The real tennis historian David Best is the co-author (with Brian Rich) of the recent book Disturb’d With Chaces: Tennis Courts, Celebrities and Scandals of Yesteryear. The IRTA is very grateful to David for writing this thoroughly-researched article describing the history of real tennis within Ireland.


Most of the well-documented information about tennis in Ireland can be found in the major tennis works of Marshall, Noel and Clark, and Lord Aberdare, and that reported in late Victorian newspapers, most notably in The Field. The first of these great tennis historians tells us in The Annals of Tennis about a court that was located in St. Thomas Street, just outside Dublin’s city walls, where in 1609 a dispute arose between Lord Howth and Sir Roger Jones, when one of the latter’s supporters lost his life. This court stood to the west of Newe Gate at the junction of the present day John Street (formerly Tennis Court Lane) and Thomas Street. Marshall also thought there must have been a court in Townsend Street but gave no further details. By the time Noel and Clark published their A History of Tennis in 1924, Sir Edward Guinness’s court, built behind his house facing St. Stephen’s Green, was almost forty years old and already a court of some note. This was not only because of its unique marble floor and walls, and the interesting World Championship match that was staged there in 1890, but it was when it was constructed, and continues to be, the only example of an archetypal tennis court standing in Ireland. Noel deals with the match, and also briefly mentions the unconventional court that Cecil Baring built at his home on Lambay Island, just off the coast north of Dublin, but it fell to Lord Aberdare, in his Tennis and Rackets, to draw all this information together and expand on the subject. However, with ever more archived material finding its way into the public domain, it is clear that Ireland has a far more interesting tennis history than has perhaps been appreciated before.

Dublin Castle

The earliest reference to the game in Ireland comes in the year 1361, when the young Lionel Plantagenet ‘built what appears to have been a tennis court inside the walls of Dublin Castle’. This was part of the ‘divers works pleasing him, for games and his other pleasures’ that he commissioned at the castle soon after his arrival as Chief Governor of Ireland. Tennis slowly increased in popularity thereafter and it was not long before the governing authorities became concerned because the activity was beginning to divert able-bodied men from engaging in more useful pursuits. This in turn led to the imposition of English statutes that attempted to regulate the game. As a consequence during Tudor times people were not allowed to establish tennis courts without a special licence, however some where obviously being granted, because 1,400 tennis balls and 24 racquets were amongst the cargo of the Fenex which left Liverpool for Dublin on 29th May 1586.


It was not only in purpose-built tennis courts that the game was played. Tennis as a game had originated in the streets and for the poorer sections of society this was still one of the only places they could play, but again attempts were made to suppress it. For example, during the sixteenth century the apprentices in the City of Galway were giving cause for concern because they were creating a nuisance by playing tennis in public places. This resulted in the phraseology of their indentures being amended to try and curb the activity. These youngsters were also a problem in Dublin, especially on Sundays, so in 1612 the city’s civic assembly decreed that any apprentice over the age of fourteen found playing tennis in the streets on the Sabbath would be sent to Newgate prison for twenty-four hours. It is clear that this threat did not deter the apprentices, who where described as mostly migrants and outsiders, because three years later the city’s patricians, worried about the increasing number of complaints they were receiving, sought additional measures to stop them playing. There are indications that tennis was also played in Waterford and it would seem likely that most large Irish towns and cities suffered from this problem.

Playing the game on the Sabbath was also a concern for the religious authorities, especially when their parishioners sought to use church property. As a consequence the church elders were constantly seeking ways of thwarting those who sought to disturb the sanctity of the sacred places. Particularly attractive to those wishing to play tennis were courtyards with surrounding cloisters, although any open area in a churchyard often sufficed. In April 1642, when remnants of the Catholic army defeated at Trim descended on the town of Virginia in County Cavan, the minister there was extremely upset to find an extraordinary number of the refugees, apparently over 200, were playing tennis after Mass.

Later in the seventeenth century dishonest gambling was becoming a problem, so in 1694 William III introduced a law making it an offense for anyone to benefit from money won by cheating at a number of games and pastimes, including tennis. And during the next reign, Queen Anne’s, Parliament passed a stronger law designed to crack down on the excessive gambling that was pervading English society by this time: a statute that was in force in most countries under British control, including Ireland.

