Statement of Special Interest
The Royal Tennis Court at Falkland Palace is understood to be the earliest surviving real tennis court in the world and is a building of exceptional national significance. It is the only 'roofless' real tennis court in active use and the only surviving example of the earlier jeu quarré court design (with 2 rather than 3 sloping penthouse galleries). The court was built between 1539 and 1541, when the Palace (see separate listing) was remodelled for King James V.
The adjoining former stable range is thought to have been constructed in 1528-31, slightly earlier than the tennis court, making it an early example of its building type connected with a royal palace. It incorporates a horses' provender house, added in 1616 in anticipation of a visit by James VI. The tennis court (also known historically as a caichpule) was restored by John Kinross for Lord Bute in 1895. Further restoration took place in 1955.
Real tennis (also known as Royal or Court tennis) was developed in France in the 12th and 13th centuries and was brought to Scotland in the 16th century through royal ties between the two countries. Sometimes known as 'the Sport of Kings' the game was played almost exclusively by royals. Interest in the game waned somewhat in Scotland after the removal of the monachy to London in 1603. The 19th century saw a more general revival of interest in the game with indoor real tennis courts continuing to be built well into the 20th century.
The term 'real tennis' is of 20th century derivation, coined to differentiate the game from the increasingly popular lawn tennis. Real tennis has a larger court, different rules, strategies, techniques and scoring system. Unusually, architectural elements of the court - the side walls and sloping roofs of the 'penthouses' - are utilised while playing of the game.
The rules of lawn tennis were established in 1874 by Major Walter Wingfield. The adapted court and revised rules used in the lawn game increased the speed of play and it soon became the preferred version for many players.
There are currently less than 50 real tennis courts remaining in the world ' mostly in Britain with others in France, Australia and America. One other example in Scotland is at Crosbie Road in Troon (see separate listing). The Falkland Tennis Court remains in use and is currently home to the Falkland Palace Royal Tennis Club.
List description updated as part of the sporting buildings thematic study (2012-13).
Also a Scheduled Monument, see Scheduled Monument number 854.