The original Fives Court was built sometime during the 1880s (One source gives it as being during the headship of Mr Herbert Buller (1887-1892) but there is reference to Robert Topham beating W Ayres 15-2, 15-6 in a match in 1885, presumably played in the School court). Matches were played there until the court fell into disuse and was converted to a drama store in the 1970s.
Fives is a ball sport (in some ways similar to Squash) in which a hard ball is hit against the walls of a special court using gloved or bare hands in place of a racquet. The aim is to hit the ball above a bar across the front wall in such a way that the opposition cannot return it before a second bounce. Matches can be played as singles or doubles, the winner of a game being the first to reach 15 points.
The game has also been known as hand-tennis and historically was often played between the buttresses of church buildings in England. There are two main types of fives, Rugby Fives and Eton Fives. Eton Fives is played with a softer ball and thinner gloves in a three-wall court in which there may be hazards and split levels. The Oswestry School court is for Rugby Fives - a four wall court where the walls and floor are uniform and which contains no hazards.
Although some would claim Fives to be a peculiarly British sport, several countries claim to be its originator. ‘We have played in several different nations,' said John Minta (ranked No 3 nationally in the Rugby Fives Association tables). ‘Each country has its own particular variations but the sport remains essentially the same.'
Dr Taylor, who was a keen fives player during his time at Oswestry, commended it as a sport for keeping fit; he also pointed out that it helps players to develop ambidextrous skills ‘especially useful for surgeons'. Another Oswestry enthusiast is the Rev Eddie Isaac OO (1931-39) who also played fives while a student at Cambridge. He recalls how Headmaster Ralph Williamson, though twice the age of his fellow players, was an ace at the sport, leaving opponents and spectators in admiration.
Mr Eric Marsh, a former Mathematics teacher at Oswestry and national champion of Rugby Fives, has agreed to coach the Oswestry School Fives Club.
Following the opening ceremony of the court, an exhibition doubles match was played by members of the Rugby Fives Association: Stuart Kirby, Andy Pringle, Clive Butler and John Minta. ‘Thank you all for your hospitality,' said Andy. ‘The four of us were made very welcome, and I hope that the brief demonstration we gave will help to inspire plenty of people to take up the game, whether for the first time or rekindling an old passion. We certainly enjoyed playing on the court, and I'm sure many others will do so in the future.'