If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you certainly remember…
Two English garden games to play in the summer
The English summer cannot be imagined without a garden and an English country garden really should hold a picnic and outdoor games. Isn’t it a typically English scene, gentlemen playing golf or tennis on an English estate while ladies preparing tea for the picnic or playing some other games? It is so English. So let’s have a look at two quintessentially English games.
Probably known by all of us, but it is perhaps less known where the origins of this game came from. Most probably an early version was played by the Greeks, who used discs and not rings. The game was then passed on to the Romans, who then brought it to Britain. Of course, the rings were made of iron and not wood, not rope or plastic like these days. Another theory suggests that quoits developed from horseshoe pitching.
Anyway, one thing is for sure: quoits was played in early England and if you look carefully, Elizabeth Bennet plays this game in the 1995 film Pride and Prejudice, in the garden with her sisters. As, with the majority of the games, quoits too has several versions: the Northern, the Long, the East-Anglia or the Garden version – just few of the many. There is also a version played at fairs whereby the player has to throw the ring over the desired prize. Such scene can be seen in Downton Abbey for example.
The rules were first published in 1881 by the world’s first field sport magazine, The Field which first appeared in 1853. I think it does not matter what rules you follow for a garden party, or you can create your own rules. For example when we played quoits, we defined the distance from where we were supposed to throw the rings and also the number of rounds were decided, namely five. Of course the winner is who reaches the highest score – and this time it was me! Let me have one remark though: the game is not as easy as it may seem! However, it is great fun for family and friends, and last but not least, it is so quintessentially English…
I am sure there are many films in which croquet is played – for me The Sequel by Lucy Maud Montgomery springs to mind where the girls play croquet at the Kingsport Ladies College, but Alice in Wonderland also played croquet where the mallets were flamingos. But what is this game that resembles golf and polo and has a French sounding name? Is it English or French?
Allegedly the game was brought to England in the 17th century from France and it became a popular game during the reign of Charles II when it was called paille mail (or pall mall) derived from the Latine words for ‘ball and mallet’. This is where the name of the walk in Saint James’s Park, now called the Mall, received its name from where Charles himself and his courtiers frequently exercised themselves in the practice of this pastime.
Another theory suggests that croquet arrived from Ireland during the 1850s, after being brought there from Brittany. Well, I am not sure but maybe the first version seems to be more authentic.
Either way, the rules of croquet were registered by a London toy maker, Isaac Spratt in 1856 and he also described the rules of badminton in 1860. Allegedly he sold the patent to the famous sport and game equipment maker John Jaques in 1857. However, another theory suggests, that croquet was introduced to England by John Jaques in 1851 at the Great Exhibition. Well, who knows which gentleman was to publish it first…? (btw Jaques of London is the oldest sports and games manufacturers in the world passed down from father to son for six generations and the Jaques family certainly can claim popularising croquet and other family games.)
Croquet was highly popular in the 1860s in the middle and upper classes, but a decade later, tennis took over its place. What a shame I have to say because croquet is great fun!
I have to admit I have always wanted to try croquet since I moved to England. I am not sure why. Maybe because it is different and quirky and very English. While I find golf extremely boring (mind you I have not tried golf yet and after croquet it may as well turn out to be big fun as well!), I was surprised how much I loved and enjoyed playing croquet! I just simply love this game.
We played 4 of us and by below rules:
Hoops are placed on the field according below image every 5-6 strides. The pike must be put in the middle.
Players must start the game from the starting point and the goal is to pass their balls through the hoops without touching anybody else’s ball. If it does, the player whose ball was touched has a bonus hit. If the ball passed through the hoop, the player has a bonus hit. The winner is who passes the hoops and hits the pike in the middle first. We played 4 sets to give the opportunity to everybody to win one round.
It does not sound complicated, does it? Trust me, it is great fun!
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