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.

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 of times they could do this without it falling on the floor. If two or more players played they would hit the shuttlecock back and forth to each other, it was usually a cooperative rather than a 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 maybe a few years before that.

Battledore and shuttlecock being played in the North Hall at Badminton House
The North Hall at Badminton House

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 induce 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 five feet from the ground), and similar amusements.”

This article about life in large English stately homes shows that the game was being played in England and called badminton in 1863, it also suggests that the game evolved from the older game of battledore and shuttlecock. The article shows us where the height of the net, five feet (1.52m) originated from, and those players played the game on either side of the net. The North Hall at Badminton House is the same size as a badminton court as we know it today, 13.4m by 6.1m.

Battledore shuttlecocks

Photo: – 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.

Battledore bats came in sizes 1 to 6, with sizes 1 to 3 usually used for ping-pong and table tennis and sizes 4 to 6 usually used for the game of battledore and shuttlecock.
Battledore bat from Badminton House which has inscriptions handwritten in ink on its parchment face in 1830 and 1845.

Photo: – 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, a battledore bat which has inscriptions handwritten in ink on its parchment face. The oldest reads: ‘Kept up 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 c.1894

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 Battledore Shuttlecock circa 1840 with a modern shuttle.

Photo: – Geoff Hinder

One thing we did notice at 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                                                                                                                                            Click on images to enlarge

If you have any badminton memorabilia, archive material, or any other items and would like to donate them to the National Badminton Museum please contact us at: –
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National Badminton Museum, National Badminton Centre, Bradwell Road, Loughton Lodge,

National Badminton Centre 

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For more information and to book a room go to: – Badminton England website –  –  National Badminton Centre  – National Badminton Centre Hotel.

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