Courts around the country

Apart from Dublin Castle, two other Irish castles are known to have had tennis courts. Within the inner ballium of Lea Castle at Portarlington in County Laois there was a sixteenth century tennis court and tiltyard, while a little over 200 years later the Banqueting Hall at Askeaton Castle, in County Limerick, was converted into a tennis court, which remained in play until at least 1838. In Limerick itself a tennis court is shown on a 1769 town map, while in Cork the existence of a street called ‘Tennis-Court’ in 1649, virtually confirms the presence of a court there. Kilkenny appears to have had at least two early tennis courts. On his 1758 map of the city, the cartographer John Rocque shows an open (roofless) court measuring approximately 80 feet long by 30 feet wide, which was located in a side alley off the west side of St. James’ Street. The tennis historian Mike Garnett has also found evidence of a court in this street that was in play in 1620, but thought to have been demolished in 1681: this suggests that there might have been an earlier court here, possibly on the same site. A century later the Franciscan Priory at the cathedral church of St. Canice in the city was converted into a tennis court after it had lost its roof. Curiously further north, a tennis court was one of the facilities available to patients at an asylum in Armagh during the 1830s. Nothing else is known about this court, which might have been a very basic one, but it was not unique, there were tennis courts at such establishments in England and Australia around this time.


Towards the end of the nineteenth century stické tennis, a hybrid of real tennis and lawn tennis, became popular in England and a couple of courts were also built in Ireland. One, an open wooden-walled court, was installed by the British Army in 1894 at their garrison on Spike Island in Cork Harbour; the other built three years later by Earl of Dufferin and Ava in the courtyard of his Clandeboye Estate near Bangor in County Down, was a barn conversion. Lord Dufferin was a skilful diplomat and colonial administrator, and was passionate about the game of stické; he had previously built courts at Ottawa while Governor General of Canada, and when Viceroy of India, at Calcutta and Shimla.

Winetavern Street

It is though in Dublin where most of the early tennis courts have been discovered. Besides those at the Castle, and in St. Thomas Street, there seems to have been at least two in Winetavern Street. As its name suggests, this street was occupied mainly by the keepers of inns and ale houses. The first court appears in the St. John’s vestry accounts in 1629 when Stephen Garnans paid 10 shillings cess (a local tax for the minister’s stipend) for his ‘howse & Teniscourt’; but, according to Sir John Gilbert in his definitive A History of the City of Dublin, the court was being kept at that time by a man called John Gorman. This could suggest that Garnans was the owner and Gorman his tenant. Garnans (or Garlan) continued to pay the parish cess up until at least 1643. The vestry records are not complete and the court next appears in the accounts in 1659 when a man named Duddley ‘at ye tennis courte’ had to contribute 12 shillings a year towards the parson’s income. According to Gilbert, in 1663 the tenant was a Corporal Baile, but the court at that time seems to have been owned by a man called Bennett Arthur of Cabragh who, at his death ten years later, left ‘three houses and a tennis court in Winetavern Street’. This court seems to have survived until at least 1721, but then one of its walls collapsed after a neighbour had piled coal against it, killing one of those playing there at the time.

Whereas the authorities had tried to suppress tennis playing in the past by passing laws, in 1755 the Dublin authorities were taking direct action. In June of that year Hans Bailie, the city’s Lord Mayor, accompanied by Sheriff Crampton, set out to take down various billiard tables and shuffle boards. While carrying out this work the pair noticed several tennis courts, which were described by the Universal Advertiser at the time as ‘seminaries of vice and idleness’, and ordered that they should be immediately dug up. One such was in Winetavern Street, but it is difficult to say whether or not this was the old 1629 court.

In 1760 another tennis court opened in Winetavern Street behind the Pyed-horse Tavern. This establishment stood on the east side of the street nearly opposite Cook Street. The court was installed in the yard behind the inn and was probably an open one. It was kept by a man called Hoey and was said to have been frequented by some of the most nefarious characters in the city. In the early 1850s this court was acquired by Dublin Corporation for its Paving Department.

