This is not normally the type of thing I pick up to buy, but it’s a Goodwill bins find (aka cheap) so I got it if for no other reason than to get a good look at how the late Victorians made sports a big part of who they were. I’m talking about well-to-do Victorians, of course.
I’d never heard of Boulton & Paul, LTD. but it was a very old company by the time this catalogue was published, with its roots going back to 1797. And years after 1898 the company got into airplane manufacturing. They were, essentially, a metal works firm, and they made everything from pails to prefab houses in their huge factory in Norwich.
I was most interested in the sporting structures, but they were probably best known as a maker of iron and glass conservatories. My local Victorian mansion, the Biltmore Estate, has two such conservatories, one being built into the center of the house itself.
By 1898 beach bathing huts were losing favor, but you could still buy one from Boulton & Paul. I especially love the little bathing chalet, which I guess was an outdoor changing room for pool-side.
The bicycle craze was still in full force, so a few biking structures had to be included.
Of course, any decent British firm would have cricket and golf pavilions. The roof verandah on the top model is a nice touch.
These pavilions don’t look very portable, but I’ll take the maker’s words for it. A short history of the company that is included in this facsimile catalogue explains that British citizens working in other parts of the Empire often ordered these while in the field for a comforting touch of home.
These tennis players would have been unfashionably dressed in 1898, but as we often see in catalogues, illustrations of stock items are not always updated with each new edition.
For those tired of retrieving tennis balls from the shrubbery, Boulton & Paul offered fencing for the court.
And for spectators, garden tents were available. Notice the croquet player in the bottom right photo.
The type of leisure that these items represent seem a bit foreign to us today. Most people can only visit grand old homes with their pavilions and conservatories and imagine what it must be like to be in that elusive one percent, rather like ninety-nine percent of the people in 1898 did.