The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.503573, -0.126632


The location shown on the map is approximate, based on this 1680 map and pp.480-1 of the Latham & Matthews Companion.

5 Annotations

First Reading

cumgranosalis  •  Link

OED: tennis had a court in 1519;
[Early ME. curt, court, a. OF. cort, curt, later court (from 15th c. cour) = Pr. cort, Sp. and It. corte: rt-em (nom. cohors, cors, in med.L. cortis, curtis) court, poultry-yard, yard, enclosure, also company of soldiers (COHORT), crowd of attendants, retinue. At an early date the French word appears to have been associated with L. c ria is the regular med.L. equivalent.]
I. An enclosed area, a yard.
1. a. A clear space enclosed by walls or surrounded by buildings; a yard, a court-yard; e.g. that surrounding a castle, or that left for the sake of light, etc. in the centre of a large building or mass of buildings; formerly also a farm-yard, poultry-yard. At Cambridge, the usual name for a college quadrangle. a1300
of the vast courts into which these gateways opened were spacious mansions.
b. Each of the uncovered enclosures surrounding the Jewish tabernacle, and constituting the temple area round the fane or sanctuary on Mount Moriah. [Vulg. atrium.]
1535 COVERDALE Ps. lxiv. 4 Blessed is the man whom thou chosest..that he may
2. a. A large building or set of buildings standing in a court-yard; a large house or castle. In early times applied to a manorial house; = BURY. Obs.
b. Often in proper names of English manor-houses, e.g. Hampton Court, Tottenham Court.
4. An enclosed quadrangular area, uncovered or covered, with a smooth level floor, in which tennis, rackets, or fives are played; the plot of ground marked out for lawn-tennis; also applied to each of the quadrangular divisions marked on such grounds. (See TENNIS-COURT, etc.)
1519 in Lett. & Papers Hen. VIII (Brewer) III. 11, The tennis court at Richmond.

Sabrina Baron  •  Link

Henry VIII was a maniacal tennis player and had courts in several of his palaces, including Whitehall, after he took it over from Wolsey. But his tennis court was across King Street from the main residential area of Whitehall, and as the demand for apartments in Whitehall grew, the Henrician tennis courts were converted into residential apartments by the early 17th century when the Stuarts took up residence there.

Pepys must have been visiting a different, newer tennis court to watch Charles II play. Charles I was also a tennis player.

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link… --

This day I observed the house, which I took to be the new tennis-court, newly built next my Lord’s lodgings, to be fallen down by the badness of the foundation or slight working, which my cozen Roger and his discontented party cry out upon, as an example how the King’s work is done, which I am sorry to see him and others so apt to think ill of things. It hath beaten down a good deal of my Lord’s lodgings, and had like to have killed Mrs. Sarah, she having but newly gone out of it.

Presumably it was rebuilt better, because Charles II was playing tennis on December 28, 1663. Pepys does not specify the location of the court.

Bill  •  Link

Mr. Julian Marshall, in his Annals of Tennis (1878), gives a curious list of fourteen Tennis Courts in London in 1615 from a MS. of Lord Leconfield's at Petworth. They are as follows: Whitehall (two, covered and uncovered), Somerset House, Essex House, Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, Blackfriars, Southampton, Charterhouse, Powles Chaine, Abchurch Lane, Lawrence Pountney, Fenchurch Street and Crutched Friars.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Tennis Courts, etc.

The favourite game at Whitehall was tennis. In 1634, three tennis courts were in use, (fn. n10) but originally there had been four. The accounts of the Paymaster of Works contain references to: two close Tennis Courts (one of which is specified as the Little Close Tennis Court), the Little Open Tennis Court, and the Brake, or Great Open Tennis Court. The sites of the four may, with varying degrees of probability, be identified as follows.…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




  • Apr