Dame Street

A great deal of caution is needed when trying to determine whether, when early courts were described as ‘tennis courts’, they were used for tennis as we know it, or for some other ball game. Sometimes so-called tennis courts were nothing more than simple ball courts. This was the case with many of the old Oxford college ball courts; and Irish handball courts were often referred to as tennis courts. Even the Irish Times as late as 1861 described the new rackets court at the Kildare Street Club as, ‘a tennis or rackets court for the recreation of members’. Two tennis courts in Dame Street may have been an example of this confusion. In 1758, the Lord Mayor issued an order that the flagstones in these courts were to be dug up because they were deemed to be a public nuisance. The Mayor at this time was the aforementioned Philip Crampton, who had become a popular figure in the city due to his vigilance in suppressing gambling houses, ball-yards and tennis courts. However, he might have only been partially successful in his attempt to close these courts down. This is because a keeper called Darby Cullen maintained one of them until his death in 1772, and we find a man called Jemmy still running it four years later. This court may have survived until at least 1781, for there is a reference to a tennis court in Dame Court in that year.

Oxmantown Green

Although every known reference to the courts in Dame Street calls them ‘tennis courts’, there is more concern about the appropriateness of the word ‘tennis’ when applied to a court that is shown on Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin, on the southern side of Oxmantown Green. Close by is an area that appears to be bounded by three walls and subdivided by two others, which may indicate that they were open ball courts. Added weight is given to this possibility by the same edict issued by the Dublin mayor in 1758 that mentioned the two tennis courts in Dame Street, because it also says: ‘the flags of two ball places in Barrack Street’ were to be taken up as well. The court, or courts, in Barrack Street (now Benburb Street) were surrounded by military installations: an artillery ground and barracks. Although, in the years before the game of rackets supplanted tennis as its favoured racquet sport, the British Military had built many tennis courts at their garrisons around the world, it seems the facility at Oxmantown Green must have been a public one.


To the west of the city centre tennis was also being played. The Public Record Office for Northern Ireland has in its custody a petition of the inhabitants of Kilmainham, complaining that in 1634 their church in the Parish of St. James was being used as a tennis court by ‘Popish Recusants’. This may have been the court that Dr. John Bramhall was referring to a year earlier, when he reported to Bishop Laud on the sad state of Dublin’s parochial churches and that one of them had been converted into a tennis court, and furthermore, the vicar was acting as keeper.

A hundred and seventy years later we find that tennis was being played in the gaol at Kilmainham. The prison there was not unique in providing tennis facilities; inmates were encouraged to play the game in many English prisons to try and keep them fit and healthy, particularly in those catering for debtors. It is widely believed that it was the presence of tennis racquets inside prisons — used by the inmates to play a form of fives against the walls — that eventually led to the game of rackets. In 1803, when General William Corbet was incarcerated within the walls of Kilmainham Gaol, he made plans for his successful escape in the relative privacy of the prison’s tennis court. Tennis was also being played in other Dublin prisons. When the first prison reformer, John Howard, carried out inspections in 1783, he found that tennis was being played in the city’s Newgate and Bridewell prisons; his report also said prisoners were playing the game inside the walls of Clonmel County Gaol. It is difficult to envisage what type of tennis facilities might have been provided inside an eighteenth century prison. Sometimes as at Kilmainham a court is mentioned, which may have been little more than a suitable walled space or a convenient large room, or possibly a hall, but at other prisons it is obvious the inmates were simply using a prison yard.

St. John’s Lane

A tennis court that stood in St. John’s Lane (now John’s Lane East), which was close to Winetavern Street and opposite Christchurch Cathedral, is the Dublin court with the longest history. This court was also in the Parish of St. John’s and first appears in the vestry records in March 1626, when William Bennys had to pay 10 shillings cess for his ‘house & Tenniscourt’. Within a year Bennys had let the court to a local merchant, Richard Goulding, who then became responsible for the payments to the parish for the next 36 years.

