Commonwealth Games 2002
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Squash Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
From prison rackets to squash racquets
Harrow football team in 1867
Harrow School developed squash in the 19th century
They say that crime does not pay, but for squash, it certainly did.

Because without the help of the criminal element at the start of the 19th century, the popular sport may never have seen the light of day

It was in the confines of Fleet Prison in London that squash originally hails.

Inmates used to pass the time by hitting a ball against the walls of the exercise area with racquets, thus inventing a game known as 'Rackets'.

Inexplicably, the game was soon taken up by Harrow and other select English schools.

Squash timeline
19th century: A game called 'Rackets' is developed in a London prison
1830: Squash invented at Harrow School
1864: The first four squash courts are built at Harrow
1907: National squash associations start to be set up
1912: First professional championship held in England
1966: International Squash Rackets Association (ISRF) founded
1985:ISRF amalgamated with the Women's International Squash Federation
1992:ISR becomes the World Squash Federation (WSF)
1998: Squash featured in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur

In about 1830, pupils at Harrow noticed that a punctued ball, which "squashed" on impact with the wall, offered more variety to the game and squash as we know it was born.

The new game proved popular and, 34 years later, the school built its first four squash courts and squash had been officially founded as a sport in its own right.

By the start of the 20th century, it had spread to Canada and the USA, and was also becoming popular elswhere.

Squash was soon being played in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Egypt, New Zealand and Australia, mainly due to the presence of British Forces personnel.

Official squash associations started up in the early 20th century and were soon followed by major championships.

The British Open became one of the main tournaments, seen by many as an unofficial world championship.

But it was not until the 1960s that squash changed its image of a sport played by select schools and private clubs.

The emergence of the game's first worldwide superstars helped spark a dramatic increase public interest across the globe.

Jonah Barrington for Ireland, Australia's Geoff Hunt and Jahangir Khan of Pakistan were just some of the players to take the men's game to new levels.

Australia's Heather McKay and Susan Devoy of New Zealand produced similar feats in the women's game.

By the mid-1990s, squash was being played by 15m people worldwide and further evidence of the sport's status came with its inclusion in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

With squash's governing body working hard to get on the Olympic Games programme, it is clear that the sport has come far from the confines of a London jail over a century ago.

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