Squash Court Cafe: An exciting transformation

Plaque in Squash Court Cafe

For those who have not ventured upstairs to the third floor in the West Wing, it is the home of the Squash Court Café. A multi-functional space that has changed over the years to meet the needs of the family as well as the National Trust; from a squash court to function room, event bar to café. 

Historically the Squash Court Café was built as a squash court at the turn of the 20th century (hence its name) in the early days of the game of squash and before the standardisation of court sizes.  Squash or Rackets was a game developed in public schools where many of the Hervey family would have been educated.  

It was the 4th Marquess of Bristol who decided to have the squash court built and it appears to be the first major alteration he made to Ickworth when he inherited the Estate. As the 4th Marquess had no sons, and in the absence of regular male guests, he used to play squash routinely with Jack Honeyball, an agricultural labourer who lived and worked at Ickworth, specifically Porters Lodge, for over 50 years eventually becoming estate electrical engineer.  

" There’s life in the old dog yet, isn’t there? "
- 4th Marquess of Bristol

According to his son, Honeyball (being the younger man) became quite adept at squash. Understandably he soon got the measure of the Marquess (who was in his 50s), but there was no fun in it for him to beat him every time, and certainly no interest in the Marquess losing every time, so they used to share the winning and losing; a silent 'gentleman’s' agreement of sorts. On these occasions the Marquess would often give Honeyball a five-pound note, which was very generous as it would have paid for his family’s needs for a fortnight!  

An example of a five pound note from 1936
£5 note 1936
An example of a five pound note from 1936

Back in the present day the newly realised Squash Court Café will be a beautiful and exciting new café away from the hustle and bustle of our West Wing Café.  Not only will we be celebrating the unique tasty treats Ickworth produces but we’ll share another of Ickworth’s many stories and showcase this rarely before seen part of Ickworth’s West Wing. We’re adding some intriguing new touches as well as showcasing some of the rooms’ original features such as the panel-clad roof and hand cranked roof lights, which highlight the quality and craftsmanship for which Ickworth is known.

Look out for an update on progress soon and we look forward to welcoming you to the tranquillity and unique atmosphere of our Squash Court Café.