The ancient game of fives will be played on a court at Elizabeth Castle this weekend (13th-14th Oct), for the first time in decades.
A group from the Old Citizens’ Eton Fives Club (OCEFC) in London, which is attached to the City of London School, are visiting the Island – and one of their members, resident Tom Gales – to play the handball game as part of their club’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
Fives is similar to squash but is played without a racquet, and can be traced back to at least the 16th century. The court at Elizabeth Castle was built in the 18th century to the northern end of the Officers’ Quarters and is the only remaining fives court in Jersey.
The sport is no longer played in Jersey and the Island’s only remaining court hasn’t been used since the 1990s, when groups of Old Victorians used to visit Elizabeth Castle to play fives.
This weekend will be the first time that members of the OCEFC, which is the oldest fives club in the world, have played in Jersey. Club member John Reynolds said: “I love the game and have played since I was ten-years-old. It is an ancient game and the court at Elizabeth Castle might be the oldest surviving court in Britain. We are really looking forward to playing on it.”
Although interest in playing fives has declined dramatically over the years, Mr Reynolds said the sport was having something of a revival. “More than 1,000 children now take part in the national championships and there are 40 places where they play Eton Fives,” he said. “It used to be one of the most prevalent games in the country at the turn of the previous century; every public school had fives courts. It is a mystery of British sport that something so popular faded from view.”
Jon Carter, chief executive of Jersey Heritage, used to play fives when he was a student at Victoria College. He said: “It’s such a shame that fives is no longer played in Jersey. It’s a great game and we’d love to hear from anyone who is interested in reviving the sport and holding a future tournament.”