History (Last updated: 2019 Mar 20)
There has been croquet in Eastbourne almost from the beginning of the sport’s dramatic appearance on the English social scene in the early 1860s. The Compton Croquet Club was founded, on its present Saffrons site, in 1898. To mark the club’s centenary James Kellaway (ex-chairman) wrote a short history which was printed as an A5 pamphlet. Many copies were sold to members and the author generously donated the profits to club funds. The text is reproduced below, with permission.
In addition to the permanent presence of croquet at The Saffrons, Eastbourne hosted an annual end-of-season tournament at Devonshire Park until 1982.
Compton Croquet Club: A History: 1898–1998 by James Kellaway
Compton Croquet Club was founded in 1898. It is one of the oldest croquet clubs in the country although, by 1898, croquet had been played in England for almost fifty years. The fate of two earlier Eastbourne croquet clubs may well have been in the minds of those who attended the inaugural meeting. Certainly, they would have been aware that the game itself had all but foundered some few years before.
Croquet was at first played in country house and other private gardens, particularly by the young. It has long been claimed that the first croquet club in England was formed at Worthing in 1865. In truth the honour may belong to Eastbourne. The Eastbourne Cricket, Archery and Croquet Club advertised in the Eastbourne Gazette on 10 June 1863 that it was open to visitors. The ground was at Ashford Road, near the railway station, where the multi-storey car park now stands. The Gazette of 9 December 1863 carried a report of a general meeting of the cricket club where reference was made to ‘the croquet club’, its secretary and its balance sheet, indicating a separate existence.
At this time there was no generally accepted version of the game. Published rules differed and there were local variations. The size of a court depended upon the area of ground available and there were no boundaries. Balls were played from where they stopped. Hoops were at least twice as wide as those in use today and the number per court and their settings also varied. In 1868 the All England Croquet Club was formed to bring some order into the confusion. A club conference was called the following year to agree laws. Colonel Prichard’s excellent History of Croquet states that the 27 clubs invited included Worthing, Cheltenham, Sussex County and Eastbourne. It seems certain that this Eastbourne club was the one referred to in the Gazette of 1863. It was a club of some standing, being one of only 12 in the country which staged open tournaments.
In September 1869 a two-day croquet tournament at Ashford Road was one of the events of the Eastbourne season. It was held under the auspices of the All England Club and the patronage of the Duke of Devonshire and Lady Fanny Howard. Nine courts, each 80 yards × 20 yards, were laid out. Courts of this length were rare although the maximum length permitted at the time was 100 yards. The hoops, the Eastbourne Chronicle reported, were ‘only seven inches wide’. Spectators, who were required to contribute not less than half-a-guinea per family, were entertained by the band of the 10th Hussars which was stationed at Brighton and by the singing of several glees. There were six entrants for the principal event. The winner received a silver-gilt cup while the runner-up had to be content with gold studs and cufflinks.
Devonshire Park, when it was opened in July 1874, was given over to cricket and croquet. The croquet lawns were along Blackwater Road, where the centre and number one tennis courts and the car park are now situated. It was reported that a croquet club was to be formed. Meanwhile the All England Club had set about its task, notably passing Conference Laws and leasing four acres at Worple Road, Wimbledon, which was destined to be tennis headquarters unti1 1922.
In 1874 a Major Wingfield patented a game which he called Sphairisticke claiming it was based on a game played by the ancient Greeks. Someone with a better sense of marketing soon renamed it lawn tennis. The young in particular, took up the new game with enthusiasm. In 1875 the Wimbledon Committee agreed that one lawn should be given over to tennis. The Trojan horse was within the gates. More croquet lawns had to be surrendered. The name of the club was changed to the ‘All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club’ and the croquet adherents became outnumbered on the club committee. The situation in the country at large was no better. Everywhere croquet lawns were taken over for tennis and croquet clubs foundered. In Eastbourne, croquet was still being played in Devonshire Park in 1879 when the subscription for the season was five shillings (25 pence). By 1881 croquet was no longer an option and the park boasted 30 tennis courts. Croquet ceased at Wimbledon in 1882 and the word was dropped from the club title. The game was left without a controlling body. In 1896 enthusiasts persuaded the Wimbledon committee to give up tennis for a week in order to stage a croquet tournament. The following year an association, soon to be renamed ‘The Croquet Association’, was formed.