The court can be seen on Rocque’s map. He shows it as a rectangular open walled court about 80 feet long by 30 feet wide, set back from St. John’s Lane towards Wood Quay with its eastern end wall bordering the graveyard of St. John’s Church. A penthouse can clearly be seen on the western end wall and there are indications that there was another running along the south side-wall of the court. These measurements are similar to those of the St. James’s Street court in Kilkenny, and they were entirely consistent with the dimensions of many contemporary courts in England.

In 1663 Richard Goulding died owing one hundred and sixty pounds in back rent to the then owner Richard Usher, who had also just died. Usher was a member of a prominent Dublin family and these messy situations ended up with the administrators of his will, successfully suing the administrators of Goulding’s.

No record of any activity at the court over the next ninety years appears to have survived, but in 1755 it was to fall victim to the Mayor Ballie’s zealous campaign to clean up the city. As occurred at other tennis courts in Dublin he ordered that the flagstones were to be dug up. However, as happened in Dame Street, the court did reopen, but it probably had to wait for at least five years until Crampton’s year as mayor had passed.

By the early part of the nineteenth century the increasingly popular game of rackets was also being played here and by 1847 an Ordnance Survey map described the space as a ‘Racket Court’. (The game of rackets was more often called ‘racket’ in the early days.) But, by 1854 all sporting activity had ceased and the court was being used as a timber yard. However, a year later, in yet another twist in the court’s fortunes, an advertisement appeared in the 14th August edition of the Freeman’s Journal seeking; ‘a sober, attentive man, as Marker for the John’s Lane Racket Court’, and in the 7th December edition we find: ‘The John’s Lane Racket Court and New Billiard Room with First-class Billiard Table, is now Open’. The following year the court was being advertised in the same journal as ‘The Royal Garrison Racket Court’. Thomas Watters was the man appointed marker. He was highly respected amongst the top players — in his day the best professional player in Ireland — and in 1867 he was engaged by William Gray to help him prepare for his successful home-and-home World Championship match against Frederick Foulkes, which was played at the New York Club on West Thirteenth Street and at the Ulster Club in Belfast. Watters was also a racquet and ball maker and exhibited at the Dublin International Exhibition: he also supplied rackets balls for English courts.

The rackets court appears on successive Ordnance Survey maps up until 1936 with a narrow building on the northern side. This structure was probably a club house containing the billiard room and changing facilities. After the end of the Second World War the court, then described as the ‘Scriven’s Alley Racquets Court’, was said to be overgrown with weeds and grass. A surviving photograph taken in 1950 confirms this state of affairs; it also shows that by this time the court was a curious shape; five-sided with one wall missing. In 1972 three of the four walls were demolished to make way for a car park on the site; however some of the court’s flagstones were still exposed twenty years later. Since then the area where the court was located has been landscaped and John’s Lane East pedestrianized.

There was concern for the remains of this court in 2007 when the environmental impact of the new Dart interconnector rail tunnel project was being assessed, because the court is listed in the country’s Record of Monuments and Places, and the proposed new Christchurch Station would encroach on the site.

There is an interesting story connected to this court. In 1807 the Duke of Richmond was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and he was an enthusiastic tennis and rackets player who had his own tennis court, built by the previous duke, at the family seat at Goodwood House in Sussex. He enjoyed inviting top English players over to Ireland for matches and one was Lord Sydney Osborne, who, on his arrival in Dublin, challenged ‘any man in the world’ to play him for a wager of one thousand guineas: a substantial amount of money in those days and a blatant disregard for the law concerning gambling. The Duke was also a great betting man and saw the opportunity of making some easy money. This was because he knew a tailor by the name of Flood who was also a talented rackets player, and he was confident this man would be able to beat Osborne. After agreeing the bet, Richmond was horrified to find that Flood in his spare time was also a highwayman and pickpocket, and by that time was languishing in Kilmainham Gaol waiting to be hanged on the following Saturday for highway robbery. The Duke quickly ordered a pardon and told Flood why it had been granted; in return the tailor promised to win the bet for his saviour. Although Osborne started well, Flood slowly wore his opponent down until he lost his temper, the match, and his money. The Duke gave Flood fifty pounds and suggested he left the country. At first he ignored the Duke’s advice and tried to resume his career as a tailor, but because of his criminal activity no one would employ him. He then went over to London where he found employment as a marker in one of the courts there.

