Monday, 7 July 2014

Court playing tennis

I have made good use of the past two weeks, sitting in front of the television with the remote control, attempting to keep up with various tennis matches on BBC1 ("this match continues on BBC2"), BBC2, the ubiquitous red button and online.  So, by the time the annual yellow-ball-fest came to a close, I still had just a few small strawberries left to savour.

While devouring these my mind began to wander to all those locations I once knew in the our East End where it was possible to play tennis.  On Sundays there was once a council regulation about enjoying oneself in one of its open spaces.  If you were caught you might have had to present yourself at a court of the legal variety – a couple of young men playing an informal game of footy in Camp Road were apprehended by a well-turned-out police officer and were delivered a fine for breaking a bylaw.

Courtesy St Albans Tennis Club
To play tennis "properly" you took your wooden racket in a frame, plus a couple of off-white or grey balls to the man at the booth in Clarence Park.  Until Mr Samuel Ryder paid for the grass courts – where the all-weather pitches are today – you could play on the football field which was marked out for the purpose in the summer months.

Three other opportunities opened up for play.  In the 1930s the County Council decided to install courts at its secondary schools.  But generally this meant when schools were in session, or by arrangement with a member of staff and the caretaker on Saturday.  School courts were, and still are, largely unused throughout the summer holiday period.

Then there were the private clubs, such as the Salisbury Tennis Club (still extant), and Trinity Church Club in Camp Road, now Ulverston Close.   Or those belonging to factories.  Hence the former Ballito sports ground at Smallford, or the Peake's courts in Cell Barnes Lane.  There was also a court or two to one side of the Campfield Press.

A pre-war garden court, when there was space.
Finally, several of the more substantial houses in the district had their own private courts: Sandpit Lane, Marshal's Drive, Jennings Road and Beaumont Avenue were among the roads where various surfaces were laid in the rear garden; maybe even sharing the space with a neighbour.  Today there are probably no garden courts left; householders lead busy lives and we have left the period of the leisured well-to-do behind.

Instead, garden courts have been replaced by modern clubs and sports centres, such as at Jersey Lane and Cell Barnes Lane, which cater for tennis players, among others.  The gardens have become grassed spaces for the children to kick balls around, and when they have left home, the occasional garden party and a zone for today's golfing dads to practise potting a few holes.  Come to think of it, we did that at home when we were children; only then it was a game called clock golf, and played on the same worn lawn on which we also played French cricket, which was safer than English cricket, which kept our's, and the neighbour's windows in tact and saved our parents' embarrassment when it came to an apology and compensation.

1 comment:

  1. My father played cricket at Ballito sports gound in 1950s
    His name was Jack Bromley
    If any one has any information I would be only too pleased to hear