used both in war and in the chase in mediaeval times, and the consequent necessity for constantly practising its use, archery may be regarded as one of the oldest of our national pastimes. In its modern form this sport originated in London in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
As the archers formed an important force in every army during the Middle Ages sovereigns endeavoured to make training in the use of the bow obligatory on the whole population. In the thirteenth century every person 'not having a greater interest in land than 100d.' was required to have in his possession a bow and arrow, with other arms offensive and defensive, and 'all such as had no possessions but could afford to purchase arms' were required to have a bow with sharp arrows if they dwelt without, and one with blunt arrows if resident within the royal forests. (fn. 2) In order to prevent the crossbow from in any way superseding the long bow a Statute of 1417 enacted that no one should use the former weapon who was possessed of less than 200 marks a year. (fn. 3) Towards the close of the fifteenth century archery had fallen somewhat into decay in spite of enactments of this character, but its practice was revived by Henry VIII, himself a skilful bowman, and an Act was passed soon after his accession, extending the qualification with respect to the use of crossbows to 300 marks, and requiring all his subjects under sixty years of age 'who were not lame, diseased, or maimed, or having any other lawful impediment,' the clergy, judges, &c., excepted, to 'use shooting on the long bow' under penalty on default of 12d. per month. (fn. 4) Parents were to provide every boy from seven to seventeen years of age with a bow and two arrows, and after seventeen he was to provide himself with a bow and four arrows; and butts for the practice of archery were to be erected in every town. The 'bowyers'- the importance of whose calling is evidenced by the fact that both they and the 'fletchers,' or makers of arrows, were included amongst the old City companies (fn. 5) -were required, under a penalty of imprisonment for eight days, to make at least four bows of 'elme, wiche, . . . or other wode apt for the same' for every 'ewe bow' which they made. Lastly, in order to prevent other pastimes such as football from interfering with archery prac tice, (fn. 6) a penalty of 40s. a day was imposed on every person who
shall for his gain, lucre, or living keep any common house, alley, or place of bowling, coiting, clough, eagles, half-bowls, tennis, dicing tables, or carding, or any other game prohibited by any statute heretofore made or any unlawful new game. (fn. 7)
These stringent regulations are intelligible enough in an age when England, like other nations, had always to be fully prepared for war, since, as is pointed out by Colonel Walrond, fully two centuries elapsed after the introduction of hand fire-arms before the bow was finally ousted from its position as the chief weapon of the English soldiers. (fn. 8) This, probably, is equally true as regards the bow for the purposes of sport, and supports the view taken by the same authority that the popularity of archery as a sport by no means commenced when the use of the bow in war ceased, but was, on the contrary, greatest when it was most formidable as a military weapon. (fn. 9)
We find Sir T. Elyot describing archery in The Governour, published in 1531, as 'the principall of all other exercises,' and after praising the long bow as a military weapon, stating that 'there is both profite and pleasure above any other artillery' in its 'seconde utilitie . . . which is killyng of deere, wilde foule, and other game.' (fn. 10) Toxophilus, a work of Roger Ascham, published fourteen years later and presented to Henry VIII in 1545, is equally eulogistic of its merits. Henry, who is stated by Sir Thomas Elyot to have been an excellent shot, (fn. 11) was, like his predecessors, Henry V and Henry VII, very fond of archery, as were also Queen Elizabeth and Charles II; (fn. 12) and archery was common in all our early public schools.
