The Hobart Real Tennis Club, founded in 1875, is one of the oldest sporting clubs in the southern hemisphere. It is the oldest real tennis club in Australia and one of the oldest active clubs in the real tennis world. The game was introduced into Australia by Samuel Smith Travers in 1875, when he built the first court in Hobart. Courts were later built in Melbourne, Ballarat, Sydney and Romsey, although only Hobart, Melbourne and Ballarat are still operating today.
The Hobart court is substantially unaltered from its original construction, except for the installation of electric lighting last century. The historic clubhouse, which fronts on Davey Street, has been progressively renovated and extended over the years, but retains its original character and charm. The club is a fine example of colonial architecture.
The club continues to thrive and currently has a vibrant and diverse membership of over 250. Surrounded by nearly 150 years of history, the members take their responsibilities as custodians of a unique piece of Tasmania’s history very seriously.
Real tennis is the original game from which the lawn version (and every other racquet sport) was derived. First played in the 13th century, the game is also known as royal tennis or (in the US) court tennis.
There are approximately 38 courts currently in use, the majority being in Britain. Today, the game is played in just four countries (the UK, US, France, and Australia), but at the height of its popularity in the 18th century, there were thousands of courts scattered across Europe.
The oldest original court is at Falkland Palace in Scotland, built between 1539 and 1541. The site of the Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace pre-dates Falkland Palace, but the current court was rebuilt by Charles I in 1625 on the site of the original court built by Cardinal Wolsey between 1526 and 1529. As a young man, Henry VIII was a keen and talented tennis player who spent hours on court. His second wife Anne Boleyn was gambling on a game of tennis when she was arrested to be taken to the Tower of London. She even complained that she couldn’t collect her winnings!