'Sticke provides most vigorous exercise, and at the same time affords considerable opportunity to the player who uses his head. Curious twists can be obtained by hitting on the side walls, and the ball often has an egg-shaped appearance. There is little doubt that sticke is a splendid game for country houses, where racquets courts are too large an undertaking and squash racquets
provides too insipid an amusement.' - From The Times II March 1910.
Sticke was invented by the Royal Artillery in the 1870s as similar to racquets and providing good exercise without 'the heavy outlay incidental to the construction of a racquets court'.
Lord Dufferin and Ava built an indoor sticke court in Ottawa in 1875 and later in India at Simla and Cooch Bihar. In 1880 Lord Revelstoke built a sticke court at Membland Hall. Revelstoke was a member of 'The Souls' a social group of aristocrats, politicians and writers. The Souls held lavish 'Friday to Monday' country house parties with activities such as golf, tennis, bicycling, charades and scrabble.
William Grenfell (Lord Desborough) and his wife Ettie were leading members of the Souls and in 1893 built a sticke court at Taplow Court. Over the next thirty years courts were built across the UK including ones at Avon Tyrell by Lord Manners, Cliveden by Lord Astor, Buckingham Palace by George V and Green lands by Viscount Hambleden.
The Souls embraced sticke because it was played by men and women and built on the principle of 'balance' - whereby no side gained advantage by following a particular tactical approach. Sticke was easy to learn, played all year round, involved relatively inexpensive facilities (the same scoring, racquets and lowpressure balls as lawn tennis) and involved cerebral input.
Today, fewer people play on the remaining UK courts at Hartham Park, Wiltshire (built by Sir John DicksonPoynder) and Knightshayes Court, Devon (built by Sir Ian Heathcoat-Amory). The game is enjoying a renaissance 'as it does not require a long novitiate before satisfactory progress is made by ordinary persons of mature age and understanding. It is not a selfish game, and leaves no unpleasant after-effects which trouble the introspective mind of the player, but rather a tranquil, exhilarating and heartful sense of cheerful contentment for wellearned exercise faithfully performed'. It is perhaps surprising that Hurlingham never built a sticke court.