Minutes from the original founding meeting, held on 25th January 1926
The Early Years
This first meeting was followed by a flurry of fund-raising activity towards the cost (£75) of laying out two new grass courts. Whist drives, dances , rummage sales and a concert by Morris's Orchestra all contributed, and the first court was opened by Rowland Hunt Esq on 3rd June 1926. Committee minutes tell how "A distinguished company was present and tea was partaken of on the tennis lawn". Membership fees were set at 6/- (30p) for adults and £1 for family membership. The first match took place on 19th May 1927, away to Nesscliffe (team: Miss Onions, Miss Glover, Miss Turner, Mr E Dawson, Mr Timmis, Mr Eric Glover). Unfortunately, the results were not recorded, although other matches soon followed v Preston Brockhurst and Llanymynech.
A whiff of scandal engulfed the club in 1929, when it was necessary to threaten legal proceedings aginst the previous treasurer to recover "all monies, books, documents etc the property of the Baschurch Tennis Club". By 1932, membership had dropped and finances were suffering, despite a fund-raising whist drive in late 1931 (prizes included a duck, a pork pie and 100 box of cigarettes). The lawn mower was declared practically useless, the roller wasn't heavy enough, and both needed replacing. The nets were also starting to wear out, and the club's future was in the balance. Another fund raising push followed, including a dance in 1934 where the music was provided by a new technical innovation - a radio-gram.
By 1935, the club was confident enough to declare itself financially sound once more, with £34 18/7 in the bank. The "Hunt Cups" had been offered to the club in 1933 by Club President Mr R Hunt, and were competed for on an annual basis - one for the best lady and one for the best man. In 1937 the club was considering a decorated cycle parade as part of the coronation ceremonies for George VI, and also looking at having a pavillion built. Tennis was however soon to be low on the priorities as WWII broke out. The club continued to meet during the early war years, but the committee meeting on 14th October 1941 was to be the last for several years.
Not sure if any early photos of Baschurch Tennis Club exist, but this shows Cremorne Gardens, Ellesmere, also in 1926. There were 4 tennis clubs in Ellesmere at this time, so the sport appears to have been thriving.
The next meeting was not held until 3rd June 1949, by which time facilities had been neglected and another round of fund-raising was required. Fortunately, the people of Baschurch seemed up for the challenge and it is recorded that "a considerable number of ladies and gentlemen of the village attended" this meeting. A new committee was elected, a number of whom offered to loan the club £5 to get it back on it's feet. The club investigated installing a hard court, but no grant was forthcoming from the LTA so a groundsman was engaged to restore the grass surface. More whist drives and dances were held over the following months - these were obviously popular events as a special bus was put on to bring people from West Felton, Wykey and Ruyton-XI-Towns. By the end of 1951, the club was in a position to repay the money loaned in June 1949. Membership stood at 26 adults and 5 juniors, although the club continued to play at the private courts of supportive local residents while refurbishment continued. The club finally returned home, with the courts being opened by Club President Mr C.H. Timmis on Tuesday 6th May 1952. Club Secretary Mrs Howell was asked to write to clubs at Hadnall, Tilstock, Ford, and the West Midland Electricity Board to arrange fixtures - there was not yet any league competition at this time.
Although playing results are not recorded, the next few years appear to have been very stable under the chairmanship of Mr J.C. Onions. Membership fees had been set at £1 for adults in 1950 and were unchanged until 1957. The bank balance remained healthy. Baschurch first joined the LTA in 1956 after some debate about the annual fee of 10/6 (ten shillings and 6 pence, or around 52p in today's money). First league matches were played the following year, with one Men's team and one Ladies' team, and Dr King also joined the committee in 1957.
Tennis was still very much a summer sport at that time, with the grass courts not opening until April or May. The weather was a major factor influencing court availability, plus general wear and tear, and a groundsman was employed each year to maintain the playing surface. This was obviously not ideal when playing league fixtures, so in 1958 it was decided to "approach Mr Loveridge, headmaster of Baschurch Secondary Modern School, with a request from the Tennis Club for the use of the (hard surface) Tennis Courts". This was agreed, and Mr Loveridge was invited to become a Vice-President of the club. We now had a fallback option when the grass courts were unplayable, and before long a second Ladies', then a second Men's team, were established. In 1960 the Ladies' teams were in Groups 4 and 7, and Men's teams in Groups 6 and 9 of the LTA leagues.
