Walter Jones Whitmore_2
World Croquet Federation
Hall of Fame
Walter Jones Whitmore
Walter Jones Whitmore was an extraordinary character with an inventive streak who may be said to be the father of modern Association Croquet. He was born into a wealthy family at Chastleton House in Gloucestershire and went up to St. John’s College, Oxford but remained there for only two years before leaving to take up a post in the Civil Service. His career as a public servant was brief and he then devoted his energies to trying to make money from inventing new games and gadgets such as a Patent Focus Shade and a Bootlace Winder. Unfortunately, none of his ideas enjoyed great success.
He became interested in croquet in about 1860 and immediately created two full-size lawns at Chastleton where he spent much of his time. Croquet became his consuming passion and he soon realised that there were no tactics and no standard rules. In 1866, by arrangement with The Field, he played the leading role in producing the Field Rules which became the first set of rules to be generally accepted for serious play in preference to other sets of rules that were then in circulation. Later that year, he wrote a set of three articles on tactics.
In 1867, Walter organised the first ever croquet tournament held outside an established club. By popular acclaim this was later to be recognised as the first ever Open Championship despite there being few entries and no prior advertising that it was to take place. He was also one of the founders and the first Secretary of the All England Croquet Club in 1869 which later became the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. He died from cancer of the throat in 1872 at the age of 41.
His character was full of inconsistencies and he had many faults. But he is entitled to the gratitude of all who have enjoyed playing serious croquet in the last 140 years. In the words of a contemporary and fellow player, Arthur Lillie, “He transformed the game from the silliest of open air games to the most intellectual one”.