In Eastbourne, a meeting called by a Dr Otto Holst of Upperton Gardens, who had proposed the formation of a croquet club, was held on 21 April 1898 at 17 The Avenue. Fifteen people were present, only four of whom were men. The medical profession was to the fore, Dr Sherwood was in the chair and a Dr Elvey was present. Dr Holst was elected secretary and Dr Bramsby Roberts, who was not present, was elected President. It was decided to form a croquet club. On 12 May, a general meeting held at St Anne’s Church hall approved the renting of two courts from the Eastbourne Cricket and Football Club on Larkin’s Field adjacent to the Saffrons which was soon to be described as ‘one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world’. The rent for the season to 15 September was fixed at 14 guineas (£14.70) which was to be increased to 16 guineas if membership reached 50, a target easily within reach as 43 members had already been enrolled. The rent included the provision of four chairs per court, the storage of equipment and mowing and rolling twice weekly. The meeting also approved rules. The club, situated opposite Compton Place, the Eastbourne home of the Dukes of Devonshire, was named Compton thus ensuring that generations of croquet players would ask ‘Compton? Where’s that?’ The subscription for the season was agreed at ten shillings and sixpence (52½ pence).
The croquet they played that Victorian summer was not the game we know today. Many changes have inevitably been made to the laws over the years but what would interest us most if we could go back in time would be that the balls were played in sequence as in golf croquet today. The either-ball game was not introduced until 1913 and was not made compulsory until 1920. Running hoop 1 was little more than a formality; games were started one foot in front of it. Courts had been standardised at their present size in 1896. The hoops were four inches wide while the balls were wooden and somewhat smaller and lighter than those in use today. Composition balls were not used in the club until 1906 although they were first marketed in 1898.
A third court was acquired in 1900 and in 1901 Dr Holst resigned as secretary and was presented with a silver rose bowl as the founder of the club. By 1902 there was a membership of 80 and a waiting list of 17. Croquet was thriving; the end of season tournament at Devonshire Park that year attracted 508 entries. A rental agreement for four courts at an annual rent of £50 for the period to September 1908 was signed in July 1903. A name familiar to present day members appears in the annals, the Rev. C.W. Horsburgh was club champion for the four years to 1907. In 1909 he presented the silver cup which is still competed for today. The first pavilion was erected in 1906 by lawn one. The cost of £45 also covered 34 lockers. Before that an army bell tent had, on occasions, served. Matches were played during the Edwardian years against other Sussex Clubs, some of them more imaginatively named than those of today, the Cantelupe Club of Bexhill, the Southdown Club of Lewes and the South Saxons of St Leonards. Only one open tournament was held annually. Seven club tournaments were arranged for the 1907 season. Dr Holst thought this too many and resigned in protest. In 1910 Compton lost narrowly to Bedford in the final of the Inter-Club Championship when none of the four men originally selected was able to play.
The club set its sights on six courts but the cricket club would not agree and there was talk of quitting the Saffrons. In 1911 when the playing membership was 80, three courts in Devonshire Park were hired for the season. The cricket club relented and at the end of the season, an agreement was signed. The fourth court was surrendered and three new courts were provided. The annual rent for the six courts was fixed at £50 but Compton members became members of the cricket club. The club subscription was raised to two guineas (£2.10) to cover the cricket club subscription of 15 shillings (75 pence). The cricket club agreed to pay £50 towards the cost of levelling the three courts. The remainder of the cost was raised from members, 31 of whom took out £5 five per cent bonds. The agreement resolved a source of friction between the two clubs which had existed for some years. At the time there was a wall between Larkin’s Field and the Saffrons, the remains of which can still be seen. Compton members were permitted to use the cricket pavilion for refreshments provided that, on match days, they did not linger to watch the cricket without paying the one shilling gate money. The proviso had been included in club rules since 1906 but there were members who liked watching cricket. In 1913 Lady Julian Parr won the Women’s Championship and became the only woman to play in the Champion (now President’s) Cup. Lady Julian had startled the croquet world at the age of 13 in 1900, when as Miss Julian Jocelyn, she beat the veteran Scottish champion amidst the titters of the spectators at the Northern Championships. The club presented her with a silver cup at the 1914 AGM to commemorate her 1913 victory. The membership, it was said at the meeting, was ‘about 60’.
