The company reputed to have made the first croquet set continues to make the best sets. Jacques of London (877.374.8881, www.kensingtontrading.com) claims credit for introducing Victorian England to the game of croquet at The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851, when the company’s ancestral founders were among the estimated 13,000 exhibitors at the fair. The deceptively genteel lawn sport took off soon after, winning converts such as Lewis Carroll, who later wrote about befuddled Alice trying to smack a hedgehog ball with a live ostrich mallet during a game in Wonderland.
More than 150 years after The Great Exhibition, Jacques of London remains a leading supplier of croquet equipment, and its Sandringham set ($3,675) is perhaps its finest. The handsome mahogany box with brass fittings contains enough professional-quality gear for eight players.