27 March 2003

The Fives Courts

Does anyone know what happened to the two "Fives Courts" which were roughly in line with the block that began with the Biology Lab and ended with the room where CANY taught Geography and from which they were just a few yards stroll? In the Rugby Fives Association listing, there are Rugby Fives courts in Winchester (at Winchester College) but no mention of there being any at Peter Symond’s College. There are apparently no Eton Fives courts at all in Winchester according to the Eton Fives Association so I assume those at Symonds are gone.

Did we play "Eton" or "Rugby" fives? Did we play fives at all? During my time at the school I only ever saw the game played once and that was when I was on "Pre’s DT". Meanwhile the two courts just sort of stood there. You could climb on to those wooden platforms and watch nobody playing the game, or you could use the place to experiment with smoking (when one should perhaps have been in Mr Yates’ class). You could also compete at running up the wall and putting a chalk mark to show how high you got and you could use it for practising the harmonica (the acoustics were pretty good), but you didn’t generally play fives. Heck we didn’t know where to put our hands on the special gloves and ball and we had no idea of the rules! So, why did we have Fives courts at all and when were they built? Was it perhaps after "The College" built theirs, a simple case of keeping up appearances?

Peter Churchill


  1. I remember the fives courts, but, being a well
    behaved boy I had no idea that they were used for illicit smoking.  I can
    remember playing Fives there on a few occasions and I believe we also used to
    play Squash in them. I certainly don't remember what rules we played by
    -traditional I suppose.  Does anyone remember a Squash competition
    being played there one year with the final on the day of the school fete?

    I do remember Doctor Freeman alleging that
    when he was at school they used to play fives without the glove.  They were
    made of sterner stuff in his day weren't they?
    John Rowe

  2. The first time I went in the courts in the mid-late 60s they were being used to store old desks. We managed to get them cleared out & the courts refurbished. I don't think they were ever used for fives after that but squash became quite popular.   Steve Drake

  3. I certainly played fives in the mid 60's. One of the masters took a small group of us after school and taught us the rules (cannot remember which though).
    I subsequently played the game several times and was smitten by it.
    Its one of the very few enjoyable times I remember about PS.

    Squash was also played.

    john b

  4. The Fives Courts were in use for both Fives and Squash in my time (1943-48).  But during the war years squash and fives balls were just about unobtainable.  The few that existed were kept in the headmaster's secretary's office and were rationed, usually meaning that only the senior boys got to play

  5. I use to play squash in the courts many years ago. I believe that they have now been converted to classrooms. The structures are still the same, but the interiors have been completely gutted for teaching.     Jeremy

  6. The 'Fives' courts were certainly operational in my time at PSSW (1945 - 1950) ... I personally used to play fives, mainly during 'private study' periods ... unlike 'Doc', we did use gloves with metal inserts to protect the fingers, but they were not too effective ... the ball was hard and I still have the bruises to prove it !!! ... can't remember which rules we played to, in fact I suspect they were made up as we went along, varying, depending on who was winning !!! ... I do remember there was a hinged 'back board'... can't remember whether it was up for fives and down for squash or up for squash and down for fives ... whichever ... I can only remember great fun and many hours of enjoyment, in spite of the VERY bruised fingers ... from memory, the prefects, senior boys and boarders used to play squash and it was virtually impossible for the 'plebs' to gain access to the courts during the lunch and morning breaks due to their strangle hold on the courts during those times ... Thank goodness for 'private study' ...(smoking by the way, at that time, took place in the old pavilion, which was just a little bit further up the playing field)
    Doug Clews
    Hotmail now available on Australian mobile phones. Click here for more.

  7. Thanks Doug for that information. Smoking in the pavilion probably continued after your time because I heard it burned down in the fifties. Am I right anyone?   Peter Churchill


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