At Harrow its practice was encouraged by a bequest establishing annual contests for shooting for a silver arrow, which were continued till 1771, when they were terminated, in spite of vigorous protests, by Dr. Heath. (fn. 13) The extent to which archery was practised by the citizens of London in the sixteenth century is shown by the recital, in a true bill found against John Draney, 'citizen and clothier of London, on 20 January, 1560-1,' for having inclosed 'a certain open field called Stebenhythe Close;' that they had from time immemorial been accustomed, 'without hindrance from any person,' to shoot with bows in the common lands or 'feylds' of 'Stebenhythe' (Stepney), 'Ratclyff,' 'Mylende,' 'Bethnall Grene,' 'Spittlefeylds,' 'Morefeylds,' 'Fynesbury,' and 'Hoggesden;' (fn. 14) and evidence of similar rights in other parts of Middlesex is contained in the records of inquests held on deaths accidentally caused by shooting at Hampton, (fn. 15) South Mimms, (fn. 16) Stepney (two), (fn. 17) Matfelon (Whitechapel), (fn. 18) and Hendon. (fn. 19) Though Shoreditch is not included among the parishes above stated to have possessed common fields its inhabitants must have been keen archers, for one of them was playfully dubbed 'Duke of Shoreditch' by Henry VIII on account of the skill he displayed in a great shooting match at Windsor. At a similar display held at Smithfield during the reign of Elizabeth the same title was assumed by the captain of the archers, while other competitors grandiloquently styled themselves Dukes of Clerkenwell, Islington, Hoxton, and Shadwell, and Earl of St. Pancras. (fn. 20) Stow tells us in his Survey that in 1498 'all the gardens which had continued time of mind without Moorgate, to wit, about and beyond the Lordship of Fensbary (Finsbury) were destroyed, and of them was made a plain field for archers to shoot in;' (fn. 21) while before his time the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen used at Bartholomew-tide to 'shoot at the standard for bow and flight arrows for games' in Finsbury Fields, 'where the citizens were assembled' for several days. (fn. 22) When he wrote, however, their practice had become limited to three or four days after the festival; (fn. 23) and he frequently laments the decay of archery under James I and Charles I. The first of the Stuart kings had indeed, in direct violation of the Statute of Henry VIII, above mentioned, (fn. 24) granted permission in 1620 to Clement Cottrell, groom porter of his household, to license in London and Westminster and their suburbs twenty-four bowling alleys and fourteen tennis courts, besides taverns for dice and cards, and also a similar licence with respect to any other game thereafter to be invented. (fn. 25)
Charles II, who was, as has been said, himself a keen bowman, effected a partial revival in archery after the Restoration. A company of 400 archers, under Sir Gilbert Talbot as colonel and Sir Edward Hungerford as leutenant-colonel, took part in 'a splendid and glorious show in Hyde Park' in 1661; and in 1681 the London archers marched to Hampton Court to shoot before the king for £30 worth of prizes at eight-score yards. (fn. 26) Archery, appears, however, to have ceased to be a national sport when the bow was abandoned as a military weapon, but prior to this two (fn. 27) notable archery societies had been established in Middlesex in the sixteenth century, through which the connexion between ancient and modern arehery has been in some measure prescrved.
The first of these was founded by Henry VIII, who in 1539 by Letters Patent appointed Sir Christopher Morris, his master of ordnance, and Arthur Unwyt and Peter Mewtas, gentlemen of his privy chamber, 'overseers of the science of artillery'-i.e. long bows, crossbows, &c. (fn. 28) -with subordinate 'masters and rulers of the same science,' and empowered them with their successors to establish a perpetual corporation to be called the Fraternity of St. George, and to admit such persons as they found to be eligible. (fn. 29) This Fraternity of St. George, the members of which were authorized 'for pastime's sake to practice shooting at all kinds of marks, and at the game of popinjay in the city of London and its suburbs as well as in other convenient places,' used to practise in Finsbury Fields. (fn. 30) After the abandonment of the bow in war and the introduction of firearms, a part of these fields was inclosed by a wall and used for practice by the gunners of the Tower, and since the early part of the nineteenth century has been called the Artillery Ground, while the Fraternity of St. George was converted into the Honourable Artillery Company. (fn. 31)
The other society is that of the Finsbury Archers, which appears to have been founded by certain members of the Honourable Artillery Company, who being fond of the bow practised with it as a pastime after they had discarded it as a martial weapon, (fn. 32) and it may thus be regarded as indirectly representative of the Fraternity of St. George. To this society, which is first mentioned in 1590, (fn. 33) belongs the honour of having by the establishment of three several competitions called the Easter Target, the Whitsuntide Target, and the Eleven Score Target, initiated in some sense the Grand National Meetings, which have been held since the institution of the Grand National Championship in 1844. Records exist with lists of the captains and lieutenants of the Easter Targets from 1617 to 1757, and of the Whitsun Targets from 1692 to 1761, and the rules of the Eleven Score Target, the winners' names of which are not given, are dated 1761. (fn. 34) In 1696 a bequest of £35, to be divided in prizes, was left under the will of Elizabeth Shakerley (fn. 35) to the society, which then appears to have shot in Finsbury Fields. One of the most notable events in its history was the presentation in 1676 to one of its members, Sir William Wood, as 'Marshal of the Queen's Majesty's Regiment of Archers,' of a silver badge, subscribed for by the officers and others of the Society of Archers within the cities of London and Westminster, (fn. 36) with an archer drawing the long bow embossed thereon, and having the inscription 'Reginae Catherinae Sagitarii,' and the arms of England and Portugal, supported by two bowmen.