According to the Dublin edition of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas there was another tennis court in this vicinity in 1632. It lists a court at an unknown location on Cork Hill and quotes the source reference as the St. John’s vestry records. Close examination of the records reveal that the occupier of the ‘howse seller & teniscourt’ was a Mr Goldinge. As previously mentioned, Richard Goulding (sometimes spelt ‘Goldinge’ in the cess lists) was renting the tennis court in St. John’s Lane between 1627 and 1663, which had an adjoining house and cellar; this coupled with the fact that his name, and the tennis court, are missing from the properties listed in the vestry accounts for St. John’s Lane in 1632, almost certainly points to an error of the scribe and therefore it is very unlikely that there was ever a tennis court on Cork Hill.

Lazer’s Hill

Apart from St. Thomas Street, the other court that Marshall mentioned in his Annals was the one that he thought must have stood in Townsend Street. He was correct in that assumption, because this was the court that was opened in 1747 on Lazer’s Hill, which later became Townsend Street. Then the court’s address was ‘172 Townsend Street’ and it stood on the south side between the present day Tara Street and Spring Garden Lane. The court was built by subscription; therefore it was effectively a tennis club: at the time of writing, thought to have been the earliest such establishment in the world. It was said to have been modeled on the court at Whitehall and was ‘as complete as any in Europe’; it was also described as the first of its kind in Ireland. Clearly it was not the first tennis court in the country, so this might have been referring to its internal configuration: almost certainly a dedans court and virtually identical to that at Hampton Court, which had served as the model for the Stuart court at Whitehall. It is not inconceivable that all previous tennis courts in Ireland were variations of the jeu quarré format; generally courts with only two penthouses and with no tambour or dedans, sometimes they were open and in most cases they were smaller than the dedans courts.

Despite its grandeur — the court came to be known as the ‘Great Tennis Court’ — it soon ran into trouble. Although the construction of the court had been financed by a group of ‘noblemen’, the building was apparently owned an individual and by 1755 he had run out of money. As a consequence the court shut. In an attempt to raise funds for necessary repairs the proprietor asked all of the original subscribers who still wanted to play, if they would be prepared to pay an annual subscription of £8 so that the court could be reopened. While there is no record of their decision, it would appear that the court did reopen and that it remained in play for almost forty more years.

In 1793 the court was taken over by the Honorable Society of King’s Inns for the practice of holding commons, but this arrangement seems to have only lasted a year or so. The court was still standing in 1801 because the Irish Farming Society hired it for its Grand Annual Exhibition in December of that year, after that nothing more is known about it. Like many tennis courts around the world, its memory lived on through an adjacent street name. The first reference to ‘Tennis Court’, a small lane running south off Townsend Street, can be found in a 1798 Dublin street directory, it consisted of eleven tenements with a ‘Tennis Court Yard’ nearby. The last of these tenements was pulled down in 1932 to clear the site so that accommodation for the firemen at the Tara Street Fire Station could be provided. ‘Tennis Court’ finally disappeared shortly after the end of the Second World War.

Trinity College

In 1835, in Leigh’s New Pocket Road-Book of Ireland, and also in the New Pocket Picture of Dublin published three years later, it was said that College Park, where Trinity College’s sports are played, contained tennis courts for the amusement of the students. Elsewhere these courts, which were on the eastern side of the park, were referred to as ball courts; so once again we have confusion! However, it would seem that they were a rudimentary type of open ball court, because they were later contemptuously compared with a new rackets court built nearby in 1860, which was described as a more ‘permanent and convenient’ structure. Muddying the waters still further are references to a ‘real’ tennis court at Trinity College, which was supposed to have been close to today’s Áras an Phiarsaigh. This translates to ‘Pearse’s Hall’ in English and it is located on Pearse Street which, when it was known as Upper Brunswick Street in the nineteenth century, was linked to Townsend Street by the lane mentioned earlier called ‘Tennis Court’. Therefore these references relate to the Lazer’s Hill tennis court, which was only about a hundred metres from the College grounds and as a consequence likely to have been frequented by some of the students. But perhaps of most interest to Members of the Irish Real Tennis Association hoping to restore the Guinness court in Earlsfort Terrace, is that it was not the first tennis court to be built at a house fronting St. Stephen’s Green.

