Next Years' Compulsory Attire for Gentlemen Players at Rye Croquet Club
Many of you will no doubt be familiar with ‘The Bailiwick of St. James’, Survey of London: volumes 29 and 30: St James Westminster, Part 1 (1960), pp. 21-28). For those that aren’t Peter has kindly supplied the following quotation.
“Pall mall appears to have originated in Italy and to have been introduced into France during the sixteenth century; its name, palle-maille in French, derived from the Italian palla = ball and maglio = mallet, in reference to the equipment used by the players.
The balls and mallets used in the game were made of wood. The mallet, which resembled those now used for croquet, had a slightly curved head with flattened ends, each bound with an iron hoop, and a long slender handle. There are in the British Museum a ball and a pair of mallets, one marked with the name ‘Latoure’. They were presented in 1854 by G. Vulliamy, and had been found in his father’s house at No. 68 Pall Mall, which had been occupied by the Vulliamy family since the 1760’s.
A Frenchman, Joseph Lauthier, writing in 1722, mentions four variants of the game. One of these, à la Chicane, was played in open country, and resembled golf; it was probably the version played in Scotland. In England another variant seems to have been popular, and was played in a smooth grass alley, called a pall mall.
Sir Robert Dallington, in his ‘View of France As it Stoode in 1598’, stated that:
‘Among all the exercises of France, I preferre none before the Palle-maille, both because it is a Gentleman-like sport, not violent, and yeelds good occasion and opportunity of discourse, as they walke from the one marke to the other. I marvell, among many more Apish and foolish toyes, which wee have brought out of France, that wee have not brought this sport also into England.’
The game was, however, well established in Scotland at this time, where it had perhaps been introduced from France by Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the points made in the ‘book of articles’ accusing her of complicity in her husband’s murder was that, shortly afterwards (1567), she was at Seton with Bothwell, playing ‘one day richt oppinlie at the fieldis with the pal mall and goif’.
Mary’s son, James, probably brought the game to England. In the book which he wrote to instruct his son Henry in princely behaviour, he included pall mall amongst the sports which he thought suitable for a young prince to play: ‘the exercises that I would have you to use (although but moderatlie not making a craft of them) are running, leaping, wrestling, fencing, dauncing, and playing at the caitche or tennise, archery, palle maillé, and such like other faire and pleasant field games’.
Pall mall continued to be a popular royal game during the reigns of Charles I and Charles II. Peter Mundy mentions among ‘Matters off Note’ that he saw Charles I ‘playing att Palle Malle by St. James’ in 1639,
and Charles II’s play was described in verse by Edmund Waller:
‘Here a well-polisht Mall gives us the joy
To see our Prince his matchless force imploy; . . .
No sooner has he toucht the flying ball,
But ’tis already more than half the mall,
And such a fury from his arm has got
As from a smoaking Culverin ’twere shot.’
The mall mentioned by Mundy was on the south side of St. James’s Field, and is shown on Faithorne and Newcourt’s map (published 1658 but surveyed 1643–7). When this mall was first laid down is not known. About 1629 John Bonnealle, a Frenchman, took a piece of land in St. James’s Field, ‘under pretence of making a Pall Mall’. ‘Under pretence’ suggests that Bonnealle failed to make one, but another source, dated 1630, refers to ‘St. James’s field where the pallmall is’. It may be that the pall mall mentioned in 1630 was an old one and that Bonnealle had been commissioned to make a new one.
In 1635 Archibald Lumsden, who in the three preceding years had spent £425 14s. ‘in bowls, malls and scopes’ and in repairs to the mall, was granted the sole right to furnish ‘all the Malls, bowls, scoops and other necessaries for the game of Pall Mall within his grounds in St. James Fields’. (Lumsden never received payment of Charles I’s debt; he was granted a patent for ‘transporting 500 dozen pair of leather boots’ in lieu thereof, but even this was recalled by Parliament.) In time, by association with the game, St. James’s Field became known as Pall Mall Field or Close, and it was under this name that it was surveyed in 1650. There were then 140 elm trees ‘standinge in Pell Mell walke in a very decent and Regular manner on both sides the Walke’.
After the Restoration the mall in St. James’s Field was abandoned, and a new highway on the line of the present Pall Mall street was laid over it . A new mall, to which Waller referred in the lines quoted above, was made within St. James’s Park, on the south side of the wall bordering the old highway from St. James’s Palace to Charing Cross.”
Proposals for an expotition (sic) to view the relics in the British Museum will emerge early in the New Year!