The game of badminton in 1863

Written by Geoff Hinder

                                                                                  The game of badminton in 1863.

Click on images to enlarge.

 

The National Badminton Museum has discovered through the Newspaper.com website, an article in the Wednesday 23 December 1863 Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, which had published part of an article called “Life in a Country House” from the December 1863 Cornhill Magazine. The Cornhill Magazine was a monthly Victorian literary journal. The relevant part to the game of badminton is “If the weather be such as to introduce you to remain within doors, your co-operation will be sought for the 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 present-day game of badminton developed from this much older game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’. Badminton was being played in at least 1863 and may be a few years before that.

 

 

 

 

Many Badminton historians and coaching books have said that badminton started in 1873. The National Badminton Museum has managed to purchase for its reference library a Cornhill Magazine book July to December 1863. This book has the complete article of “Life in a Country House”.

The old battledore which has the inscriptions handwritten in ink on its parchment face.

Photos: – 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.’

North Hall at Badminton House

Photo: –  Bernd-Volker Brahms

We believe in the National Badminton Museum that the game of badminton evolved from the old game of ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ in 1863, or just before, in Badminton House. The game was not particularly popular in England at that time and was taken to India by army officers of the British Indian Army. We know that some of the sons of the Duke of Beaufort were in the British Indian Army. Over the next decade the game became very popular with British army officers and civil servants stationed in India. The good weather conditions in India meant the game was mainly played outside. In about 1873 the game became more popular in this country with army officers and civil servants returning from India and forming Badminton Clubs mainly in the South of England.

Photo: – Geoff Hinder.

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