In pursuance of a deed executed by Sir William Wood on 6 July, 1691, this badge -now known as the Catherine of Braganza Shield-passed after his death into the custody of the stewards of the society for the time being, and, after the dissolution of the Finsbury Archers, it and other articles belonging to that body were transferred by Mr. Constable, the last captain of the Easter Targets in 1757, to the Royal Toxophilite Society which he joined at its first establishment in 1780. (fn. 37)
The Royal Toxophilite Society, the oldest and most important of English archery clubs, was established in 1780 by Sir Ashton Lever, representative of an old Lancashire family and a great sportsman, in conjunction with Mr. Waring, the curator of his museum of collections, who had studied bow-making under Mr. Constable and the survivors of the Finsbury Archers. (fn. 38) At its first institution, which marks the revival of archery, the society shot in the grounds of Leicester House which stood in Leicester Square close to the site of the present Empire Theatre. (fn. 39) In 1784, however, it obtained leave from the Honourable Artillery Company to shoot in the Artillery Ground, and on 14 July of that year the Earl of Effingham and other members of the latter body subscribed to the rules of the society and formed an Archers' division of the Company, under the captaincy of Lord Effingham. In 1787 H.R.H. the Prince of Wales became patron of the society and sometimes shot with its members. In 1791, when these numbered 168, the society rented grounds in Gower Street near Torrington Square, and it was not until after two successive moves to Highbury, in 1820, and to Westbourne Street, Bayswater, in 1825, that it eventually succeeded, in 1833, in obtaining a lease from the Crown of its present grounds, some 6 acres in extent, at Archer's Lodge in the Inner Circle at Regent's Park. (fn. 40)
It certainly is the leading body of archery, and, though the existence of the Grand National Society prevents its wielding the authority over the sport that is exercised by the M.C.C. over cricket, its influence over archery is great and far reaching.
Its members are scattered all over England, and it is the only society which can really claim to be the nursery of shooting among men, as no society which does not practise the York Round can be looked upon, from an archery point of view, as more than a social gathering. (fn. 41)
The high standard that the society has maintained as regards shooting is shown by the fact that since the institution, in 1844, of the Grand National Championship it has only been held by three gentlemen who were not past or present members of the Royal Toxophilite Society. (fn. 42)
Most of the Thursdays during the session are Target and Extra Target Days; and there are Summer and Autumn Handicap Meetings. There is also a Ladies' Day in July when ladies compete, by invitation, for prizes given by members of the society. The club house contains an interesting collection of historical English bows and of those of all other nations, as well as of pictures and relics connected with archery, such as the Catherine of Braganza Shield. (fn. 43)
The Archers' Register for 1864 shows the existence of two other archery societies which have since ceased to exist. These were the Enfield Archers, established in 1857, which then had from fifty to seventy members and met in Enfield Old Park; and the Harrow Archers, with respect to which no details are given. (fn. 44) The only other society besides the Royal Toxophilite Society mentioned in the Archers' Register for 1906 is the Pinner Archery Society, the date of foundation and membership of which are not recorded. (fn. 45)
As it is stated in the recital of the first charter of incorporation, granted to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen in 1514 by Henry VIII, that 'it had been a laudable custom and usage tyme out of mind to use the river in barge or wherry boat,' (fn. 46) rowing in Middlesex may be said to date from time immemorial, but until the beginning of the nineteenth century it appears to have been entirely professional.
