Horley Lawn Tennis Club History Part One: Centenary 1894 - 1994

The following article was originally researched, written and published by Peter Knight, former Horley Lawn Tennis Club president, to celebrate Club's Centenary in 1994. A limited number were published and distributed to members at the time, though it is not known how many copies survive today, nor who has them. The original article has been re-produced for online use.


Acknowledgements

  • Mr. O. Brown and Mr. B. Davis of the Horley History Society
  • Miss Ann Middlecote of Ross & Sons, Solicitors, Horley
  • Miss M. Corscaden, surviving daughter of one of the Founder members
  • Lady Longley for photographic evidence
  • Mrs. Gwenda Perfect, former secretary for useful data
  • Mr. Philip Ewen, Captain, for up to date information
  • Mr. S. A. Osborn and Miss D. Betton and the wife of Mr. P. Knight

Horley Lawn Tennis Club 1894 – 1994

Horley Lawn Tennis Club was founded in 1894 to provide lawn tennis, croquet and bowls for its members on Glebe land, Vicarage Lane, Horley.

The first President was Revd. H. T. Lewis, then vicar of Horley.

The life of the Club started on three grass courts, with tennis played in the genteel mode of the day. A Bowling Green was also part of the land under separate management, the pavilion being shared between the three sports.

In a Parish register dated August 1897, the death was reported of Mr. Fritz Knight (aged 25 years) who with a Mr. A. Baker, local Auctioneer, were joint Secretaries of the Club.

It does appear, that from this date, the Club did not prosper, but in 1901 a new Secretary was appointed, Mr. W G Coscaden and a Newspaper article dated August 1901 states “the present prosperous condition of the Club is due almost entirely to the business like methods of the Hon. Sec. who has not spared himself in forwarding the best interests of the Club.”

February 1902 AGM – “ For a Club who two years ago was on the verge of insolvency and now, after an expensive season shows £20 in hand is proof of the untiring efforts of the Hon. Sec.” and subscriptions would be raised to 12/6d per annum!

May 1902 – The ground was enlarged, planted with trees, the turf was in splendid condition and the pavilion was brought up-to-date, followed in August 1903 by the addition of a dressing-room and water was laid to the courts and grouns but, unfortunately not to the pavilion and right up to the 1960’s, water had to be carried from a standpipe in the hedge near the road. In 1903 membership was 100 members.

January 1904 - The Club now had four grass courts but one was set aside for playing of croquet.

February 1905 AGM – “The Club in the red owing to the purchase of a new roller.” The roller is still in our proud possession, as seen at the back of court 5!

At this meeting, Mr. Coscaden resigned and on doing so presented the Club with a cheque covering the cost of the Roller. Between the Wars little is known except that the club continued with matches and tournaments.

Over the years, Horley LTC has been fortunate in its presidents; to name but or or two who gave not only generously to the Club but also their support and playing abilities.

  • Mr Toby Ross – Solicitor, Ross & Sons, Horley – First Team Member
  • Mr. H. Sampson – local butcher. We now hold the Sampson bank holiday tournament once a year.
  • Mr G. Whale – Senior Partner, Ross & Sons, for years dealing with all legal matters and a Member of the First Team.
  • Mrs. P. King (nee Mudford). Winner of the Ladies Doubles at Wimbledon in 1931, Captain of the Wightman Cup and Winner of many titles too numerous to record.

Whilst mentioning Mrs. King (left, below), at the beginning of the War in 1940, she organised a tennis exhibition for the British Red Cross and the Bowling Club kindly allowed their rinks to be used; four Wimbledon players attended. Mr. G. Whale and Mr. P. Knight organised seating for around 500 spectators and the War effort was helped by £500 raised that day.

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The Club closed from 1942 to the end of hostilities.

1947 – A tremendous amount of hard work to relay the grass courts. To help overcome our inclement summers, a concrete court (bright pink Mr. P Knight recalls) was laid where Courts 1 and 2 now stand.

Mr P. Knight recalls: “I have memories of the old pavilion with its rotting floors, dilapidated gas ring, bar in a wooden chest, outside toilet and many hours spent waiting for the rain to cease to continue our games on grass! On fine days, tea was enjoyed under the old oak tree!”

Ever since 1894, a “Peppercorn” rent was paid to the local Parish Church but, in April 1956, the Club was able to purchase the Freehold of the land and, at that time, gave the Bowling Club ten years notice to find alternative grounds, happily these were forthcoming at the Horley Recreation Ground.

1970, Courts 4 & 5 were laid; 1980 saw floodlighting on Courts 1 & 2 and in 1987 Courts 6 & 7 were laid and a large modern pavilion erected.

