Real tennis or courte pause is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis is descended with these 2ft 2in (67cm) rackets a far cry from today’s light graphite and fibreglass models. They are made with ash frames and trebled gut stringing with probably later material grips.
Rackets and balls were typically made by the maître-paumiers, often professional players or proprietors of the 200-plus courts in and around Paris. As the best available, many were sold to English players.
One of this group of four is stamped Tison and it is possible all were by this maker. Records suggest Tison, a well-known maître-paumier, was an old man in the 1820s: he was probably born in the 1740s. The collection at Petworth House has half a dozen similar rackets that can be confidently dated to c.1800-10.
The quartet was estimated at £1500-2500 but sold for £13,000 (plus 23% buyer’s premium) on March 13 to Alan Chalmers of The Tennis Bookshop in Midhurst, West Sussex.
He told ATG he had bought them on behalf of an overseas client with these extremely rare rackets now forming “the centrepiece of a real tennis collection that has been 30 years in the making”.