Last month I finished a six-thousand-word essay and extensive timeline on the history of squash that was posted at the World Squash Federation’s website. in 2002 I had written an earlier version and it was definitely time to update the piece—so much has changed in the past fifteen years—and add a timeline for accessibility.
In researching the piece, I came across a couple of tidbits that I just couldn’t track down fifteen years ago in the digitally darker ages of the internet. I was especially interested in the spread of the game beyond Harrow. In the 1880s courts started to appear around England; usually the first to be mentioned is one at Oxford that an old Harrovian built in 1883.
Following up a lead, I contacted Henry Holland-Hibbert. His great grandparents put up a stand-alone court in the late 1880s at their Herefordshire estate, Munden. He told me that the court was constructed of timber on a solid base with large glass panels in both sides of a pitched roof. It was known as the Racquets Court.
Since there was no standardized court for squash in the 1880s, it isn’t surprising to note that Holland-Hibbert said the court was larger than a regular court today.
The family, interestingly, were not from Harrow but rather Eton. Both his great uncle, Thurstan Holland-Hibbert, and his grandfather, Wilfred Holland-Hibbert, were keeper (captain) of racquets at Eton. So the game, evidently, had spread from Harrow to Eton enough in the 1880s for some old boys to want to build a court.
Growing up, Holland-Hibbert only knew of the court as a dilapidated garden shed. In the 1990s it was in a very poor state of repair. As both repair or replacement were prohibitively expensive, they demolished it.
He kindly sent me two photos: one from a family album of the outside of the court in 1905 and a current photo. The back wall remains, about a hundred and thirty years after it was built. You can still see the dark blue service line across the white wood.
I believe it must be the oldest remnant of a squash court in the world.