It must not, however, be forgotten that the Thames watermen were the first exponents of the art of rowing, (fn. 47) and that amateur oarsmanship is only the development on more scientific lines of the craft from which they derived their livelihood. (fn. 48) The oldest rowing fixture on the Thames instituted nearly three centuries ago is the annual race for Doggett's Coat and Badge. The prize is a waterman's coat and silver badge given to be rowed for by six young watermen on the first anniversary of George I, 1 August, 1715, by Thomas Doggett, an eminent actor of Drury Lane, who, at his death in 1722, bequeathed a sum of money for the continuance of the custom. (fn. 49) The first regatta is stated in the Badminton volume on Rowing (fn. 50) to have been rowed in front of Ranelagh Gardens in 1775 'presumably by professionals;' and there is a reference to a similar event on 6 August, 1795, in the Sporting Magazine of that year where it is described as 'the contest for the annual wherry given by the Proprietors of Vauxhall by six pairs of oars in three heats.' Coming to the next century, during 1822 we find reports in Bell's Life of 'the anniversary of the Grand Aquatic Regatta of the inhabitants of Queenhithe,' when 'a handsome Wherry' and other prizes were contended for on 31 July by 'six of the free watermen belonging to those stairs;' (fn. 51) and of a similar contest on 30 June between eight watermen belonging to the Temple Stairs for 'a prize wherry given by the gentlemen of the Inns of Court.' (fn. 52) Another report in the same paper during this year (fn. 53) is deserving of notice on account of its allusion to amateur oarsmen. It relates to a 'match' on 8 July
between seven pairs of oars for a prize of thirty pounds which was given by 'The gentlemen of the Frederic and the Corsair,' or in other words by the Amateur Rowing Club, which is composed of noblemen and gentlemen nearly the whole of whom are in the Life and Foot Guards.
from Westminster Bridge to the Sun at Battersea round a boat moored off there and back to a boat moored off the Red House; and for a second heat from Vauxhall Bridge round a boat moored off the Red House and back to a boat moored off White Hall.
The patronage of the Amateur Rowing Club and the fact that the competition was not limited to the watermen of any particular 'Stairs' seems to have made this regatta of exceptional importance, and we are told that 'the river was literally covered with boats and cutters, and the duke of York was present on the Frederic.'
Boating at this period was already beginning to become a popular sport among amateurs. We hear of 'long distance' rows, such as that of 100 miles rowed by 'six gentlemen of the Amicus Cutter Club crew' from Westminster to Gravesend, from Gravesend to Twickenham, and from Twickenham to Westminster in 1821; and another in the following year of eighty miles from the Tower Stairs to the Nore Light by eight members of the same club, performed in eighteen hours nineteen minutes with only half an hour's rest. (fn. 54) A four composed of officers of the Guards, stroked by the Hon. John Needham, afterwards tenth Viscount Kilmorey, rowed from Oxford to London in a day; and the Westminster Boys on St. George's Day, 1825, rowed the Challenge to Eton and back, only fourteen of the twenty hours occupied in covering the 115 miles being spent in the boat. (fn. 55) Four amateur clubs are known to have been in existence early in the nineteenth century-the Star, the Arrow, the Shark, and the Siren-which rowed races among themselves in six-oared boats, generally over long courses. (fn. 56) The members of the Temple seem, too, like the officers of the Guards, to have formed some sort of rowing club, for Mr. Sargeant, in his Annals of Westminster School, says that the Defiance-the first racing boat which the school put on the river-'in 1818 lowered the unbeaten colours of the Templars.' (fn. 57)
It is stated in the Westminster Water Ledger, which is probably the oldest contemporary record in existence with respect to rowing on the Thames in London, that the school had a boat on the river in 1815. (fn. 58) This six-oared boat, the Fly, though not apparently built for racing, won a race against the Temple in 1816 and another with the Defiance; and two subsequent boats, the Challenge and the Victory, are said to have never been beaten in the races with London clubs to which the rowing of the school was limited till 1829. (fn. 59) It was not until this year that the first race with Eton-previous challenges from which, between 1814 and 1820, Westminster had been prevented by the prejudices of its head masters, Page and Goodenough, from accepting (fn. 60) -took place. (fn. 61) This-the first recorded amateur race of importance-and two subsequent contests in 1831 and 1835, ended in a victory for Eton. In 1837, however, Westminster had its revenge in a race which is further memorable for the fact that it led to the adoption of pink as the recognized colour of the school, the crew of which had previously, like that of Eton, worn blue and white; and also for the attendance of King William IV, whose rashness in insisting on witnessing the race seriously aggravated the fatal illness from which he was suffering. (fn. 62) In 1846 Westminster again beat Eton but was easily defeated in the following year. Under the head-mastership of Liddle, who did not regard rowing with favour, the sport was for a while suppressed. (fn. 63) In 1853 the school rowed Leander in a race from Battersea to Putney, losing by a length, and in 1854 it defeated the club in another contest from Vauxhall to Putney. (fn. 64)
Among the most noted of the numerous celebrated oarsmen whom Westminster produced were Sir Patrick Colquhoun, winner of the Wingfield Sculls in 1837, Sir Warrington Smyth, and the first Lord Esher. (fn. 65) The last named, as W. B. Brett of Caius, rowed in the Cambridge crew which won the first University Boat Race from Westminster to Putney in 1836, and in the following year defeated the Leander Club in a race over the same course.
