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Croquet History: When and Where Croquet Origins Guide

We play a lot of croquet in our backyard, and sometimes questions arise of it’s origins. For example, how was croquet invented, and when did croquet start? Well, I got to the bottom of all the questions we were asking and wrote them up in this article for you.

Croquet was first played with hoops made of willow rods and mallets made of broomsticks in Ireland around 1850, and believed to originate from a French game called Pall Mall. In 1851, croquet was introduced in England, mass play and manufacturing of the game began in 1864.

This quick summary didn’t answer all your questions, but can give you an idea of when and where croquet started. Lets get into more detail about the history of croquet, including when it became mainstream and a professional sport.

When Was Croquet Invented?

The first known documentation of croquet is a set rules for croquet written by Isaac Spratt in November 1856 in London, England. There are a couple theories about the initial invention of croquet. One stemming from the game Pall Mall in 1685, and the other from Ireland in 1850.

The first theory of croquet’s invention is said that it originated from a game called Pall Mall (paille maille) derived from the Latin words for ball and mallet. However this game only involved two iron arches and a set number of hits with a mallet. It doesn’t exactly match the modern day croquet game we know.

Pall Mall was mostly played by the wealthy and privileged of that era. Although croquet may have been derived from Pall Mall, the second theory matches the game-play we know now a lot more closely.

Here’s a quick video explaining some croquet history at St. Johns College.

Where Did The Game of Croquet Originate?

Croquet originated from a game Irish locals used to play called ‘Crookey’ in 1834 at Castlebellingham, according to the earliest known documents on the subject. Crookey involved multiple balls on the court at a time, but there is no record of rules for the game or how it was played.

There is some dispute as to which theory is correct, did croquet originate from Pall Mall or the Irish game Crookey. Although, Pall Mall is similar to croquet, the first rules written up in 1857 by John Jaques were based off a game he witnessed being played in Ireland.

One thing only is certain: it is from Ireland that croquet came to England and it was on the lawn of the late Lord Lonsdale that it was first played in this country.

Martin, Clive; Williams, Simon (2004). A Brief History of Croquet in Ireland.

John Jaques himself is on record in a letter written in 1873 that states:

I made the implements and published directions (such as they were) before Mr. Spratt introduced the subject to me.

Lillie, Arthur (1897). Croquet: Its History, Rules, and Secrets. Longmans, Green. p. 29. Retrieved 19 September 2016 – via Google Books. (source)

Isaac Spratt is credited with registering a set of rules of croquet, from a game he saw played in Ireland around 1856. John Jaques went on to publish official rules and editions of croquet in 1857, 1860, and 1864. Helping advance croquet’s popularity and spread the game around the world.

When Did Croquet Start?

After the game of croquet was invented in the 1850’s, the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbledon, London, in 1868. That same year the first all-comers croquet meet was held in Gloucestershire, England. Croquet had officially started in England in 1868.

Before any clubs were formed and meets were established, croquet was played very rarely, mostly by affluent or upper-class people. By 1870, croquet had spread throughout England and her colonies. Thanks in part to John Jaques, by manufacturing and selling complete croquet sets, many people of all walks of life were able to pick up a game of croquet and play.

John Jaques and Sons still make croquet sets today, and are in fact still a leading manufacturer of croquet sets.

When Did Croquet Become Popular?

Croquet exploded in popularity through the 1860’s and 1870’s across England. By 1870 over 65,000 copies of the Croquet Laws and Regulations had been printed. Many clubs and groups had official croquet courts on their premises, and croquet parties were frequently held by royalty.

Croquet spread to other countries as well during this time, countries including; Canada, New Zealand, United States, South Africa, and Australia all took up the game of croquet. However, this surge in popularity didn’t last long.

By the end of the 1870’s into the early 1880’s croquet was on a decline. Many historians say increasing popularity in lawn tennis is to blame for croquet’s downfall. While others say, lawn tennis would not have been so popular without all the croquet fields already in place. Whatever happened, croquet wasn’t revitalized until the 1900’s.

Croquet actually became an Olympic sport for one year in the 1900 Paris Olympics. To learn more about croquet as a sport, check out my article Croquet As A Professional Sport.

By 1950, croquet had spread across the United States. Mostly played as a backyard recreational activity, croquet’s popularity is still on the rise today.

To see some of the most popular croquet sets available now, check out my Croquet Set Cost and Compare article to find a set that works for you.

Where is Croquet Most Popular?

Croquet is most popular in England. While the United States has many professional leagues and clubs, as well as recreational players, croquet has been most popular in England since its inception in the 1850’s as a professional sport and a recreational activity.

In the US and Canada, 9-Wicket croquet is the most popular and usually what’s referred to when talking about croquet. However, in the UK, garden croquet is the most popular variant of the game for backyard recreational game-play.

Association croquet and golf croquet, are recognized around the world and are the variants most often played in tournaments. Although the World Croquet Federation (WCF) recognizes many forms of croquet, including the following variants:

  • Association Croquet
  • Golf Croquet
  • Short Croquet
  • Two-ball Croquet
  • U.S. Six-wicket Croquet
  • U.S. Nine-wicket Croquet
  • Garden Croquet
  • Extreme Croquet
  • Ancient Croquet

To learn more about the croquet variants and how to play them, check out my How To Play Croquet Guide.

The WCF has many full time members, as well as associate members and recognized croquet organizations. The WCF Members compete in the World Championships as well as other international competitions.

Is Croquet a French Word?

Croquet is a French word, pronounced cro·quet (krōˈkā) or by simply saying crow-kay. Although croquet is a French word, the game is believed to have started in Ireland, and was simply discovered by someone French when it was brought to England in the 1850’s.

A game played by knocking wooden balls through metal wickets with mallets.(in croquet) the act of driving away an opponent’s ball by striking one’s own when the two are in contact. verb (used with object), cro·queted  [kroh-keydBritish kroh-keyd, -keed] , cro·quet·ing  [kroh-key-ing; British kroh-key-ing, -kee-ing] (source)

Hopefully that was able to answer any questions you had about how croquet started, it’s origins, and when it became the popular backyard game we know today.

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