Baschurch map of 1954
1968 - 1988
The next few years are unrecorded - our original book documented the club's history from 1926 until 1960, but the next surviving minutes are from 1968. Dr King presided at the meeting, and those present were Mrs King, Mrs Abbey, Mrs Davies, Mr Hardaker, Mr Lowdon, Mr Bell and Mrs Lokier. Among items discussed was a swimming barbeque to be held at Petton Hall on August Bank Holiday - this appears to have been an annual event. Also, there were proposals for a Motor Treasure Hunt. Although the club was reported to be in a strong financial position at this time, there were familiar issues facing the committee: finding a groundsman to maintain the (still) grass court, replacing wire netting, discussions with the Men's Club over shared facilities, and making arrangements to use school courts when the grass was unplayable. There is a hint of social change in the minutes from 1970 when it was decided that the Ladies Committee should no longer provide catering for Men's matches - the Admiral Duncan & New Inn were to be approached instead. Another change that obviously caused some confusion was the introduction of decimal currency (15 Feb 1971): minutes from the March 1971 meeting mention paying the groundsman 10/- (10 shillings or 50p) an hour, while charging 20p to enter an American Tournamnent. Mrs Nicholas took over as Chairman, and an annual cheese and wine party, plus prize draw, was the main fund-raising event in the early 70s. There was talk of a Disco Dance for young members and their friends at the Public Hall, but concerns were expressed that "there had been a lot of unruly behaviour at these local Disco dances recently". Apart from a renovated bus shelter that was used as a pavillion, the club still depended on access to the Men's Club for other facilities. There was a proposal to replace the bus shelter with a poultry house, and the shelter was blown over and damaged by gales in the Winter of 1975-6. Mrs Burgess took over from Mrs Nicholas as Chairman early in 1976.
By the late 1970s, the ongoing costs of maintaining the grass courts were eating into the club's finances - a recent disco had raised £65 but we still only had £53 in the bank. The club was very popular with junior members, but a proposed wine & cheese fund raiser did not happen "as there were no men in the club to help". The last entry in our second book of minutes makes gloomy reading: in October 1981 there was just £14 left in the bank, and it was conceded that the Club would have to close unless we received more support. An Extraordinary General meeting was called, but there is no record of this taking place.
Things looked bleak, but the club struggled on through the 1980s. Junior membership held up well, with over 60 members in 1983, but maintenance of the grass courts was a recurring problem. It was estimated in 1983 that several hundred pounds needed to be raised to bring the courts up to standard, and the Parish Council was approached for help. Many adult members had however migrated to play at other clubs, and the club existed through the next few years mainly for the benefit of junior members.
The late 1980s saw a welcome injection of new enthusiasm, and a determination to restore this facility to a growing village. It was however clear that the grass courts were not sustainable, so the club decided to bite the bullet and go for an all-weather surface. This was a major financial undertaking, but Chairman Mrs O'Hagan signed a contract with En-tout-cas in February 1990 for the construction of two Playdek tennis courts at a price of £15,778. This was met by the Club's deposit account savings, an LTA loan secured by committee members, other grants and donations, plus a lot of pleas for help and a major fund-raising push. The new courts were opened in April 1990. Membership at this time stood at just 65 (50 of whom were juniors), but new courts attracted new members. The following year we had 84 members, and this figure increased steadily over the years.
By the mid-1990s, thoughts were turning towards building a club house - one incentive was to eliminate the 500m jog to use toilet facilities at the home of the nearest member. It was originally proposed to construct a connecting building with the Working Men's Club before opting for a stand-alone facility. A planning application was submitted in April 1996, and the club then embarked on another round of fund-raising. Minshall Brothers (Builders) Ltd of Station Road produced an estimate for the work (£18,771) in October, and work commenced the following Spring. Club stalwart Dr Peter King was invited to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony that Summer.
Another ten years, and the club was ready to invest in floodlights which completed the transformation of facilities and brings us almost up to date. The village has grown enormously since 1926, and has attracted residents from around the UK and further afield, though there are families who can trace their association with Baschurch back through many generations. Despite various ups and downs over the years, the future of the club now looks bright. Many local children first picked up a racket here; some have gone on to enjoy competitive success while, for others, it is more about keeping fit and enjoying the social side of the game. It is entirely due to the dedication and hard work of countless enthusiastic people over the years that "a considerable number of ladies and gentlemen representative of the village" continue to enjoy their tennis here in Baschurch.
Clubhouse opening ceremony, Summer '97
If anyone has any pictures of our Baschurch predecessors or other memorabilia, I'd love to hear from you (via feedback link on home page).
Colin Penney, March 2013
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