Leander, the oldest club on the tideway, was founded in 1818 or 1819 by members of the old Star and Arrow Clubs, and was at first limited to sixteen, then to twentyfour and later to thirty-five members, until the removal of this restriction in 1857-which was suggested by the success of the London Club founded in the previous year-converted it into the largest club on the river. (fn. 66) In its earlier races it was steered by its waterman, Jim Parish, and it was the first club to lend a helping hand to promising young members of the craft for whose benefit is instituted a coat and badge for scullers. (fn. 67) When it rowed Cambridge in 1837, Leander, to quote a description given of that race by Lord Esher, Master of the Rolls, at a dinner in celebration of the fact that four of the appellate judges were old 'varsity oars' was-
a London Club consisting of men who had never been at the University but . . . were recognised throughout England, and perhaps everywhere in the world, as the finest rowers who had up to that time been seen. (fn. 68)
In 1831 the club had defeated Oxford in a race rowed from Hambleden Lock to Henley Bridge, but when it lost the match with Cambridge six years later, the members are said by Lord Esher to have been 'verging on being middle aged men.' In 1858 it began to be recruited from both the universities, but it was not until 1875 that it won its first victory at Henley with an eight of one Oxford and seven Cambridge men, stroked by J. H. D. Goldie. (fn. 69) Since 1880, when it again won the Grand Challenge with a crew of seven Oxford and one Cambridge oars, stroked by T. C. Edwardes-Moss, there have been only three years when it has not entered at Henley, (fn. 70) and between 1898 and 1905 it has won the Grand Challenge Cup seven times. Besides the two just mentioned it has included amongst its famous oarsmen R. H. Labet, C. W. Kent, Guy Nickalls, V. Nickalls, G. D. Rowe and Lord Ampthill. The present captain is Mr. C. B. Johnstone, president of the Cambridge eight which beat Harvard in 1906.
The London Rowing Club and the Thames Rowing Club, which have combined with Leander to raise amateur rowing to its present high standard, have had similarly successful careers, though both of these famous clubs are many years younger. The London was founded by members of the Argonauts Club in 1856, and was the first really large rowing club unlimited in numbers. Within three months of its creation it had 150 members (fn. 71) and in the year after its foundation it won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley with a crew composed of Ireland (bow), Potter, Schlosel, Nottidge, Paine, Farrar, Casamajor, and H. H. Playford (stroke). (fn. 72) It has been prominently associated with every advance in rowing except the keelless eight, and was the first to introduce the sliding seat in 1872 at Henley. (fn. 73) It has won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley twelve times, the Stewards fifteen times and the Goblets eleven times. Among its most celebrated members may be named F. and H. H. Playford, J. Nottidge, J. Paine, A. A. Casamajor, W. Stout, and F. S. Gulston, the last named of whom won the Grand Challenge for London five times, the Stewards Fours ten times, and the Pairs five times. (fn. 74) The captain for 1907 is Mr. R. B. Freeman.
