The Game of Battledore and Shuttlecock.

Written by Geoff Hinder


Click on images to enlarge.

Battledore bats and shuttlecocks in Badminton House.

Photo: – Geoff Hinder.

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.”

Battledore and shuttlecock being played in the North Hall at Badminton House
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. If a single player played, they would hit the shuttle in the air counting the number times they could do this without it falling on the floor. 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.
Battledore shuttlecocks

Photos: – Geoff Hinder.

The Battledore bats usually had fine leather covered shafts and almost circular heads. Instead of having strings the heads are covered in vellum. Shuttlecocks at this time would almost certainly have had been made of chicken feathers pushed into cork and would have been twice the size and weight as we know them today.
The North Hall at Badminton House

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.’

Girl playing battledore 1894



One thing we did notice in the National Badminton Museum, looking through the old press reports from the 1860s/1870s, was that the words ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ were used many times by the legal profession and politicians when describing that something had been passed backwards and forwards many times.

Photo: – Geoff Hinder

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