Eton fives is a unique form of the handball sport because of the architecture of the court. The boys did this in the space between the buttresses of College Chapel and found that the ridges and the intrusive buttress made for a distinctive game. It was so popular that in 1847 replica walls were built – the first fives courts. These use three walls with an additional ‘buttress’ (to replicate the Chapel walls) that interrupts the court.
The original space between the buttresses at the foot of the steps to the north door of College Chapel is now only used for exhibition games.
Players were wearing special gloves to protect their hands by the time the rules were first written down in 1878 but we do not know exactly when gloves were first used. Although players need to be fit it is a game in which experience and skill can defeat faster opponents.
There is now an Eton Fives Association who proudly share that Eton Fives has been described as the best handball game on earth. It is gaining popularity and is being played more and more widely.