The Thames Rowing Club, started under the name of the City of London Boat Club, was instituted as a pleasure-boat club in 1861, but soon became a serious rival to the London. (fn. 75) Since its first appearance at Henley in 1870 it has won the Grand Challenge four times, the Stewards six times, and the Goblets three times, and has comprised among its noted oars, A. J. Lowe, R. H. Foster, J. A. M. Rolleston, W. L. Slater, W. H. Eyre, J. A. Drake Smith, B. W. Looker, D. Brown, and J. Hastie. (fn. 76)
In 1879 the Thames and London Rowing Clubs co-operated in establishing the Metropolitan, now the Amateur Rowing Association, which has combined the various Metropolitan Clubs under one flag for promoting the interests of amateur oarsmanship. (fn. 77)
Among the remaining Middlesex clubs, the Twickenham Rowing Club was founded in 1860, the same year as the Thames, and thus shares with it the honour of being the third oldest club on the river. It won its first regatta prize four years later by securing the Junior Fours at the Walton-on-Thames regatta but did not make its first appearance at Henley till 1879 when a crew, coached by the late J. H. D. Goldie, won the Thames Cup which it also secured in 1881 and 1884. In 1883, when the club was strengthened by the accession of D.E. Brown, J. Lowndes, E. Buck and G. E. Roberts from Hertford College, Oxford, and later by that of L. Frere, it rowed in the final for the Grand Challenge Cup, but was beaten by London. It also succeeded in getting into the final for the same event during the two following years, but was defeated by London in 1884, and by Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1885. During recent years it has won the Junior Eights at Molesey Regatta in 1904, the Walton Eights, and the Junior Eights at Staines Regatta in 1905, and the Walton Eights and Walton Junior Eights at Walton, and the Coronation Cup at Kingston Regatta in 1906. The Diamond Sculls were won for the club five times in succession by J. Lowndes, from 1878 to 1883. The captain of the club is Mr. T. S. Grant. (fn. 78)
In addition to the above there are five other Middlesex rowing clubs:-The Kensington, founded 1873, the North London about the same date; and the Auriol, founded 1887, at Hammersmith; the Anglian, founded 1887, at Strand on the Green; and the Staines Rowing Club, established in 1894. St. Paul's School has also had a boat on the river since 1882, and has fixtures with the Merchant Taylors', Cheltenham, and Winchester Schools, and in 1903 the school won the Junior Eights at Molesey Regatta. (fn. 79)
There are annual regattas at Hammersmith, Twickenham, and Staines; but the most important on the tideway is the Metropolitan Regatta, established in 1866, on the initiative of Herbert H. Playford, captain of the London Rowing Club, which is under the sole management of that club. (fn. 80) The Wingfield Challenge Sculls-the annual race for the amateur championship of the Thames-was instituted in 1830, and derives its name from the donor of the prize. The course from 1830 to 1848 was from Westminster to Putney, and from 1849 to 1860 from Putney to Kew. Since 1861 the race has been rowed over the championship course from Putney to Mortlake. (fn. 81) Since 1897 the race has been won five times-in 1897, 1901, 1905, 1906, and 1908-by T. Blackstaffe of the Vesta Rowing Club, (fn. 82) who was also winner of the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley; and twice by B. H. Howel-for Cambridge in 1898, and for the Thames Rowing Club in 1899. In 1900 it was won by C. V. Fox of the Brigade of Guards Rowing Club in the record time of 22 min. 50 sec.; in 1902 by A. H. Choate, London Rowing Club; in 1903 by F. S. Kelly, Leander Rowing Club; in 1904 by St. George Ashe, Thames Rowing Club; in 1907 by J. G. de Edye, and in 1909 by A. A. Stuart, Kingston Rowing Club.
Three international four-oared races have been rowed on the course between Putney and Mortlake; in 1872, when the London Rowing Club beat the Atlanta Boat Club of New York; in 1876, when it beat the Frankfort Rowing Club; and in 1882, when the Thames Rowing Club beat an American crew of somewhat doubtful amateur status. (fn. 83) The eight-oared race between Harvard and Cambridge in 1906, won by the Englishmen, was rowed over the same course.
