This week’s #FascinatingFactFriday sees us delving deep into the King’s Ely archives again!

Did you know that there used to be a little courtyard area in between The Porta and the Monastic Barn where boys at King’s used to play the game ‘Fives’?

Our wonderful School Archivist, Mrs Elizabeth Stazicker, said: “In the 1860s, the washing of the Dean’s and Canons’ coaches and horses, and the mucking out of their stables, was moved from in front of The Porta. A way was cut through the Monastic Barn, which was then the stable block, and a yard was created on the other side.

“A clean play area was thus provided for the school, but the ingenuity of King’s boys soon brought another benefit! Who was it, one wonders, who knew the game of ‘Fives’, then newly ‘gentrified’ and taken up by the major public schools, and who saw the potential of the newly-available area on the south side of The Porta?

“The game was already popular at King’s in the late 1870s; the first Eton-Harrow match took place only in 1885, but that was Eton Fives. It seems that King’s played Rugby Fives, but surely an idiosyncratic version, given the shape of the court and buttresses? Through the 1930s and into the early 1960s, this exciting game, cheap to equip, easy to arrange, and without the damp and dirty connotations of Rugby or Football, was a major attraction – and remains played nationally.

“Sadly, on the creation of the school’s new dining rooms, the courtyard gave way to kitchen accommodation. Equally sadly, although we know players’ names and match results, we have no record of the rules developed for our court. Can anyone remember them?”

Anyone with any information can contact Mrs Stazicker via email:

The photo above from the archives shows boys playing ‘Fives’ in the old courtyard in the 1930s!

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