The National Badminton Museum has a Battledore Set circa 1870 on display at the Museum in Milton Keynes. The set was originally sold by William Payne of London.
Photos: – Geoff Hinder Click on images to enlarge
The battledoor set contains two of the largest made battledore rackets – size 6 as stamped on the throat, length 56 cm (22 inches) width 20.5 cm (8 inches) the drums are covered on one side with vellum and strung on the other side. The style of stringing with every cross-string wound around every main string, is a type that became obsolete in the mid-1800s as tighter strings were now being sought. The set includes three original shuttlecocks, all different sizes and weights. Also, a very rare net instrument allowed ladies to pick up shuttlecocks more easily from the floor whilst wearing very long and cumbersome skirts and dresses.
The Battledore bats usually had fine leather covered shafts and almost circular heads. Instead of having strings the heads are covered in vellum. The two rackets in this set have vellum on one side and strings on the other side and are size 6. 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.
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 may be a few years before that.
The shuttlecocks in the set are three different sizes and weights.
A shuttlecock from the set with a modern shuttle.
The net was used for picking up the shuttlecocks.
Photos: – Geoff Hinder Click on images to enlarge
The National Badminton Museum would like to thank Jim Warner, http://www.jimstennis.com for loaning the Battledore Set to the Museum and the information on the set.
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 and Shuttlecock being played in the North Hall at Badminton House.
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.’
Battledores and shuttlecocks in the North Hall at Badminton House.
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.
The Battledore Set can be seen at the National Badminton Museum, National Badminton Centre, Bradwell Road, Loughton Lodge, MILTON KEYNES MK8 9LA.
Visitors are welcome to look around the Museum unescorted at any time – the National Badminton Centre is normally open 9am to 8pm every day.
National Badminton Centre
For more information and to book a room go to: – Badminton England website – https://www.badmintonengland.co.uk – National Badminton Centre – National Badminton Centre Hotel.