Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Christ College Archive > And on the other side of the wall . . .

And on the other side of the wall . . .

. . . memories of the Fives court
1890s. Fives. From the Percy Morton Collection. Christ College Archive.
1890s. Fives. From the Percy Morton Collection. Christ College Archive.

While the Tuck Shop holds memories for many Old Breconians, on the other side of the wall there was quite another story.

A unique item arrived in the Archive inbox recently - a photograph of a “CCB House Fives” medal. It was sent to us by David Barnes, Archivist at the Rugby Fives Association (RFA), who had recently acquired it from an auction site. David has been in contact with the Christ College Archive for quite some time. Initially making an enquiry about Fives at Christ College, he has been of considerable help in piecing together its story. We are very grateful to David for sharing the photograph, and for being so willing to share his expertise over the years.

Though the medal itself is not held in our own archive, it is a valuable record of a sport that sits very much in the past at Christ College. The medal is made of hallmarked silver, which is not only surprising but also suggests that encouraging competition between Houses was of importance at the time.    

Dated 1904, it was won by Morton’s with G Llewellyn and S J Marriott beating M H Phillips and W M Llewellyn (School House) in the final. Now the Beacon’s Guest House, Morton’s was a small House for boarders on Bridge Street, which had a sporting tradition that belied its size. Percy Morton, the Housemaster, often acted as school photographer. The image he captured in the 1890s strikingly evokes the game in that era. 

The Fives Courts had been constructed at the behest of the new headmaster, the Revd M A Bayfield (Head 1890-1895). Building them took much longer than anticipated and The Breconian reveals the sight of the half-constructed site as a source of much amusement at the time.

The Fives-courts are rising slowly, "like an exhalation." They will probably be ready for use within this generation, but we do not care to speak with certainty upon such a subject.

Less amusing, not least to the Headmaster, was the description of the Courts in The Breconian of March 1892 - the only number of the school magazine ever to be printed, suppressed, revised and reprinted. Perhaps understandably, the description was removed when the magazine was revised, presumably on the instruction of the Revd M A Bayfield.

Now that the Fives Courts have reached their full height, we can judge of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of their situation. The former are absolutely nil. For it cannot be said that their nearness to the School buildings is an advantage. As viewed from the street, they resemble a half-completed brewhouse or slaughterhouse, and stand out in painful prominence against the architecturally beautiful background of the Chapel, and the old ivied walls of the Chapel yard.

The building was finally completed July 1892 at a cost of £216 1s 8d. Two courts formed a block but, from the outset, one was closed (roofed) and one was open. With David’s help we were able to identify that the courts were constructed for Winchester Fives, which was the form played at Malvern, the school from which M A Bayfield came to take up his appointment as Headmaster.  

If there was limited enthusiasm for the building, there seems also to have been limited enthusiasm for the sport. Indeed, Fives didn’t really take off until the Masters themselves offered a Challenge Cup for a House competition in the Easter Term of 1897. Unlike other sports, there doesn’t seem to have been a master-in-charge and the popularity of Fives seems to have waxed and waned in subsequent decades.  

In 1923 the open court was “transformed” into the Tuck Shop and the remaining Fives Court was being used for model-making by 1945. Though it was reinstated as a Fives court in 1954 and G S Stephens was appointed Captain of Fives, there are no reports of matches. However, at Prize Day 1962 it was reported that there was “also the possibility in the none too distant future of further Fives Courts and a swimming pool”. The statement suggests at least a perceived interest in the sport, but the Fives courts building was demolished in 1965 to make way for the Cartwright building - built as a Biology and Geography block and now known as the Languages block.

So the history of Fives at Christ College rests on a few reports in The Breconian, a scurrilous description in a suppressed edition of the same magazine, a striking photograph . . . and a small medal shared with us by a friend and expert enthusiast and held in the Collection of the Rugby Fives Association.

Fives perhaps also exists in the memories of Old Breconians. If you have memories of Fives while at school, please share a Comment. If you have a longer story to tell, let Felicity know. We’d love to know more.




CCB Development Office

📩 Email

 01874 615440

Registered Charity Number


This website is powered by