Badminton House is in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. It is where the game of badminton was invented in 1863 or just before. The house is the private home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort and the Somerset family. It dates from the 17th century and has many interesting and valuable paintings on display. Badminton House has some beautiful gardens and is set in a deer park which hosts the world-famous Badminton Horse Trials.
We know that the game of badminton evolved from the older game of Battledore and Shuttlecock because of an article called ‘Life in a Country House’ in the December 1863 Cornhill magazine. The Cornhill Magazine was a monthly Victorian literary journal. The relevant part to the game of badminton was “If the weather be such as to introduce you to remain within doors, your co-operation will be sought for a game at pool, badminton (which is battledore and shuttlecock played with sides, across a string suspended some 5 feet from the ground), and similar amusements.”
The game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The roots of the game have been reported to go back to ancient times in China and other Asian countries. The game was played with rackets, battledores and even wooden paddles. ‘Battledore and shuttlecock ‘was played without a net and without the boundary lines of a court. Two or more players hit the shuttlecock back and forth. This was usually a cooperative rather than competitive game. The players purposely hit the shuttlecock towards rather than away from each other. Their goal was to have as long a rally as possible keeping the shuttlecock up in the air and counting the number of consecutive successful strokes in each rally.
The old battledore which has the inscriptions handwritten in ink on its parchment face.
Photo: – Geoff Hinder.
We know the game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ was played at Badminton House as early as 1830 because they still have in their possession two old battledores which have inscriptions handwritten in ink on their parchment faces. The oldest reads: ‘Kept with Lady Somerset on Saturday January 12th 1830 to 2117 with… (unreadable)’. The second says: ‘Lady Henrietta Somerset in February 1845 kept up with Beth Mitchell 2018.’
A string was rigged up one rainy day in c1863 across the middle of the North Hall of Badminton House from the front door handle to the fireplace. A new game was played, with the shuttle being hit over the string between the participants. The rules were made up as they went along, becoming more and more sophisticated until they had invented the game of badminton. The North Hall at Badminton House is the same size as a badminton court as we know it today, 13.4m by 6.1m.