The Great War
The club functioned as usual during the First World War of 1914-1918 except that Inter-Club matches and the one open tournament were cancelled for the duration. Membership was not affected. In 1916 when it was 75, a rent reduction was sought and agreed by the cricket club although that club was facing the loss of income from the suspension of county and ‘varsity matches.
Compton prospered in the 1920s when annual memberships were around 90. The open tournament was resumed in 1922 when ‘our promising young player’– Dudley Hamilton-Miller – reached the final of the open singles. He was then 18 and in his first season. He was to play in the President’s Cup ten times, to win the Open Championship in 1938 and 1946 and to captain England. The Inter-club Championship was entered in 1925 for the first time in 15 years. The final was reached only to be lost to Woking. In 1927 a writer in the Gazette paid a tribute to the Compton lawns which has been echoed down the years, describing them as ‘possibly the best and certainly the fastest set of club courts in England’. A second open tournament, but an ‘unofficial’ one, was a success attracting almost 50 players. Later that year the final of the Inter-Club Championship was again reached and again lost, this time 4-5 to Roehampton. In 1928, Compton was at last successful beating Bedford in the final, reversing the 1910 result, the deciding game being won by three points.
A year later, in the fine summer of 1929, the final was lost, to Ranelagh. In December of that year the pavilion which was situated by Lawn 1 was wrecked by a large tree brought down in a gale. It was rebuilt through the generosity of the Chatsworth Estate, the club having to find only a nominal amount. Nevertheless, it was decided that a more spacious pavilion was needed and the present one, which has been enlarged since, was erected in 1930 at a cost of £300, all found from members’ donations. The club boasted two pavilions for the next 25 years. The rebuilt pavilion was then moved to the Meads Road side of the Saffrons where it still stands. It was enlarged and opened in 1955 as the Harry Bartlett pavilion by Douglas Jardine of ‘bodyline’ fame.
The annual memberships during the 1930s were a little lower than in the 1920s and the club’s finances were less healthy. New members were actively sought for the first time. Mrs Ionides won the Women’s Championship in 1931. She had made her mark as a young girl, gaining her silver medal in 1900. The Inter-Club Championship was won for the second time in 1934, Bedford again being beaten by 5 games to 4. Sunday play was an issue for much of the decade. In 1928, members had voted 46 to 18 in favour of it but the trustees of the cricket club had thought it would not be “in the interests”of their club to approve it. It was not until 1937, when only four Compton members opposed it, that Sunday play was sanctioned. No play was allowed before 2pm and no Sunday labour was employed. Not everyone was pleased. Two years later in September, a resident of Saffrons Road wrote to the club in protest. One would think he had more to worry about. The Second World War had started a few days before. In 1938 the final of the Inter-Club Championship was lost, again to Roehampton.
The Elveys were prominent members in the 1930s and for some years later. The Reverend G.F. Handel Elvey was the Vicar of Willingdon from 1929 to 1943 and a first-class player with a minus handicap. He introduced his wife Nora to the game and she soon became proficient, in due course also acquiring a minus handicap. They became well-known on the tournament circuit. He dressed from head to foot, even in the hottest weather, in bible black. The wearing of whites did not become a feature of tournament play until the 1960s. He wrote two books on croquet and is credited with suggesting the lifts used in advanced play. He was skilled at carpentry and made mallets. He was the Chairman of the Croquet Association Council during the critical years 1939-1948 while Nora became the Women’s Champion in 1947 and 1948. They left Eastbourne in 1943 and moved to Gloucestershire, although he remained a vice-president of the club for a few years afterwards.
