Real Tennis history in Europe

Royal Tennis Courts (Ballhäuser) Germanic States (1500-1800)

During the Habsburg rule each German appointed dynast had near-sovereignty over his principality or state, usually holding the title of Archduke. Among them the Duchy of Bavaria (Bayern) excelled in size and prestige, and with the Hohenzollern Court of Brandenburg (Berlin), became pre-eminent. Munich was its capital, but the dukes also possessed residences elsewhere. Duke Albrecht V (1550-1579) had a tennis court built constructed at the Trausnitz castle when his son Wilhelm lived there.

In 1568 a remarkable project was initiated, unique in the history of tennis: the Duke had one of the imperial tennis courts at Innsbruck transported to Trausnitz, where the Ballhaus was completely rebuilt from scratch, close to the smaller court that existed there. In the 17th and early 18th century the lower nobilty also included Ballhäuser at their palaces. They were not of exactly the same size and lay-out. The Architect Leonhard Christoph Sturm, 1669-1719, in Vollständigen Anweisung Grosser Herren Palläste, Ballhaus chapter, complained that he had visited 6 or 7 Ballhäuser for his research but he had established that there was hardly any geometrical harmony to be found among them.

As far as we know at least three Ballhäuser have retained their original exterior, the tennis courts at Bückeburg and Butzbach castles, and the Ballhoftheater in Hannover. The famous Ballhaus of Schloss Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, now exhibition centre, is not a former tennis court, but a dancing hall.

Ballhaus in Coburg


  • Landshut, Burg Trausnitz, 1567 (indicates first record), larger Ballhaus for Prins Wilhelm V in 1568.
  • München Residenz, Ballhaus under Wilhelm V in 1579, then Brunnenhoftheater. Residenz bombed in WWW2; 1947 new Residenztheater on foundations of Ballhaus, now corresponds with Cuvilliés-Theater
  • Ingolstadt, 1594, for students. Rebuilt 1690, 1783 Warehouse, pulled down in 1945
  • Regensburg, 1652, Agidienplatz 7. Theatre 1783 by Fürsten Thurn und Taxis, pulled down 1912
  • Augsburg, for Bisschof Arras, now Stadtbibliothek (?) at same site
  • Passau, Ballhaus 1645. Fürstlichen Ballmeister 1670, 1770 Opernhaus, now Stadttheater
  • Freising, Ismaninger Schloss, used as theatre in c. 1730
  • Bayreuth, Schloss St. Georgen am See, Markgraf Georg Wilhelm, became Theatre (1717), Würzburg, Festung Marienberg.
Schloss St. Georgen am See, with tennis court on the right


Schloss Bückeburg

  • Jever, Schlossgarten 1517, 2nd in 1620 by Graf Anton Günther, 1850 pulled down
  • Oldenburg, Schlossplatz, 1605-1759
  • Schloss Bückeburg, 1610, 1750 Wilhelm zu Schaumburg-Lippe, now Riding School (Reithaus)
  • Schloss Bremervörde (before 1645, see Merian)
  • Schloss Hannover, 1649 von Herzog Georg Wilhelm, Theatre in 1672, now Ballhoftheater
  • Schloss Hamburg, Mecklenburg, Ballhaus restoration project by architect Sturm (1718)
  • Schloss Wolfenbüttel, Ballhaus became Theatre in 1717.
Schloss Bückeburg
Bremervörde Ballhaus, letter F.
Ballhoftheater in Hannover


  • Schloss Moers, 1556
  • Düsseldorfer, near Schloss, katsbahn 1545, Ballspielhaus, c. 1690
  • Untere Schloss, Siegen, 1732 von Friedrich Wilhelm von Nassau-Siegen. Destroyed in WWI
  • Cologne, kaetsbane 1562


  • Schloss Zweibrücken, 1530-1760. Theatre in 1760, now Maria-Ward School
  • Rockenhausen, Schlossgarten, Old Ball- und Conzerthaus, later Warehouse
  • Kirchheimbolanden, Schlossgarten (1753), Since 1905 houses, Neumayerstrasse 16-20


  • Schloss Blieskastel, 1669 Ballhaus (or Orangerie?)
BlieskastelThere are still doubts if this building was an orangery or a tennis court.


