fives court company

Fives - a game with history

Eton Fives - as a handball game played against walls - is a direct descendent of a game which has been played for millennia.

One form is known to have been played in Egyptian times. In the 10th century the Maya in Mexico also developed a ball court game where the winner had the dubious reward of being sacrificed to ensure a plentiful rainfall.

A close cousin, Jeu de paume - or handball - has been played in France since the 11th century. This became what is now known as real tennis, and is the basis for every racket sport. One-wall handball, pelota basque and jai alai are also related games.  

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In medieval times, it was played against chapel walls and was codified at Eton College 150 years ago. The strange shape & added hazards of the Eton Fives court derive from a bay alongside the chapel at Eton where the schoolboys played. The game was codified more formally in the mid 19th century & had its heyday in the first quarter of the 20th century. Since then it has spread to many of England's great schools such as Westminster and Shrewsbury and is now spreading through the state school system.

The country's first public Eton fives and one-wall courts were erected at the Westway Sports Centre in west London a few years ago.

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