Up to the 1970s, matches and tournaments were played against neighbouring clubs and teams in the Surrey leagues. The Club has always been known for its friendliness and thank you to all members for the excellent teas and refreshments always provided. Whilst we have had individual members with good playing ability, names are often repeated on the Honours Board. Not many clubs can boast an achievement such as our very own Nancy Crocker winning the Singles Title fourteen times.

Mr. P. Knight would like to express, on behalf of the Club, our grateful thanks to a few members who have contributed so much in the past and present.

  •  In the immediate difficult post war years, after much neglect, the club was fortunate in having the services of Messrs. L. Rivington, M. Crabb, R. Garnham and Peter Crocker to restore the club facilities and tennis enthusiasm.
  • To Messrs. Alex Wilkinson & Don Ewen for their excellent Chairmanships.
  • To Mrs. Gwenda Perfect for her many years as Secretary.
  • To Mrs. Marjorie Bell for her enormous contribution in fund raising and working for the Club in every capacity.
  • To Messrs. Philip Ewen & Graham Perfect for 13 years of organising the Open Tournament and what a success story this proved to be.
  • To Members, parents and non-playing Members who have contributed to the successful organising, coaching and events for Junior Tennis.
  • To Mr. Brian Willifer for willingly assisting with the Centenary.


Captain's Report 1994

The following section was written by the club captain Philip Ewen in 1994:

In the late 1970s, a marked change took place in the strength and competitiveness of the teams, particularly on the men’s side. Uncle and nephew partnership Tony Sired and Paul Burtenshaw led the team and did not know the meaning of defeat as the team rose through the Surrey Leagues. They were supported by a group of youngsters, Richard Atkin, Tim Wilkinson, Peter and Philip Ewen who all came up through the junior ranks.

In 1979, two new competitions were entered, the Surrey Cup and The Dorking and Leatherhead League. Starting in the lowest divisions of each, we swept to easy victories in both that year. 1980 saw a further advance and a memorable Surrey Division “C” Cup final with local rivals Redhill LTC. The Redhill team, that year, included Alan Parker, our new club steward and Terry Harding, our coach!

1980 saw a clean sweep of all three Dorking and Leatherhead divisions; the title was captured again in 1984 and, with the exception of 1987, has remained ours ever since. Just for good measure, the mixed 2nd and then 1st divisions were taken at the first attempt in 1982 and 1983 respectively and the mixed league was later won again in 1991 and 1992.

In 1984, we were strengthened further as Barrie Gilbert joined from Dorking and soon took over as partner to Paul Burtenshaw as Horley top pair. A formidable partnership who has been largely responsible for making the “Horley lob” famous all over Surrey.

A further Division C Surrey Cup win followed in 1985. Then in 1986, the Winter Grade B Cup was entered for the first time and yet another first attempt win - but only just - by three games from Epsom, Phil Ewen and Tim Wilkinson putting up the key performance that day, a feat to be repeated in a second win of the competition in 1990 after a rare slip in the opening round by our first pair. In between, we were runners up twice and only beaten on each occasion by the eventual winners.

Away from the team, Richard Atkin was establishing himself as one of the top players in the County, winning the Surrey Singles in 1988 and representing Sussex at County level. 

Later, Richard Atkin returned to the Horley team inspiring us to even greater heights. In 1991, we reached Division B (third division) of the many Surrey Winter leagues. This effort meant a rare appearance in 1992 in the top Surrey Summer knockout competition. Owen Pickering joined in 1988 and has taken over as the Club Singles Champion. Having beaten Reigate and Purley second team we then faced Purley 1st team in the Finals but Purley First proved too strong.

In 1981, the Club undertook an ambitious new venture with a three day Open Tournament. At that time, with just five courts and a very small clubhouse, it was hard to believe that it could prove so successful. Marquees were erected and with the help of many Members a friendly atmosphere was produced. Now, 13 years later, the Tournament is still running and probably the most popular of its type in the local area attracting a very high standard of play. 

In 13 years, 39 finals have been successfully completed. There have been moments when the smooth running of the Tournament has been threatened, such as in 1987, when the electricity and water to the new Clubhouse were only switched on a matter of hours before and, in 1993 when the lines on our new acrylic courts were also completed the day beforehand!

And what of the future! Perhaps a successful Veterans Tournament - rumour has it that Barrie Gilbert has already been winning Veterans Titles for some years and our own President, Peter Knight, became a Finalist in the Veterans of Great Britain at the West Hampshire Club Bournemouth 1993.

The ladies have not been able to match the men’s success in recent years but, with a thriving Junior Section and with Helen and Diana Gilbert and Jo Andrews coming through, maybe a new era is about to begin?

Philip Ewen - Captain

 

Part Two Coming Soon.