Fives courts set for return to Fenland school

A unique sporting facility is set to make a welcome return to a Fenland school thanks to the efforts of a hardened group of enthusiasts.

There were fears the game of Fives was lost to the area forever after the three Fives courts at March Neale-Wade Academy were demolished in 2011 as part of the Building Schools for the Future project.

But thanks to the determination of a band of volunteers the courts are set to be rebuilt next year with school Principal Jason Wing confident they will be up and ready for use from next autumn.

Mr Wing, a former Neale-Wade pupil himself has memories of playing the game, which is like squash with players hitting a ball with their hand rather than a racquet.

As a result he has always been keen to see the courts rebuilt but at one point was looking at alternative sites away from the school because of worries over access.

However, Mr Wing together with the Active Learning Trust, which sponsors the Neale-Wade Academy, agreed the courts should be rebuilt on the school site and they are now looking at designs and have a budget of around £25,000.

The aim is to build two courts to the Eton Fives standard close to the school’s sports fields.

The Neale-Wade is one of only a few non-public schools in the country to have Fives courts and they have been part of the school’s history for nearly 100 years.

There were courts at the old Grammar School site in Station Road but when the school was relocated to Wimblington Road in the early 1960s the courts were not included.

However, local builder Josh Taylor, whose firm built the then new Grammar School, provided three courts at the cost of around £1,600 as a gift to pupils.

And since then generations of Neale-Wade pupils have enjoyed a game of Fives in their break-times, and also regular inter-house tournaments.

A few dedicated ex-pupils have also kept up the game forming the March Fives Club and playing regularly - although membership has dwindled in recent times.

Among members is Gary Melnyk of Manea, who together with Pat Case and her brother Geoff Taylor, the children of Josh Taylor, has kept up the pressure to ensure the school rebuilds the courts.

It was originally hoped the courts would be rebuilt to the previous dimensions.

There are three variations of Fives: Eton, Winchester and Rugby but the Neale-Wade courts were considered non-standard because they were a cross between Eton and Winchester.

However, Mr Wing wants the new courts to conform to the Eton standard so pupils will be able to play matches against students from other schools including Eton.