Fives at High Elms
This Article by Alan Chadwick (Old Olavian) first appeared on the original EFA website in April 2000
When his sons returned from Eton enthusing about a new game they had discovered Sir John Lubbock, later to become Lord Avebury responsible for the introduction of the August Bank Holiday, built for them an Eton Fives court in the garden, against the stable walls of his mansion. One wonders how much it was used. Being a mere fifteen miles from London, at Farnborough, Kent and with a twenty-seven bedroom mansion the Lubbocks presumably had enough visitors to try their hand on court every day now and again. It is less likely to have been used after the London Borough of Bromley took over the estate in 1965, an impression strengthened on seeing the tree growing out of the front step a foot in front of the buttress.
However, in 1989 Bromley held a 'Victorian Picnic' at High Elms; Eton Fives was thought appropriate, the court renovated, and on the May Day Bank Holiday Fives was once again played. It took the form of a tournament - The Kent Cup? Bromley Bowl? High Fives Handicap? Orpington Open? Whatever it was called it amused (or bemused?) the passers by enough for them to tarry awhile, though it must be said that Punch and Judy drew a larger crowd.
To date only Olavians, past and present, have entered this annual event. Early winners were Alan Chadwick, Karl Rudman and Pauli Markkanen.
Editor's Note (July 2016)
The court at High Elms is still there and still playable although now slighlty more overgrown than it was back in 2000 as can be seen from the photo below: