Anyone for Sphairistike? Doll house purchased by Northumberland resident harbours a fascinating secret
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She purchased the play item at The Old Dairy in Ford for £40. The next day she was going through it and upon gently lifting the carpets, she was shocked to see a yellow picture of two ladies playing tennis.
It turned out that the house had been made, in part, from an antique box that once contained one of the first ever sets of lawn tennis equipment and one sch box had sold last year for £18,600.
The 60-year-old, who lives near Warenford, has contacted experts about the discovery and she would potentially be willing to sell it depending on the value – although she may be able to keep the house if it is possible to replace the base with another bit of wood.
Wendy said: “I am fascinated it has survived all this time because obviously some little girl played with it in the past.
“By chance, I came across a man called Jim Warner who has a website about tennis memorabilia and I sent him a photo of the house. He replied almost immediately saying he had “indeed seen this picture before”.
“It is the label from the very first set of lawn tennis equipment. The game was invented by Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1874 and he originally called it ‘Sphairistike’, which roughly translated from the ancient Greek means ‘skill in playing at ball’. He had to quickly change the name to lawn tennis, however.
“So Jim said “I would therefore date your picture to 1875 to c 1877”. He advised me about one that had sold through auctioneers Graham Budd, specialist auctioneers of sports memorabilia. It sold in May 2022 for £18,600.
“I contacted the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and they told me that there are only five complete boxes that they are aware of, one of which they have in the museum but is of a slightly different design.
“As the box lid had been used to form the base of my doll house and the tennis image is bisected by the entrance hall ‘walls’, sadly it is not a complete picture.
“Graham Budd is still investigating its value because it is such an unusual situation.”