The First Annual Alexander Graham Bell Croquet Tournament was held last Saturday at the Bell House Bed and Breakfast in Colonial Beach. Nine hoop, or wicket, croquet was the game of the day with rules enforced by tournament founder and director Thom Savage of Fredericksburg.
Under gray skies players from around the region, including weekenders, slowly appeared on the back lawn of the Bell House. A total of 25 players graced the half-sized courts. Typically a croquet match is held on a rectangular 100 foot by 50 foot court. Two 50 foot by 25 foot courts were cut out to hold the four preliminary flights.
Owner of the Bell House, Anne Bolin, graciously allowed the players use of the lawn, as well as the house, throughout the tournament. Bolin is an avid supporter of town organizations and as this function was to benefit the Colonial Beach Volunteer Fire Department, she said, “I am more than happy to have everyone here.”
The Bell House’s porch opens to the Potomac River on Irving Avenue in town. Originally built in 1883 by Colonel J.O.P. Burnside, son of Civil
War General Ambrose Burnside, the home was purchased by inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s father who passed it onto him. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Virginia Historic Landmark.
The first four flights for the tournament were won by Judy Cooper, Michael Buchanon, Richard Racine and Les Heflin. Following lunch catered by Denson’s Grocery and music by Steve Griffin and John Murphy the final flight, and the tournament, was won by Les Heflin.
Initially running away with the flight, Heflin ended up having to fight for the win as his fellow finalists helped to knock him further up the court several times. Heflin’s final shot went through the final wickets and into the peg with a resounding “thwack.”
The tournament raised approximately $900 for the CBVFD. Savage, who never sat still for more than a moment of the day, hopes to make this an annual event. Smiling widely, he thanked the gathered players, volunteers, and spectators, reminding them, “This is all for a good cause, have fun and open your wallets.”
Croquet’s modern form began in 1856 in London, England. A similar sport called paille-maille was descried as early as 1611 in England. Playing styles and rules of croquet vary from country to country, which each national association having their own standard rules.
Nine wicket croquet, or backyard croquet, is what is most often played in the United States. Croquet sets in the US typically come with six mallets, six balls and nine wickets. Rules not only vary by country, but very often by each group who plays.
The Bell House Bed and Breakfast’s can be found at http://www.thebellhouse.com/ and can be contacted at 804-224-7000.