There are punting courses in Middlesex at Staines, Shepperton, and Sunbury. (fn. 84)
Though there are allusions to tennis, formerly called 'tenisse' or the 'caitch,' in a ballad to Henry IV, written by Gower in 1400, (fn. 85) and in Shakespeare's Henry V, there are no records of the game in England prior to the sixteenth century. The oldest tennis court in England is that erected by Henry VIII at Hampton Court, between 1515 and 1520. (fn. 86)
This court which has been the model for all existing ones appears to have been excellently finished in every detail. There are traces in it of what is termed a rabat-a net placed over the end pent-houses-which has not for many years been used in English courts, (fn. 87) and the following description given of it by Mr. Law in his History of Hampton Court shows the care which was bestowed on its construction:-
Although it is usually supposed by writers on the game of tennis that the courts in England were not glazed till the beginning of this century we find from the old bills that in the tennis court at Hampton Court the windows, which were twelve in number-six on each side-were 'sett with glass' in the year 1550, and over each of them was stretched a wire netting to prevent the glass from being broken by the balls. Each window was divided into three lights, and contained altogether 112 sq. ft. of glass, so that no inconsiderable amount of light was afforded within. At each end of the tennis court still remain 'the new lodgynges by the tennis play' which were built by Henry VIII, and which were doubtless occupied by the master of the court, the markers, servers and others. In these 'lodgings' there are in addition rooms on the ground floor adapted for dressing rooms, and others on the front floor with small windows into the court used by distinguished lookers-on. These and the court itself were connected with the main building of the palace by two passages or galleries, the upper one communicating directly with the old Queen's Gallery. (fn. 88)
The privy purse expenses of Henry VIII, who was a frequent and skilful player, contain numerous entries respecting the games he played at this court; (fn. 89) and among subsequent royal players there were Prince Henry son of James I, (fn. 90) Charles II, (fn. 91) and William III. (fn. 92) Both Charles II (fn. 93) and William III renovated the court, (fn. 94) and a bird's-eye view of it as it appeared after its restoration by the latter, engraved by Kip from a drawing by Knyff, is given in the edition of 1720 of Britannia Illustrata. Play was continued at the court after the palace had been divided into apartments. George Lambart, the greatest of living players in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, was marker there in 1866, and, on quitting it for the court at Lord's three years later, was succeeded by his younger brother William, who was still playing there in 1878. (fn. 95)
In addition to the court or 'close tennys play' at Hampton Court-where there was also an 'open tennys play,' which appears to have been constructed for a game resembling lawn tennis (fn. 96) -Henry VIII also built courts both at Whitehall and St. James's Palace.
With regard to that at Whitehall, Stow in his Survey of London says that on the right hand, beyond the gallery connecting the two portions of the royal palace at Westminster, were 'divers fayre Tennis Courts, bowling Alleys and Cockpits, all built by King Henry VIII.' (fn. 97) Though it is clearly shown in a map of 1658 by Fordham, no traces now exist of this court, (fn. 98) while the site of that erected by Henry VIII at St. James's Palace, in which both Henry Prince of Wales and his brother Charles I are recorded to have played, (fn. 99) is also unknown. (fn. 100) An order was issued 27 July 1649 to 'John Hooke, keeper of the tennis court at St. James's' to deliver the keys to Colonel Thomas Pride 'to enable him to quarter his soldiers there,' and Mr. Marshall suggests that it may have been converted into a sort of guard house or prison. (fn. 101) It is, however, referred to as the tennis court at St. James's in a warrant of 19 August, 1729, from the lords of the Treasury to the Clerk of the Pipe with respect to the lease of a piece of ground adjoining it. (fn. 102)
Charles II built a new court at Whitehall in 1662-the dimensions of which were taken from that at Hampton Court (fn. 103) -which appears to have been commonly called 'Longs,' (fn. 104) and an entry of 28 December in that year in Pepys' Diary describes a game, which must have been one of the first played there, by the king and Sir A. Slingsby against Lord Suffolk and Lord Chesterfield. 'The king,' he says, 'beat three and lost two sets, they all, and he particularly playing well I thought.' (fn. 105) Recording another game on 4 January, 1663, the diarist again says that Charles 'did play very well,' but observes that 'to see how the king's play was extolled without any cause at all was a loathsome sight.' (fn. 106) He also mentions 'a great match' at this court, on 2 September, 1667, 'between Prince Rupert and Captain Cooke against Bab May and the elder Chichely, when the king was at the court, and it seems that they are the best players at tennis in the nation.' (fn. 107)
In addition to these four royal courts, there were numerous private courts in London during the seventeenth century, nearly all of which seem to have been on the Middlesex side of the river. In 1620, as has been mentioned in treating of archery, (fn. 108) James I granted permission to the groom porter of his household, Clement Cottrell, to license fourteen in London and Westminster, (fn. 109) but a list of those in existence in 1615 kept by the clerk of the works at Petworth, quoted by Mr. Marshall in his Annals of Tennis, (fn. 110) gives-exclusive of the covered and uncovered courts at Whitehall-the following twelve:-Somerset House, Essex House, Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, Blackfriars, Southampton Street (Holborn), Charterhouse, Powles Chaine (fn. 111), Abchurch Lane, St. Laurence Pountney, Crutched Friars and Fenchurch Street.
