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More About Croquet
Not long ago I wrote about the American version of six wicket croquet called American Rules Croquet. It is the game most popularly played in the United States and Canada. In researching the game, I came across some interesting trivia. I’ll share it with you.
A good Croquet court is flat, perfectly flat with even short cut grass. It owes a lot to Edwin Budding who, in 1827 invented the lawn mower. Budding’s mower was designed primarily to cut the lawn on sports grounds and extensive gardens, as a superior alternative to the scythe. He was granted a British patent on August 31, 1830. Without the lawn mower where would croquet be, or tennis and golf for that matter?
In 1851 John Jaques II, a famous toy and game manufacturer, introduced Croquet at the Great Exhibition of England. His display there attracted such wide attention that the game became the vogue, not only in England, but throughout the British Empire. The oldest document to bear the word “croquet” with a description of the modern game is the set of rules registered by Isaac Spratt in November 1856 with the Stationers’ Company in London. This record is now in the English Public Records Office.
And, in 1859 there is the first record of a croquet court in the USA at Nahant, Massachusetts.
In 1868 the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbledon, London. I had never associated Wimbledon with croquet.
Croquet became highly popular as a social pastime in England during the 1860s; by 1867, Jaques had printed 65,000 copies of his Laws and Regulations of the game. It quickly spread to other Anglophone countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. No doubt one of the attractions was that the game could be played by both sexes; this also ensured a certain amount of adverse comment.
By the late 1870s, however, croquet had been eclipsed by another fashionable game, tennis, and many of the newly created croquet clubs, including the All England club at Wimbledon, converted some or all of their lawns into tennis courts. There was a revival in the 1890s, but from then onwards, croquet was always a minority sport, with national individual participation amounting to a few thousand players. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club still has a croquet lawn, but has not hosted any significant tournaments.
A variation of croquet, American nine-wicket roque, was played at the 1904 Olympic Games in Saint Louis .
Croquet nearly disappeared in the United States until the 1920’s and 1930’s when the Hollywood set took an interest in it and in addition private clubs in the Northeast began to be established. During this time there were many variations played. The six-wicket sport called American Rules croquet was adopted in 1977 when six eastern clubs (including the Westhampton Mallet Club, Croquet Club of Bermuda, Green Gables Croquet Club, New York Croquet Club and Palm Beach Croquet Club) formed the United States Croquet Association.
Here is a picture of the equipment used in modern croquet: mallet, wicket, clips, and balls. In addition there would be a peg and a deadness board which we will discuss later. There is a clip representing each ball:, i.e., the blue clip represents the blue ball, the red clip represents the red ball and so on.
In the course of play, the clip is attached to the top or side of a wicket to show which specific ball or balls must next go through it
For example, look at this new composition of mine, Yellow for Wicket. It will tell you several things. First, on the wicket are two clips, black and yellow. This lets you know that both the black ball and the yellow ball are trying to go through this wicket. Yellow is about to be hit through the wicket. When that happens the player will remove the yellow clip and place it on the top of her next target wicket.
In the background next to the seated figure is the deadness board. This records which ball(s) has been hit by another ball during the course of play. A player will hit another ball with his ball in order to earn extra shots. The ball that has hit another ball is said to be dead on the ball and may not hit it again before making its next wicket. Once it makes its next wicket, the ball is said to be clean and the deadness board is changed to show that ball as white, or clean. In the board shown here, red had hit yellow at some earlier time and is “dead on yellow”. It cannot hit yellow again before it goes through its next wicket.
To the right of the player is the peg. This is the last target in the course of play. You will notice colors on the peg. These show the sequence in which the balls are played, i.e., blue first, red second, black third and yellow fourth.
In the foreground of this next work, The Watched Shot, you see a yellow clip attached to the side of the wicket. This tells you two things. First, this is the wicket yellow must go through next. Second, the fact that the clip is on the side is significant. This tells you that yellow has made it through all the wickets once and is now on the second (and final) pass through the course.
Clips are put on the top of the wicket until the ball they represent has passed through the first half of the course, the first six wickets. Once the ball has gone through the six wickets, for the second half of the course the ball’s clip will be put on the side, on the wicket stanchion. In a game it is common to see a wicket that has clips on the top and on the side at the same time. This lets you know that some of the balls have not completed the first six wickets, those with the clip on the top, and some have completed the first six wickets, those with the clips on the side.
Here the player is attempting to strike his opponent’s ball which is “in the jaws”, part way through the wicket. A referee has been called in to watch the shot to be certain the balls cleanly hit. If the player hits the wicket causing the opponent’s ball to move, it will not be considered a roquet (or hit) and the player’s turn will end.
And, finally, the fact that the opponent’s ball is in the jaws speaks to the term “It’s a sticky wicket.”
New Painting Available
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New Limited Edition Croquet Prints