Fives is a handball game. Its origins are a little obscure but one theory is that it began, some centuries ago, when boys used the buttresses and walls of a church and hit the ball with their hands against the walls - the angles of the buttresses and walls lending variety to the game. It might then have been a game played as singles or doubles.
Fives has some similarities to Squash. The court is similar in size but has a stone floor. No racket is required - only a pair of padded gloves. Unlike squash where normally you will play either right-handed or left-handed, in Fives you need to be as ambidextrous as possible.
Like many other physical sports, Fives was virtually a male sport but times are a-changing! The game is enjoying increasing popularity amongst the gentler sex! The Wessex Fives Club currently has very few female members and would welcome more.
Most courts are located at private schools or at Universities and there are 3 distinct variations of Fives - Eton Fives, whose courts have a large buttress, a "pepper", a step, sundry slopes and an open back, Rugby Fives, whose courts are closed with a back wall, no buttress or other "irregularities", and Winchester Fives, whose courts are also closed and which have a "pepper" - a vertical revetment, where the ball can "die"!
Not surprisingly, Winchester College has courts on which Winchester Fives is played. There are 4 courts and changing facilities.
Boys at Pilgrims School (Pilgrims School provide choristers for the Winchester Cathedral choir) are encouraged to learn the game and start as young as 7. Older members of the club continue playing well into their 60s and, now, 70s - Fives is an addictive game!!
For more information about the Wessex Fives Club, click on the adjacent panel.
Or, better still, come along to the Winchester College Courts and PLAY THE GAME!
Last reviewed 18th October 2014