The historic Budleigh Croquet Club
- Credit: Budleigh Croquet Club
Founded in the late 1860s, Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club holds the proud distinction of being one of the premier clubs in European croquet.
Enjoying the beautiful location of views overlooking the town, the club began as the Budleigh Salterton Lawn Tennis and Croquet team.
Many distinguished members have served the club, including the wonderful Ralph Bucknall, rightly regarded as a global legend in the sport.
Bucknall coached generations of croquet stars and a scholar of the game, who continued playing well into his 80s before ill health finally called time on his career.
In the story of croquet in Budleigh, his feisty tactical disagreements with playing partner Jack Lee were the stuff of legend.
It is recorded that croquet was first played on the grounds in 1872 and a new pavilion built in 1890, with a second croquet lawn added five years later.
The first Open Croquet tournament, the Ross Cup, took place in 1896 and a year later, Budleigh Salterton Railway opened.
Dressing rooms were constructed in 1906 and the Old Tool Shed became the secretary’s office, with non-playing members admitted for the first time and a fourth lawn added in 1908.
At the end of the First World War, the club boasted an impressive ten tennis courts and four croquet lawns.
The first stage of the club house was built in 1922, with the Bridge Room added in 1930 and a verandah built on to the lower pavilion in 1934.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, the military took over the dressing rooms and both Bridge Rooms.
Chess was added to the club repertoire in 1954 and a first fruit machine graced the building in 1959.
A new car park was constructed in 1967, with finance from donations and the Challenge and Gilbey Cups were played at Budleigh for the first time in 1969.
For more than 150 years, Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club has been part of the community and it remains a prime European venue for the sport, hosting major British and international tournaments.
When current restrictions allow, croquet will be back on the Budleigh menu once again.