Real tennis, the ancient forerunner of our more familiar racket sports, has been around since at least as long ago as the sixteenth century. It is now very much a niche, or specialist, sport, as is evidenced by the distinct lack of courts worldwide. Globally, there are less than fifty, with the
being home to more than half of these.
One of the more noteworthy venues is that at Jesmond, to the north of
It was built in 1894 as a private court for Sir Andrew Noble, who owned nearby
Jesmond Dene House. Noble, a Scot, was a leading light at the famous Armstrong
munitions works – and was a handy player himself (despite suffering
occasionally from gout!). The architect responsible was local chap F.W.Rich.
The suitably-named Jesmond Dene Real Tennis Club now occupies and runs the curious set-up, though it enjoyed a chequered twentieth century existence. During World War I airships were said to have been constructed there; and, following a brief reversion to ‘family’ use after hostilities, the building moved out of private ownership and into the care of Newcastle Council in 1931. The formation of a tennis club on the site the following year helped maintain the historic links, but Badminton ran the roost at the venue for many years following WWII. Happily, though, the building eventually reverted to its proper ‘real tennis’ use in 1981.
It is now, quite rightly, a listed building.
More extensive historical info here.