Founded in 1793, the world’s oldest racket-sports club is in Kolkata
By Bert Armstrong, Squash Mad Travel Editor
An intrepid traveller from Australia has happened across the world’s oldest squash club. The Calcutta Racket Club was founded in 1793 by the East India Company, and predates the Harrow School courts by more than 70 years! BERT ARMSTRONG tells his story.
We have been in India the past fortnight, starting in Calcutta, then on a boat for eight days cruising the Ganges River. It’s been quite an experience.
We had a lot of preconceived ideas of India but all of them were well off the mark. The sheer mayhem, heat, squalor, clutter, is beyond belief, but somehow the people mostly retain humour, and good behaviour, which is amazing.
And in all of this chaos there exists the oldest squash club in the world, founded in 1793, ( the first squash court being built in Harrow School in London in 1864!).
The Calcutta Racket Club was originally founded by the East India Company and called the Fives club, but that name changed when the English built a rackets court in the early 1800s, so it has been a racket sports club in excess of 200 years.
Squash courts were built in the 1930s. They now have seven courts, with two exhibition courts having substantial galleries.
One of the other older courts has a unique side-wall standing viewing gallery, and the walls of the courts are about 90 cm thick. There’s no air conditioning, and a cosy bar!
The resident Professional, Dalip Tripathi, was most gracious and hospitable, spending some time with us and presenting a racket and shirt to augment my collection, the one area where the club is superior to KLTC is their beautiful garden, an oasis so close to the surrounding bedlam.
One of the pictures below in the gallery is a sign in their gym. Perhaps something for all clubs to consider?
Strangely the name of the club does not refer to our sport, but to a particular type of bird that used to inhabit the area, Racket Tail Drongo, true!
Such is history.
Pictures by ALBERT ARMSTRONG