Who Invented Croquet?
When it comes to asking, “Who invented croquet?”, there are almost as many potential answers as there are players, with its roots and alternatives traced to everywhere from France to Ireland. However, when it comes to popularising the game across the English shores, there is little question as to the involvement of one man and his unveiling of the classic lawn game at The Great Exhibition of 1851.
So, join us, as we share some playful pride and discuss how the game of croquet became permanently linked to the name of Jaques of London.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was certainly a game changer when it came to British design and engineering. Backed by the patronage of Prince Albert, the event sought to promote everything that was so great about being and buying British. It comes as no surprise that John Jaques II would see this as the perfect opportunity to push his latest endeavour – the game of croquet. So significant was it in the legacy of the Jaques name, that Jaques of London would commemorate the moment 150 years later, with the 8 Player Exhibition Croquet Set, a deluxe croquet set that is still sold to this day.
Where Did Croquet Come From?
When it comes to discovering the history of croquet, this is very much a tale of who you ask. But let’s get right to the grass roots of the issue, and go to highest heights of croquet connoisseurship: The president of the Fédération Française de Croquet, Anthoine Ravez, in his brochure for the Coupe des Alpes (France, Switzerland, Italy) of 1992:
"Croquet is a very old game, widely known and practised in France since the XI century under the name of 'jeu de mail'. Borrowed by the British around 1300, it was modified over the centuries: the Scots made golf out of it, the Irish turned it into croquet.”
Certainly not a flight of French fancy. The game was indeed originated on French soil, and it is perhaps no surprise that the Jaques themselves were thought to be of French Huguenot descent. But, when it comes to the game we know today, there is no doubt that John Jaques II was the populariser of lawn play.
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Was Croquet Played at Wimbledon?
As keen strawberry and cream fans, we are always willing to forearm swing our way by SW19. In fact, when it comes to Jaques and the king of tennis tournaments, there has been a long rally running for well over 150 years.
Before becoming the revelry of racket play that we know today, Wimbledon began its life as the All England Croquet Club. Croquet was the courting game of the masses and showed no signs of slowing down, until the first ace made its way to the nation’s capital. By the early 1870s, lawn tennis was afforded the opportunity to shine in front of an eager public, as the headquarters for croquet would be renamed to The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. By 1882, the word croquet had disappeared from the club it had originated altogether.
Of course, by this time, croquet had made more than a splash in the hearts of game playing fans nationwide. In fact, it had become so intrinsically linked to the Jaques name, that it would make its way into the books of Louis Carroll, with Alice’s gaming trip through Wonderland placing note upon how significant of a game it had become, as she played with flamingo mallets and disappearing hedgehog balls.
Although, we would wish to ignore the slight touch of nepotism in place, as by this point, Lewis Carroll’s grandniece, Irene Dodgson, had agreed to marry John Jaques III.
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Writing the Rules of Croquet
It wasn’t merely a fictionalised flamingo taking on the famous game that would bring croquet to the masses. John Jaques’ Laws and Regulations found publication in 1864 and, whilst providing a more grounded telling of the game, was largely responsible for setting the game we now know in place, penning a Cheshire cat grin across the faces of players throughout Britain.
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How Croquet Became Ping Pong
Through his growing frustrations with the grand slam success of tennis, John Jaques would go on to introduce the game of Gossima as a retort to centre court challengers. In recognition of the difficult marketing potential of such a bizarre title, the game of tennis would take to the dining table, as Ping Pong was born.
From Croquet, to tennis, to ping pong, there is no doubt that the Jaques name has played a lasting role in some of the world’s most popular and beloved gaming titles. For even more on the origins of Wimbledon and the creation of Ping Pong, load your mallets and get ready for the educational excellence of our Mini Minds Hub – Your number one resource for parenting tips and tip top children’s activities.
When it comes to innovation, Jaques of London have always endeavoured to be frontrunners in fun. So, the next time you ask, “Who invented croquet?”, look no further than the world’s oldest games makers.