From the Archives: Croquet!

Jenny Seeman

Congratulations to all the teams who participated in the President’s Annual Croquet Tournament!

Croquet was an extremely popular game in the Edwardian era and newspapers frequently reported with delight who had been knocked out and who would advance in the latest tournament. In August of 1910, the Vancouver Island Championships were made all the more exciting by the promise of a cup offered up by Mr. James Dunsmuir for the men’s winner, and a trophy for the ladies to be presented by Mrs. Laura Dunsmuir. They were also keen players, along with the rest of the Dunsmuir family. Barely a tournament would occur in fashionable Victoria without a Dunsmuir or an Audain making it through to the final rounds. Sometimes, James would partner up with his son-in-law Guy Audain and the two were a force to be reckoned with on the men’s doubles circuit!

The croquet game we play with nine wickets might not have been familiar to the Dunsmuirs. There are in fact several legitimate variations of the game, such as Association, Golf and Garden Croquet. As you can see if you examine the pictures of the Hatley Park croquet lawn from the Dunsmuir era, the layout was a little different, with less wickets and sometimes just a single peg in the centre of the court. In this version of the game, there are just 4 balls and participants play either as one player per side or in doubles. The first to score 6 hoops and a peg point with each of the balls is the winner, meaning the winner is the first to score 14 points.

A single peg layout, sometimes known as Garden Croquet

A layout with two pegs and only six wickets

The game of croquet became popular in England in the 1860s, although a similar game, known as pall mall had been around since the 1600s. It was unusual in that it was always appropriate for both men and women to play. 

Laura Dunsmuir giving the ball a powerful whack.

If you'd like to know more about Edwardian recreational activities, or would like to find out more about Victoria's croquet scene in the early 1900s, contact Jenny Seeman in the archives, ext 4122.