The Second World War
When war was declared on Germany in September 1939, Eastbourne became a reception area for evacuees. Schools arrived from Battersea, Wandsworth and Croydon; some London companies came too. In May 1940, when France fell and invasion was threatened, the situation was reversed. Eastbourne was declared an evacuation area. The London schools were re-evacuated to Wales in June and Eastbourne local authority schools left in July. In five September days a majority of the town’s population was evacuated to Gloucestershire. Some 25,000 stayed behind. Compton’s resident membership shrank to 16. It became doubtful if the club could continue. The groundsman was sacked in November leaving maintenance to the cricket club. In January 1941 the committee cancelled the AGM and asked members how much they would give to keep the club in being. Some donations came from absent members. In 1942, resident membership was down to 12. Only four courts were maintained but not to the usual standard as fertilizer became unobtainable.
In 1943 only three courts were used. One member, a Mr Neville Oddie, surely deserves mention. He scythed the lawns as labour could not be afforded or, in wartime, found. The secretary, with roller and rake assisted. In January 1944, when resident membership was down to nine, the Committee feared that it would be the last year of the club’s existence unless donations were forthcoming “in full measure”.Over the next two years, donations from both resident and absent members, two grants from the Croquet Association and two reductions in rent agreed by the cricket club, ensured survival. Generous donations had come from Lord Tollemache, who had retired to Eastbourne and joined the club in 1940. He remained in his house in South Cliff, overlooking the Channel, throughout the war despite the German hit-and-run air raids. He was a well-know player who had published a major work on the game entitled simply Croquetin 1914. It contains some valuable instruction on stroke production although the author’s literary style is open to criticism. A sequel, Modern Croquet – Tips and Practicepublished in Eastbourne, can also be read with profit. He was described as uninhibited, aggressive and irascible. He became president of the club after the war and died in 1955.
In 1946, with the war over, the Saffrons presented a sorry, neglected appearance although war damage was slight. One bomb had fallen on the football pitch, the German bomb-aimer scoring a bulls-eye on the centre circle. The cricket club, unhappy with the unkempt appearance of the disused croquet lawns, threatened to call in the lease and convert the land into tennis courts and a bowling green for a ladies bowling club unless the terms of the lease were adhered to. This would have meant payment of the full rent and full maintenance. Compton had no option if the club was to survive. Negotiations followed and a new lease was agreed.
The records for the years 1948 to 1953 are missing but it is clear that the sixth lawn was surrendered at some time during this period. Some difficult years followed when the membership was only around 50 and the gap between expenditure and subscription income was a constant worry. There was tournament income but there was still only one open tournament. For some years there was a bridge section, some members of which did not play croquet. Bridge drives were held during the South of England Tournament at Devonshire Park. Money came from a football pool and occasional sweepstakes, run by the Saffrons Welfare Association though the amounts raised, which were related to the number of tickets sold, were small. In 1957, a subsidy was sought from the Croquet Association and the cricket club was asked for a substantial reduction in rent. In 1958 the cricket club was asked to take over the supervision of the club, a request which was denied. The gloom must have been somewhat lifted by the winning of the national Longman Cup and by the increased membership which, by the end of that year, stood at 59, the highest since the 1939-1945 war. At the 1959 AGM, it was stated that the cricket club had been “most generous in the recent past”.
The club’s financial and recruitment problems continued throughout the 1960s. The membership reached 65 in 1960 but the accounts for that year showed a substantial loss. There had been a reluctance to increase subscriptions because of the feared consequent number of resignations but the Committee not only grasped the nettle but also exacted a lump-sum levy. The committee, reporting in 1963, noted that Lawn 5 had been little used the previous summer owing to the bad weather and ageing membership. A lower subscription was set for those whose jobs allowed them to play only at weekends or infrequently. An advertisement for new members in the Sussex Express, a paper of wide circulation, brought no response. At the 1965 AGM there was talk of installing a fruit machine and a lock-up bar in the pavilion but it was decided that security would be inadequate. The cricket club agreed to return the sixth lawn in 1968. In truth it was hardly needed. At the end of 1969 there were only 54 members and the secretary noted that 25 of them never or rarely played association croquet at Compton and would be likely to resign if subscriptions were raised.
Cyril Tolley, whose name is perpetuated in the trophy he presented to the club, joined in 1965. He had won the amateur golf championship in 1920 and 1929, at a time when the amateur champion was a nationally known figure. He had been Captain of the R & A and was known for his long hitting. He died in 1978. Nora Elvey returned to Compton after her husband’s death in 1967. Some present-day members remember her in the 1980s when she was in her eighties. She had exceptional eyesight and could distinguish clips on distant lawns. She refereed and scampered along as soon as a mallet was raised. She coached too, but was not popular with most beginners as she expected much of them. “She terrified me”a lady member recently recalled.