St. Stephen’s Green

In 1686, the English topographer Thomas Denton visited Dublin gathering information about the city, which he published a couple of years later. One of the ‘fine houses’ he described facing St. Stephen’s Green had been built in the 1670s by Sir Robert Reading and in the rear garden there was a tennis court. This was a magnificent house, constructed when the area was becoming extremely fashionable and the Green was being laid out. The house had a 70 foot frontage onto the Green, with two side wings to the rear. The property was situated between York Street, where it had its main entrance, and what is now Proud’s Lane.

A clue to the date of the court can be found amongst the manuscripts of the Marquis of Ormonde. Here there is a letter dated 13th September 1679 sent from Dublin by Dr. John Topham to the Earl of Arran, in which he tells the Earl about an accident to a mutual acquaintance who had broken his leg. Topham goes on to say: “Several accidents of that kind have lately happened here, the scaffolding at the new tennis court having lamed four.” This would appear to confirm 1679 as the date of the court, because no other Dublin court is known to have been erected around this time, and Topham, who was Advocate General of His Majesty’s Army in Ireland, lived in this part of the city, so he would have been familiar with the area. He goes on to say that all four injured at the tennis court were expected to die.

Sir Robert died in 1689 and the house passed to James Hamilton, the sixth Earl of Abercorn, who had married his only daughter five years earlier. Some of the Hamilton family were keen tennis players — there was court at family seat at Hamilton Palace, and the 8th Duke was one of the original subscribers to the Mitchell Street court in Glasgow and had provided its first marker — but there is some doubt about the sixth Earl’s interest in the game. This is because by 1698, the court appears to have been accessible to the general public. In that year John Dunton, a London bookseller and publisher, visited the city and found the court, which he described as ‘handsome but not overlarge’, was situated next to a tavern where ‘with the Juyce of ye generous grape Gentlemen may supply those spirits which they exhausted in tossing their balls’. This seems to indicate that by then the court had been split off from the main house and was operating as a commercial venture. Dunton’s recollections, which are preserved in the Rawlinson Manuscripts held at the Bodleian Library, are useful because he confirms that the court had a roof. Coming from London, Dunton was probably familiar with dedans courts at Whitehall and James Street in the Haymarket, which may account for his observation that the court was small for its time.

In 1740, a few years after the death of the 6th Earl of Abercorn, a new lease for ‘a piece of ground called the Old Tennis Court, 81 feet along the south side of York Street, and 157 feet to the rere’, was granted to a Dublin brewer called John Spring. The description of the court as ‘Old’ suggests that by this time it was out of play. By 1772 the court was said to have ‘gone to ruin’. The original house did not last much longer. The Earl of Roden leased the property soon after the land to the rear had been let to the brewer, before purchasing the freehold from the 8th Earl of Abercorn in 1755. In 1802 his son, the 2nd Earl, pulled the mansion down and replaced it with three town houses, which have themselves since disappeared.

While these revelations add significantly to our knowledge of the game in Ireland, there is no doubt that there is great deal more to be discovered about the Country’s rich tennis history.

© David Best, February 2012


St. Thomas Street court, Dublin

The Annals of Tennis, Julian Marshall, London 1878, pp.76–78

Lea Castle

The Dublin Penny Journal, 1834/35, Conducted by Philip Dixon Hardy, p.294

Askeaton Castle

Rambles in the South of Ireland during the Year 1838, Vol. 2, Lady Georgina Chatterton, pp.126, 127


The History of Limerick, John Ferrer, Limerick 1787, p.18


Historical and Descriptive Notices of the City of Cork and its Vincinity, John Windele, Cork 1839, p.16

Kilkenny, St. James Street court

A Survey of the City of Kilkenny by Rocque 1758, British Library Maps K. Top. 54.4

Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, Vol. II, 1852–53, Dublin 1855, p.330

Michael P. Garnett’s ‘List of Courts’, which has been regularly updated in a number of the author’s published works.

