A 19th century court on the east side of French Street, from which it was reached by a covered passage. It was situated three blocks north of Broad Lane. The Dilapidated Housing Report of 1893 describes it thus: “An unhealthy blind court leading out of French Street. It contains ten houses, three of which are obstructive and seven without thorough ventilation”. Fives Court survived the slum clearances of the 1890s but was demolished in the 1930s.

Lawrence Burgess’s suggestion that it probably represents the site of a fives court of Tudor date has no documentary support. Fives is a variant of tennis played with a gloved or bare hand, and tennis was certainly played in Southampton from at least the late 15th century: a document of 1486 mentions a ‘tennis playing place’ but is not specific as to location. Corporation deeds of 1530 mention a tennis court, ‘Le Tenys play’, on the west side of French Street (i.e. the opposite side of the street to Fives Court) near the tenement called The Vernacle. Court Leet records of 1550 mention a tennis court kept by Thomas Muckelow junior, which is probably the same French Street court mentioned above. Presentments to the Court Leet in 1569 show that Robert Vautier was keeping a tennis court, but it is not clear if this was on the French Street site or in another part of the town.

see also

Further reading:
‘Tennis in Southampton in the 16th Century’, by Elizabeth Rothery, in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, No. 3, Spring 1992, p17-19. (HS/h)


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