  • Stuttgart, Altes Schloss, an der Planie 1476 (?) - 1780
  • Heidelberg Schloss, Ballhaus1592, 2nd in 1618, 1764 fire ruined castle, Ballspielhaus is now used for performances.
  • Karlsruhe, Ballhaus in 1717
  • Mannheim, Schlossplatz, 1795 destroyed, now Uni-Mensa at same site
  • Schwetzingen, 1718 Ballhaus or Orangerie
  • Tübingen, Ballhaus 1593, Collegium Illustre, with Ballmeister
Heidelberg schloss, open court.


  • Coburg, Schloss Ehrenburg, 1628, became Theatre in c. 1750
  • Schloss Hornstein, Weimar, 1636, 1638 Ballmeister Jacques Pointel (see Merian)
  • Schloss Belvedere, Weimar, Orangenhaus (c. 1732) became Ballhaus / Reithaus + Theatre?
  • Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, 1650, became theatre (1681), 24 x 11 metres, 8 metres high, is now Ekhoftheater in the Western Wing (Westturm) of the castle.
Schloss FriedensteinTennis Court Theatre in left wing.
  • Schloss Altenburg, became Theatre (1727), 1904 pulled down
  • Schloss Hildburghausen, Ballhaus in 1721, became Theatre (1755), now Stadttheater Hildburghausen, original Ballhaus structure has been retained in the auditorium
  • Jena, 1671, now Ballhausgasse, University Ballhaus, Goethe planned it as Theatre in 1796
  • Erfurt, Futterstrasse 16, Ballhaus in 1716, Theatre in 1750, now Kaisersaal (since1870).
Hildburghausen then
Stadttheater in Hildburghausen now


  • Dresden, Residenzschloss, Opernhaus in 1664- c.1790, 2nd Ballhaus next to it (1668-c.1750)
  • Leipzig, 1624 in present Reichstrasse, University had 2 Ballmeister.


  • Kassel, Schlossplatz, 1592 Landgraf Moritz (see Merian), Komödienhaus in 1730
  • Marburg, 1605, Graf Kristian von Waldeck, 1776 University Ballhaus, also used as Theatrum Anatomicum, 1781 pulled down
  • Darmstadt, c.1620, Landgraf Ludwig V after 1st Ballhaus (Schlossplatz) was pulled down
  • Butzbach, Schloss 1632, by Landgraf Philip von Hessen, now school and cultural centre
  • Giessen, Ballhaus 1625, became Burgkirche (1643-1824).
ButzbachBallhaus is orange building towards the right.


  • Schloss Weissenfels, Leipzig, herzoglichen Ballspiel + Reithaus, 1710. Burnt down in 1945
  • Leipzig, Bräunigkes Hof, Herzlochigen Ballmeister 1693, 1712 Ballenhaus
  • Halle, Paradeplatz, 1528, became University Ballhaus in 1694. Pulled down in 1738


  • Berlin, Schloss Joachimsbau (?)1665 Grosse Kurfurst Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg. Now Auswärtiges Amt. 1680 2nd in Lustgarten
  • Kölln an der Spree, Potsdam, Oranienburg ? (see Merian), Palace of the Great Elector (?)
  • Schloss Homburg vor der Höhe, 1826 Ballhaus, converted into stable, in present Elisabeth Wing
  • Frankfurt a/d Oder, Schloss, became Komödienhaus in 1755


  • Rostock, 1623, became Komödienhaus in 1785. New Theatre (1895) on same site
  • Schwerin, Schloss Güstrow, Schlossplatz (Merian), Theatre 1670, now Schauspielhaus (?)


  • Kiel, Ballhaus became Stadttheater

Source: Wilhelm Streib; Gerhard Wunder; see