Dulwich Croquet Club is hidden off Burbage Road as part of the Dulwich Sports Club. It has three lawns, one of which is used all year round, and a membership which includes many casual weekend players but also includes some of the best in the UK, with several ranked in the top 100, and one of whom, Pierre Beaudry, is currently ranked number 17 in the world! The quintessential stereoytype of retired lieutenant-colonels invalided out of India infesting the croquet lawns of England persists - in much the same anachronistic way as bowler hats and furled umbrellas. The reality is a very lively, active, sociable and growing club with a wide range of ages and skills. The club's first team are currently the national champions, and every year the club collects trophies at club and individual level in competitions across the country; and last year Pierre Beaudry won an impressive trophy at the world championship in Cairo. At a more down to earth level, the Christmas dinner saw the club take over Pullens in Herne Hill, and the New Year's Day croquet and bangers and mash event saw the clubhouse bar packed with players, some nursing sizeable hangovers from the night before!
The club was formed in 1912 as part of the croquet craze which swept the country in the late 19th century. The opportunity for dashing men and unchaperoned women to get together on the lawns was doubtless one driver, and a pleasing feature of the game remains that men and women can and do play and compete on entirely equal terms. The tale that Edward Alleyn once won five shillings and a silk codpiece playing against Richard Burbage on the lawns of the club may not be entirely based on fact, and the sighting some years ago of two ghostly Elizabethans playing by moonlight may reflect the quality of the wine available at the club bar.
Those interested in joining the club should make contact via the website, www.dulwichcroquet.com, or simply by coming along to one of the club sessions on Thursday morning (10.30 a.m. until early afternoon) or on Sunday morning (from 10 a.m. until - in good weather at least - early evening).