Croquet is a sport that involves hitting plastic or wooden balls with a mallet through hoops embedded in a grass playing court. The oldest document to bear the word croquet with a description of the game is the set of rules registered by Isaac Spratt in November 1856 with the Stationers Company in London. This record is now in the Public Record Office, in 1868, the first croquet all-comers meet was held at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbledon, London. In the book Queen of Games, The History of Croquet, Nicky Smith presents two theories of the origin of the game of croquet, which took England by storm in the 1860s. This was the explanation given in the edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. It is to be observed, that there are two of these arches, that is one at end of the alley. The images caption describes the game as a curious ancient pastime, in Samuel Johnsons 1755 dictionary, his definition of pall-mall clearly describes a game with similarities to modern croquet, A play in which the ball is struck with a mallet through an iron ring. However, there is no evidence that pall-mall involved the croquet stroke which is the characteristic of the modern game. Regular contact between Ireland and France had continued since the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. By no later than the early 15th century, the game jeu de mail was popular in France, including in the courts of Henry II in the 16th century, at least one version of it, rouët was a multi-ball lawn game. There is, however, no pre-1858 Irish document that describes the way game was played, whatever the truth of the matter, Jaques certainly played an important role in popularising the game, producing editions of the rules in 1857,1860, and 1864. Croquet became highly popular as a pastime in England during the 1860s. By 1867, Jaques had printed 65,000 copies of his Laws and it quickly spread to other Anglophone countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. No doubt one of the attractions was that the game could be played by both sexes, this ensured a certain amount of adverse comment. There was a revival in the 1890s, but from then onwards, croquet was always a minority sport, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club still has a croquet lawn, but has not hosted any significant tournaments. The English headquarters for the game is now in Cheltenham, on the page facing the title page is a picture of Eglinton Castle with a game of croquet in full swing. The croquet lawn existed on the terrace, between Eglinton Castle and the Lugton Water. In 1865 the Rules of the Eglinton Castle and Cassiobury Croquet was published by Edmund Routledge, several incomplete sets of this form of croquet are known to exist, and one complete set is still used for demonstration games in the West of Scotland
Paille-maille (pall-mall) illustrated in Old English Sports, Pastimes and Customs, published 1891. Original image by Lauthier, 1717
Early croquet-like game from The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, first published 1801. Hoop, peg and two players with balls clearly shown. Such implements in ground billiards games date to classical antiquity.