The last-named court belonged to the Ironmongers' Company, who are shown by Mr. Marshall to have sold tennis balls as early as 1489, and as they were doing so in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Henry VIII may perhaps have included that sovereign among their customers. (fn. 112) Evidence of the site of the court in Southampton Street is furnished by a place called the Tennis Court, on the south side of Holborn in Northumberland Court, Old Southampton Buildings. No traces of the others enumerated in the Petworth list exist. (fn. 113) There was, however, another court not included in it, which was built by the Earl of Pembroke's barber, and attached to a gaming house in James Street, Haymarket. This court appears to have been in existence from 1635 to 1866. (fn. 114) 'With convenience of situation,' says Mr. Marshall, (fn. 115) 'it united great excellence, not only in its proportions but also in the materials of which it was built, the stone of the floor having, as tradition says, been brought from Germany.' Barcella, a noted French player, played in this court in 1802, and in 1829 J. Edmond Barre played Philip Cox there at evens and beat him. (fn. 116)
The maintenance of the royal courts at St. James's and Whitehall during the early part of the eighteenth century is shown by references, respectively relating to the lease and purchase of lands adjoining them, in two treasury warrants of 1729; (fn. 117) and also by the record of payments of £90 10s. 6d. to Thomas Chaplin 'on his salary of £120 per annum as keeper of the tennis courts,' on 29 April in that year, and of £60 2s. 8d. 'to Charles Fitzroy, esq., keeper of H.M. tennis courts,' on 26 March, 1729, and on 19 August, 1730. (fn. 118) The game, however, seems to have then fallen somewhat into decay, and great as its reputation appears to have been, the court in James Street was most probably the sole survivor of the private courts.
It was not until the second quarter of the nineteenth century that there was any revival of interest in the game, and modern tennis must be held to date from the opening of the court at Lord's, the first stone of which was laid by Mr. Benjamin Aislabie on 15 October, 1838.
The dimensions of this court were taken from those of the court in James Street, Haymarket, (fn. 119) but it is pointed out by Mr. Marshall that it differs as regards the height of the net from that at Hampton Court and that, in addition to other imperfections, the galleries are all of wrong sizes. (fn. 120) Two of the first matches played in it were those between J. Edmond Barre, the celebrated French player, and Peter Tompkins, the Brighton market, on 10 and 16 July, 1839, in both of which the former-who in the second match gave his opponent half thirty and a bisque-was victorious after a hard contest. (fn. 121) Among the most noted players who frequented it in early days were the Hon. C. Ashburton, the Hon. Captain Spencer, Captain Taylor, 6th Carabineers, and Messrs. G. Taylor, W. Cox, C. Derby, H. Everett, Thorold Murray Crook, H. Clay, and J. M. Heathcote, the amateur champion in 1878. (fn. 122) In 1867 a gold and a silver prize for the best and next best amateur of the year, open only to members, was instituted by the Marylebone Club, the winners of which during the following ten years were:-
|Gold-||1867-77 J. M. Heathcote (every year).|
1867 Julian Marshall.
1868 G. B. Crawley.
1869-73 Hon. C. G. Lyttelton.
1874-75 G. B. Crawley.
1876-77 R. D. Walker.
In addition to the court at Lord's there are two at Prince's-a social club established for the practice of tennis and racquets in 1853- and two at the Queen's Club, West Kensington, which was founded in 1886 for the practice of these games and of lawn tennis.
Sir Edward Grey 1889, 1891, 1895, 1896, 1898; Mr. F. B. Curtis 1890; Mr. H. F. Crawley 1892, 1893, 1894; Mr. J. B. Gribble 1897; Mr. V. Pennell 1904; Mr. E. H. Miles 1899-1903, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910; Mr. Jay Gould 1907, 1908.