Lawn Tennis

A group of tennis players facing the camera
Early tennis players in Winslow, probably at the Winslow Private Tennis Club

Lawn tennis became popular in the late 19th century. It needed a piece of flat ground and some equipment, so it was a sport for the middle and upper classes. It was unique in having men and women playing together; most of the early matches in Winslow seem to have been mixed doubles. Where you played also depended on whether you were an Anglican or Nonconformist.

In 1892, Mrs Newcombe of The Cottage (5 Horn Street) had two courts specially prepared for a tournament to raise funds for the Girls' Friendly Society (an Anglican organisation).

The Congregational Church had its own tennis courts by 1894. They were at Hollow Furrow, probably on land provided by G.D.E. Wigley of Sunnylawn House.
1895: Buckingham Advertiser, 20 April:   HOLLOW-FURROW TENNIS CLUB.- The opening meeting of the season took place at Hollow-furrow ground, on Monday, and was very fairly attended.  In the evening the members partook of tea in the Congregational Schoolroom, and later on a public entertainment was held, consisting of music (singing, violin, piano, fairy bells, etc.), and some amusing guessing and calculating competitions, for which prizes were awarded.

The poem below is a parody of "The Lays of Ancient Rome". Two of the Dauntless Three appear to be Wilfrid French and J.H. Turnham, but "Little Party" hasn't been identified, or the cause of the disagreement. The "tea" was probably a picnic at Finemore Hill, Botoloph Claydon, on 6 July. The poem is among W.N. Midgley's papers.

Lays of our Tennis Court at Home, Or The Dauntless Three
(A long way) after Macaulay
Then out spake Wilfred roundly,
This thing shall be put down!
I shall make a fuss about it
Though it spread to half the town.
And how can I do better
Than face the fearful odds
And straightway resign my office
For the glory of the Gods!

Then out spake Captain Turnham
And uncommon proud was he
Lo! I will stand at thy right hand
And strike a blow with thee
And out spake Little Party
Our Treasurer was he
I too’d resign my office
But there’s fifteen shillings due to me!

And though I think but sadly
Of the treatment given to me
Yet still I rather badly
Want the profits of that tea!
But still the three fell planning
The mode of their attack
And each one gave the other
A pat upon the back

Then all three cried out in chorus
For ourselves we do not care
But ‘tis on behalf of others
That we wear this injured air
We are really self denying
But it makes us mad to say
That our dear beloved brethren
Were not allowed to play

There was Berry there were Midgleys
There were Isobel and Mu
And when all of these were playing
What could the others do?
But idly stand and watch them
And their too “exclusive” play
And vow they’d make a bother
At the Ending of the day

For we spare not friend or brothers
Or sister, man or maid.
We’d quarrel with our visitors
I’m very much afraid
For although they came to play us
On the due appointed day
Yet still we quite Expected
They would not play that way

Nor should they had we known it
For unlike the men of Rome
We’re not as friends and brothers
At the Tennis Court at Home
And that reminds us duly
That those people didn’t pay
And to think the loss we’ve suffered
Makes us sadly in a way
For we really Cannot stand it
There is so much to pay
And you know that fifteen shillings
Is a bugbear in the way
Besides new nets are wanted
And we can’t afford you see
To extend to friends & neighbours
Even common courtesy

And I think said Captain Turnham
And would bet a level bob,
That the whole affair of playing,
It was all a put up job
Though for myself I tell you
I am really quite resigned
Yet to our other players
I must say you were unkind

With that we fell to wondering
Who the dickens they could be
And beyond our dearest Ellen
Not a person could we see
And so it stands revealed
Plain to you and plain to me
How hollow was the pretext
Of the Great and Dauntless Three

And these self denying people
Who as benefactors pose
Are, like the mighty, fallen
When the truth one only knows!
And we nearly died with laughing
As it dawned upon our mind
'Twas for themselves they troubled
Though they gassed of those behind!

And in the night of winter
When it begins to snow
And no more upon the Tennis Court
The balls pass to and fro
When the goodman reads the paper
And the driest log is lit
And to talk the latest gossip
The girls sit down to knit

When the lads are playing Halma
And the youngsters fall to blows
And the cold of poor old Grandpa
Seems to settle in the nose
Then still with shrieks of laughter
That shall Echo long and free
Shall oft be told the story
Of the Great and Dauntless Three!

     W N Midgley 11th July 1899

In 1895, Northolme in Station Road was advertised for sale with "large Garden, Lawn, Greenhouse, and Asphalt Tennis Court" (Buckingham Express, 1 June). The asphalt tennis court was still there in the 1910 Valuation.

In 1899, The Old Tanyard in Horn Street was advertised for sale (Centre for Bucks Studies D/WIG/2/7/1899/11) with "Large gardens, tennis court, summerhouse..."

Tennis was available to girls at Brook Hall School in 1900. On 29 Dec 1906 the school took a 7-year lease on a half-acre site belonging to Norman McCorquodale (who bought it in 1900), paying £5 p.a. It appears to have been at the end of Little Horwood Road, on the Shipton side. At the 1907 speech day, it was reported: "Unfortunately, owing to this wet summer, the tennis season has been most disappointing, but we were able to have our annual tournament last Wednesday, when Dodie Neal and her partner Hilda Lester, walked off with the first prize, and amongst the juniors Nora Monk and Annie Fowler were the successful ones."

A tennis court with girls playing and watching
Brook Hall Tennis Club, 1908

The Winslow Private Tennis Club began in or before 1903 on land at the end of Hobhouchin Lane provided by Mrs Greaves. In the 1910 Valuation (TNA, IR58/2346 no.79), it is listed as a site of 3 acres 4 roods with corrugated iron and wood pavilion and tool shed. The rent was £2 10s p.a. The freehold was sold to Norman McCorquodale in 1919. The road started to be known as Tennis Lane from c.1910.

1903: Bucks Herald, 18 July
V.A.C. & A.C. v Winslow. On Thursday afternoon the Vale team journeyed to Winslow to try conclusions with the home club.  The latter proved too strong for the visitors, and won by thirteen matches to one.  Winslow were represented by the Rev. T. K. Norman and Miss Monk, Rev. F. R. B. Pinhorn and Mrs. Neal, Dr. Moberly and Miss Dodge, Mr. Wigley and Miss Ellis; and the Vale Club by Mr. G.L. De Fraine and Miss D Payne, Mr. T. Kyle and Miss K. Paine, Mr. H. G. Butler and Miss Edgington, Mr. S. E. Wilkins and Miss E. Thorne.  The members and friends of the visiting club were hospitably entertained to tea after the match.

1907: Bucks Herald, 24 Aug
On Thursday a tennis match, between the V.A.C. and A.C. and Winslow took place on the Athletic Ground.  ... The Winslow team included Mrs. Neal, Miss Hawley, and Miss Neal, Messrs. F. A. Urry, L. Hawley, and A. C. DeFraine.  The match resulted in a win for Winslow by 74 games to 72, and 10 sets to 8.  The visitors were entertained to tea in the pavilion.

Anmount Lodge, Western Lane, was advertised as having a "tennis lawn" in 1903.

Winslow Sports Club, at the end of Park Road, opened in 1924 and provided tennis courts, a croquet lawn and a bowling green. It was mainly run by Congregationalists.

See also:

Copyright 3 February, 2024