Kilkenny, Franciscan Priory court

Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Vol. 13, London 1839, p.220

Ireland: Its Scenery, Character, &c., Vol. II, Samuel Carter Hall, London 1842, p.19

A New Gazetteer: Or Topographical Dictionary of the British Islands and Narrow Seas, Vol. I, James A. Sharp, London 1852, p.995

The Cathedrals of the United Kingdom: their History, Architecture, Monuments and Traditions, Mackenzie Walcott, London 1860, p.316


A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Vol. 1, Samuel Lewis, London 1837, p.74

Dublin Castle

The Dublin University Magazine, November 1858, Vol. 52, p.638 Here there is an analysis of the historical information contained in the first five volumes of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 1853–57, which includes a reference to the Dublin Castle court.

Gilbert’s History of Dublin, published in the New Monthly Magazine, 1860, Vol. 120, p.78.

Winetavern Street, Dublin

The Vestry Records of the Parish of St John the Evangelist, Dublin 1595–1658, ed. Raymond Gillespie, Dublin 2002, pp. 57, 80, 91, 105, 157, 218

A History of the City of Dublin, Vol. 1, Sir John Thomas Gilbert, Dublin 1854, p.157

Whalley’s Newsletter, 26/6/1721

Derby Mercury, 27/6/1755

Universal Advertiser, 8/7/1755

Fingal 1603–60: contending neighbours in North Dublin, Maighnéad Ní Mhuchadha, 2005, p.165

A History of the City of Dublin, Vol. 1, Sir John Thomas Gilbert, 1854, pp.159/160 (Pyed-horse Tavern court)

Dame Street courts, Dublin

The Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 1, No. V, March 1852, p.504

Dublin Journal, 28 March – 1 April 1758

Universal Advertiser, 2/4/1754; 8/7/1755

Oxberry’s Dramatic Biography and Historical Anecdotes, Vol. IIII, ed. by C.E. Oxberry, London 1826, p.75

Dame Court — The Heart of Dublin, Peter Pearson, O’Brian Press 2000, p.73

Cork Hill (questionable)

Irish Historic Towns Atlas, Dublin part 2, 1610–1756, Colm Lennon, Royal Irish Academy, 2008

Oxmantown Green courts, Dublin

John Rocque’s 1756 Map of Dublin

Two Hundred Men at Tennis: Sport in North Dublin 1600–1760, Maighréad Ní Mhurchadha, article in the Dublin Historical Record, Vol. LXI, No. 1, (spring 2008), p.88

Kilmainham — court in a church, Dublin

Public Record Office for Northern Ireland, T657/16

Kilmainham Gaol

Memoirs, Journal, and Correspondence of Thomas Moore, Vol. VII ed. by Lord John Russell, London 1856, p.189

Other Irish prisons

Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of John Howard, the Philanthropist, James Baldwin Brown, London 1823, p.383

The Works of John Howard, Vol. II, The History of the Lazarettos, London 1791, pp.79, 88

John’s Lane court, Dublin

The Vestry Records of the Parish of St John the Evangelist, Dublin 1595–1658, ed. Raymond Gillespie, Dublin 2002, pp. 48, 56, 79, 90, 104, 157

A History of the City of Dublin, Vol. 1, Sir John Thomas Gilbert, 1854, p.53

Eighth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Vol. 8, p.548

Universal Advertiser, 8/7/1755

Freeman’s Journal, 14 August 1855; 7 December 1855; 29 September 1856

Hidden Dublin: Deadbeats, Dossers and Decent Skins, Frank Hopkins, Cork 2007, pp.239–241

The Official Catalogue for the Dublin International Exhibition of Arts and Manufacturers in 1865 (Thomas Watters)

Tennis and Rackets, Lord Aberdare, London 1980, p.134 (Watters)