The 1970s are remembered with some nostalgia. An era was ending. The croquet old guard, who had the leisure and the means to progress from tournament to tournament throughout the summer, re-booking for the following year when they paid their hotel bills, were inevitably becoming fewer and were no longer being replaced. “It was croquet during the day and bridge in the evening”one of them said. At the start of the decade, there was still only one open tournament at Compton though the South of England Championships at Devonshire Park sometimes overflowed onto the Compton lawns. The lawns were maintained by the Saffrons ground staff and were in excellent condition.
In the hope of solving the financial problems for some time to come the club acquired a £100 premium bond. Only two £25 prizes resulted in 1970 and 1973. There was a welcome intake of younger players in 1971 and 1973 from the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux, two of whom, vice president Dr Roger Wood and croquet cartoonist and committee member Roy Wallis, are still prominent members. The verandah at the front of the pavilion was extended and enclosed in 1972 to make a dining area and avoid the occasional need to hire a tent. The extension was financed to the extent of £1000 by an issue to members of £10 interest-free unsecured bonds to be repaid by the drawing of lots. Many members were later persuaded to forego repayment. Also in 1972 an Eastbourne solicitor returned five silver cups to the club. They had been handed to his firm in 1940 for safe keeping and had been forgotten. Shorts were worn for the first time. Although some 40 years had passed since shorts were first worn for tennis, the innovation was too much for at least one lady member. “This is a croquet club”she informed Roger Wood, “not the beach”.
In 1974 Compton was chosen to stage a MacRobertson Shield test match between the touring Australian and New Zealand sides. A civic reception was held in their honour. New Zealand won 5 – 4. The club in these years had its quota of A-class players including Nora Elvey, Cmdr. Giles Borrett, Ted Tucker, ‘Tiny’ Tyrwhitt-Drake, (so called because he reached 6 feet 8 inches), Denno Harris (who served as secretary, chairman, president and general handyman for 18 years), David Parker and Roger Wood. The Saffrons Sports Club, now the landlord, re-possessed Lawn 1 for cricket practice and constructed a hard wicket on it. Only three years later in 1979, was the lawn restored to croquet. Membership reached 90 in 1977. Also in that year Tom Mewett retired from the Saffrons ground staff and was appointed the club’s groundsman. He served for 12 years, earning compliments from members and visitors alike. The club was never prosperous enough to pay him what he was worth. The 1978 annals include a rare nature note; rabbits became a nuisance and on at least one occasion interfered with play. When they began to burrow in a corner of Lawn 3, a man from the Council despatched 15 of them. Twice in later years, a fox dug an earth overnight under the pavilion.
By 1980 the club was in decline. Membership was falling and new members were not actively sought. There was no organised coaching. The late Blanche Dennant, wishing to join the club, encountered the indifference. She knew no members and sought the name of the secretary at the Central Library and the Tourist Information Office. Neither could help. She was unaware that the club could be reached through the Saffrons and waited twice outside the croquet gate hoping to encounter a member. The third time she succeeded and was introduced to Denno Harris, then the Chairman “You know”,he said reflectively, “you’re the first new member we’ve had this year”. It was then towards the end of May.
Relations with the Sports Club became very strained in 1982. An attempt was made to take over Compton. This was repulsed but the threat did nothing to persuade the committee to halt the club’s decline. Life at the club was almost idyllic. The annual subscription was comparatively low. More members than now lived within a few minutes walk. It was always possible to find someone at the club ready to play a friendly game. A lawn was always available, double-banking was unknown and there was a regular gathering at tea-time. Payment of £1 with the annual subscription secured tea for the whole season. More members would have made life less pleasant. The financial position inevitably worsened. It became necessary to collect the committee’s subscriptions three months in advance. By 1984 playing membership was down to 41. That year, club finances received a welcome boost. The South of England Championships was moved to Compton albeit in a shortened form. They had been played in Devonshire Park since 1896 but the demands of international tennis had forced them first from the traditional September slot to April and then out of the park altogether. The benefit to Compton was not only financial. Members were given an annual opportunity to see some of the best players in the country in action on the Compton lawns. Dennis and Eileen Shaw joined the club in 1980 and became prominent. Dennis, who later was to serve on the Croquet Association Council, was often the only manager and referee available for tournaments. They then lived in Ramsgate and founded Ramsgate Croquet Club in 1983.
It became evident to the Saffrons Sports Club Management Committee that the lawns were underused and it was decided to repossess Lawns 1 and 2 for tennis. They were finally persuaded to take Lawn 1 only. A recruiting drive was mounted involving the local press, local radio, local libraries, certain societies and firms and the selective distribution of leaflets. In the end it was found that personal introduction was by far the most productive. Additional coaching sessions were introduced on Wednesday evenings and, when required, Saturday mornings. One lawn was divided into two for coaching in 1987 and in 1988 the Sports Club provided a small lawn free of charge near Lawn 2. Reduced subscriptions for beginners were introduced. As a result, new members totalled 15 in 1986 and 32 in 1987. Recruitment then had to be scaled down in order to absorb the intake. Human nature being what it is, some members complained about“all those beginners”occupying the lawns. It is possible that recruitment was helped by the publicity, including some television coverage, obtained when a MacRobertson Shield test match between Great Britain and Australia was played at Compton in July 1986. The Australian team was accompanied by 42 supporters. A marquee was required to serve lunches and a civic reception was held for the team and officials. Great Britain won 7 – 2.
In October 1987 the worst storm for 300 years hit South-East England. Some 15 million trees were brought down, including some in nearby Paradise Wood. Compton escaped lightly. Only the timber flagstaff was lost, broken into three pieces. It was found that the insurance payout more than covered the cost of a fibreglass replacement. Electricity was installed in the pavilion in 1988. Compton has always lagged somewhat behind the times, the wearing of shorts has already been mentioned. Although typewriters were in common use in the 1920s, club minutes of committee and other meetings were not typed until 1984. A telephone was not installed in the pavilion until 1997.
The late 1980s saw the introduction of some events which are now regular features, ‘Jake’s Jamborees’, named after Jake Moody who introduced the monthly two-hour games, the weekly social doubles, the annual croquet Gymkhana and the Christmas lunch. A “100 Club”was started as a fund- raiser. This and the larger membership together with an increased number of open tournaments were responsible for ending the financial worries which had plagued the club for so many years. In 1989, in the sunniest summer for 300 years, membership reached 102 of whom 88 were playing members and the accounts showed a bank balance of £2,446. Tom Mewett, who had worked on the lawns for 30 years retired. Members showed their appreciation by contributing to a retirement cheque of £1,000.
The 1990 membership of 106, which included 87 playing members, is the highest recorded. In 1991 a suitable groundsman could not be found and Serco Ltd. was engaged to maintain the lawns. The extra cost of almost £4,000 necessitated a substantial increase in subscriptions and a concentration on fund raising. Margaret Ward, who had taken over catering in 1988 and had increased the profits by 60 per cent in her first year and Margaret Payton, who was put in charge of fund raising, rose to the occasion. Over the next few years the events organised included strawberry teas, aI frescosuppers, scrabble, backgammon and bridge drives, a bring-and-buy sale and raffles. Another croquet book by a Compton member was published in 1991. Nicky Smith’s Queen of Gamesis recommended reading. It is subtitled The History of Croquetbut it is something more. It deals with certain aspects of the modem game and includes a chapter on tactics which can be read profitably by all. Nicky wrote on croquet for Country Lifeunder the pseudonym of Arthur Mallet.
In January 1992 a local arsonist who targeted sports pavilions, broke into the Compton pavilion and ignited some newspaper in a corner of the ladies changing room. The Fire Brigade, alerted by a resident of a nearby flat, arrived quickly and confined the damage, which was put at £25,000 largely to the interior. The insurance payout enabled the kitchen to be enlarged and modernised. Barry James, now a vice president, succeeded in the difficult task of renewing the insurance of what, to insurance companies, is little more than an unattended wooden hut in a field.
Membership declined after 1990 but the 1998 total of 79 compared favourably with most past years. The financial position after 1990 compared more than favourably. When Don Daintree retired as Chairman at the 1996 AGM, the accounts showed a record bank balance of £10,422. A feature of the nineties has been the continued growth in the number of organised events, including social events. The 1997 calendar included a day’s outing comprising a Thames river trip and visits to the Croquet Association centennial exhibition at Wimbledon and the Open Championships at Hurlingham. The summer of 1998 was one of the wettest on record although the open tournaments were less affected than was feared. The annual barbecue in August, which was blessed with a fine evening, was attended by the Mayor, Councillor Mrs Beryl Healy, and a civic party in celebration of the centenary. A golf croquet competition and a quiz were held.
A great deal of voluntary work is required to run most croquet clubs and Compton is no exception. No history of the Club would be complete without tribute being paid to all those who have over the years, freely devoted time and energy to keep the club in being. In 1998, more than one in five of the membership gave regular assistance and others helped on occasions. It would be invidious to name them all but those who gave most time to club affairs surely merit mention. They are, Chairman George Williams, Secretary Arthur Nelson, Treasurer Tim Griffiths and June Willmott, who manages catering so ably.
Finally there is a dark cloud on the horizon. The Saffrons Sports Club, faced with the loss of income from county cricket, has to find a greatly increased rent from 2001 under a new lease. It is not certain that the extra money will be found and the land may then become available for development. The committee takes the optimistic view and is determined, with the full support of the membership, that croquet will continue to be played in Eastbourne. Happily, the club will enter the new century with an increased membership.
CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE TIMES January – February 1990
Sir, As we enter the 1990s with a greater awareness of our environment, I fear that it may be indicative of the changing weather patterns, as a result of global warming, that we were playing croquet on our lawn in Kent on the first day of this new decade.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
Christopher P. Stent,
Sir, Mr Stent (January 8) can hardly cite New Year’s Day croquet as an indication of global warming. Croquet has been played at Compton Croquet Club, here in Eastbourne, on fine winter days for many years, with enthusiasts casting a hopeful eye out of the window, in particular on Boxing Day.
A notable member was Lord Tollemache who, 40 years ago, played regularly throughout the winter months, by himself when he could not find an opponent. He was exceptionally devoted to the game, about which he wrote at length, and when the weather was unfavourable he would practice short roquets at home, aiming at a sixpence on the carpet.
James Kellaway, (Chairman, Compton Croquet Club),
Sir, At Cheltenham Croquet Club we have 10 lawns in play in summer, four in winter. Frost and snow apart, there is hardly a winter day when the game is not played. Winter croquet is so popular that it is not uncommon for each of the four lawns to be double-banked (two games simultaneously in progress on the same lawn), and even to see a lawn treble banked, so great is the demand. In general, the great majority of our winter all-week players fall into the 60-84 age group. Tough golden oldies indeed.
Sir, I can assure Mr Stent that “global warming” is not essential to enable croquet playing on New Year’s Day. I was unable to attend this year’s annual International New Year’s Day Curry and Croquet Festival, held in Denmark last week. The traditional originated in Tonga some years ago. For some reason Gammel Dansk and pumpkin curry must be served. Roqueting was made more interesting by a couple of inches of snow on the lawn. A paraffin heater was required on the pitch to keep the balls warm. Teams taking part represented Denmark, Sweden, Tonga, Holland and the United Kingdom. There is no report of who won the, now lost, Japanese squeaky doll trophy.
Sir, Readers of Mr Malcolm McGregor’s letter (January 11) will be pleased to hear that croquet was played on Christmas Day on the Residency lawn here. Those taking part included Humphrey Arthinton-Davy, a distinguished predecessor of mine (whose set we used) and the Chief Justice. Roqueting was made even more difficult than usual apart from irregularities in the lawn’s surface caused by the periodical upheaval of large trees in time past, there was found to be a certain amount of woodworm in the balls. The Secretary has had to be sacked. A Japanese squeaky doll found with the set has, alas, inadvertently been sold to raise funds for the Girl Guides. Your paper takes a long time to reach us these days. Christmas fare with all the trimmings was served and champagne drunk throughout.
Paul Fabian, British High Commissioner,