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A life in antiques - There's a good sport

PUBLISHED: 17:37 10 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:10 20 February 2013

The Packhouse antiques centre in Runfold, Farnham keep Surrey Life up-to-date each month

The Packhouse antiques centre in Runfold, Farnham keep Surrey Life up-to-date each month

Owner of The Packhouse antiques centre in Farnham, Alison Hougham reports on the growing trend for vintage sports equipment

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2009

Owner of The Packhouse antiques centre in Farnham, Alison Hougham reports on the growing trend for vintage sports equipment


Find out when and where upcoming Surrey antiques fairs are taking place



Summer is the perfect time for awakening our love of old sporting favourites: tennis, cricket and for many the pursuit of croquet.

The delights of this colourful garden game conjure up visions of idyllic summer afternoons spent with friends and family. Kids and young adults actively challenging keen grandparents, convivial banter juxtaposed with competitive conversations about technique, style and who will make it through the hoop first. Of course, the 'accidental' incidents involving mallets and toes only add to the drama, laughter and ultimate enjoyment!

Lately, our customers seem to have been increasingly on the look-out for vintage sporting paraphernalia - many hoping to find items that they will actually use and others simply looking for decorative props to adorn the home and garden.

Needless to say, I was delighted then to discover that one of our valued dealers at The Packhouse, Stewart Watt, had sourced two most delightful 1950s croquet sets - one for children and the other for adults. Then, just as we had decided to include croquet as the theme of this month's column, a charming gentleman came in and purchased the child's set before we could even get the shutter off the camera!

That is what I love about antiques, there is such a quick turnover of stock, if you blink the item you fell in love with will have sold and you may never again see one quite like it.

A 1950s classic

The adult set, a real Fifties classic, comes complete with a practical, green wooden stand. It looks as if it has graced many lawns over the years and has been exceptionally well looked after, though quite where it originates from is unclear.

Two theories exist about the game itself. One is that before it took England by storm in the 1860s, croquet derived from France and was introduced during the reign of Charles II, when it was played under the name of Paille Maille, suggesting ball and mallet. The second theory is that the game arrived from Ireland during the 1850s, perhaps after being brought there from Brittany where a similar game was played on the beaches. John Jaques (of manufacturer Jaques fame - which still supplies a large share of croquet equipment today) apparently claimed in a letter to Arthur Lillie, in 1873, that he had himself seen the game played there: 'I made the implements and published directions before Mr Spratt [who is also claimed to have first written down the rules] introduced the subject to me.' Whatever the truth, Jaques certainly played an important role in popularising the game, producing editions of the laws in 1857, 1860 and 1864.

Despite the game being eclipsed in the late 1870s by tennis, the revival of this much-loved classic as a family pursuit is for many a very British tradition that should be enjoyed to the full in summer. I hope this set sells quickly, and sparks much camaraderie among the family to which it goes!

• The Packhouse is in Runfold, Farnham: www.packhouse.com

Find out when and where upcoming Surrey antiques fairs are taking place


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