I just received a copy of a new history of the sport of sticke by Nigel a Brassard. It is a delightful game and delightfully obscure: there are just two playable courts in the world.

Basically an indoor version of tennis, sticke was invented in England in the 1870s. It spread around the world (courts in Bermuda, Canada, India, Ireland and South Africa) and at one point there were courts at famous places (Queens Club in London; Buckingham Palace). About thirty-one covered courts were built, largely at English country estates and the last new court appeared in 1922.

Then a decline. Courts were demolished burnt or converted—in 1938 Buckingham Palace’s court became a squash court and a swimming pool. (It was there in 1948 that the Duke of Edinburgh had a game of squash while Queen Elizabeth was in labor delivering their son Charles.)

Today there are two surviving courts. Less than two years ago the author (he wrote this as a masters dissertation) kindly took  me out on one of the two extant courts, Hartham Park in rural Wiltshire, England. It was a magical morning.

Whenever someone complains that squash is inaccessible, arcane and unknown— no one has ever heard of it—you can say that it is hugely popular compared with another racquet sport called sticke.