The New York Times, 23/4/1867 (Watters training William Gray)

The 1950 photograph is part of the Dublin City Council Photographic Collection and can be seen on the ‘Vanishing Dublin’ website

Preliminary Environmental Impact Statement — Dublin Interconnector Rail Tunnel, 3/8/2007, pp.33–36, (Apx. 9, Cultural Heritage, Mott MacDonald)

Dublin Street Names Explained, C.T. McCready 1892 — “Scriven’s Al. (a ball-court, 4–5 John’s Lane, Fishamble —str) From the Scriven family — formerly resident in the neighbourhood.”

Dublin: The Fair City, Peter Somerville-Large, London 1996, pp.94, 110

Mention of a penthouse in this court can be found in The Liberties of Dublin, ed. by Elgy Gillespie, Dublin 1973, p.53: ‘Till fairly recently there was a tennis court walled and with an Eighteenth century gallery behind the cathedral. It was the last example of its kind in these islands.’

Trinity College, Dublin

The Kaleidoscope; or, Literary and Scientific Mirror, No.434, Vol IX, 21st October 1828 edition of this Liverpool journal, p.130

New Pocket Road-Book of Ireland, Samuel Leigh, 1835, p.8

New Pocket Picture of Dublin, 1838, p.23

Chapters of Dublin website — Chapter IV, Trinity College, Dublin

TCD Life website — History by Roland Budd

Lazer’s Hill court, Dublin

The London Magazine and Monthly Chronicler 1747, p.440

Universal Advertiser, 26/7/1755

Hereford Journal, 9/12/1801

Life in Old Dublin, James Collins, Dublin 1913, p.50

The Dublin Fire Brigade, Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whitehead, Dublin 2004, p.196

St. Stephen’s Green/York Street, Dublin

A Perambulation of Cumberland, 1687–8, including descriptions of Westmorland, the Isle of Man and Ireland (Cumbria Record Office MS D/Lons/L12/4/2/2), ed. by Angus J. L. Winchester and Mary Wane, 2003

Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquess of Ormonde, K.P., p.206, preserved at Kilkenny Castle.

Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1924

The Georgian Society Records of Eighteenth Century Domestic Architecture and Decoration in Dublin, Vol. II, introduced by Desmond Guinness of the Irish Georgian Society, Shannon 1969, p.99

Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI) Ref. D623/A/40/20 — A letter from John Hatch of Dublin to the Earl of Abercorn, dated 21 March 1772.

The Early Irish Stage, William Smith Clark, Oxford 1955, pp.105, 106


Galway City

Letter written to the Irish Times by Andrew Steven, 8 June 1998


The Dublin patriciate and the reception of migrants in the seventeenth century: civic politics and newcomers, Edward Whelan, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, 2008, p.125

Two Hundred Men at Tennis: Sport in North Dublin 1600–1760, Maighréad Ní Mhurchadha, published in the Dublin Historical Record, Vol. LXI, No. 1, (spring 2008), p.96

Other prohibitions

The Statutes at Large, Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland from 1310 to 1761, Eight Volumes, Dublin 1765

A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland from 1641 to 1652, Sir John Thomas Gilbert, Vol. 1, part 2, p.542

A History of the City of Dublin, Vol. II, Sir John Thomas Gilbert, Dublin 1858, pp.268, 269, (Re: the digging up of tennis and ball court floors)

Racquets and balls

History of the Commerce and Town of Liverpool, Vol. 1, Thomas Baines, Liverpool 1852, p.245

Stické Tennis

Stické: The Development of Stické Tennis, Graham Tomkinson, Beaconsfield 2004, pp.20, 23

Lord Dufferin: A Tennis-Playing Diplomat, Administrator and Statesman, Andrew Steven, Belfast, Ulster Folklife, Volume 47, 2001, pp.45–51


The author is grateful for the help received from the following people:

Paul Ferguson — Map Librarian, Trinity College Library Dublin

Michael Garnett — Tennis historian and author, Melbourne

Simon Lincoln — Irish Architectural Archive

Alan Moore — National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht