Clarence Napier Bruce, 3rd Baron Aberdare
won the British, French and US amateur tennis titles, qualified for the Open golf championship and played first-class cricket. He was also pivotal in bringing the so-called ‘Austerity Olympics’ to London in the aftermath of WWII.
In days when only athletes of independent means were eligible for selection; Aberdare recognised that to remain successful, British sport needed to cast its net wider. In 1927, he commenced seeking funds for a GB Olympic team; after a lot of hard work, he raised £40,000 – around a million pounds today.
Having trained as a barrister, Aberdare knew how to construct a case: arguing on economic, public health and patriotic grounds, he posited that the generation lost to the Great War – combined with a poorly-nourished, sedentary population – was eroding Britain’s economic and military might. Nowadays, we take for granted that playing fields and affordable swimming baths are available to all; in the 1920’s and 1930’s such notions were considered eccentric – if not utterly madcap. With another war looming large, the Government finally took heed: in 1937, he was appointed Chair of the newly-established National Fitness Council.
Arguably, though Aberdare’s crowning achievement was hosting the 1948 Olympics in war-torn London. Although most of the press and public considered The Games marginal – if not “silly” – it was Aberdare’s earnest belief that sport would heal Britain – indeed, the World. Working alongside Lord Burghley, and with a starting budget of just £750,000, they managed to make a £29,000 profit – an astonishing achievement.
Aberdare’s legacy lives on in the form of the annual Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for works on sport history.
Morys George Lyndhurst Bruce, 4th Lord Aberdare
was one of his generation’s most outstanding Tennis and Rackets players. Aberdare would claim that his proudest sporting moment came in 1939 when, as a 20-year-old, he partnered his father, Clarence – then aged 54 – to the final of the British amateur doubles championship. Tall, lean and elegant, Aberdare was renowned for his exquisite strokes and floor game: in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he won four British amateur singles and doubles championship titles. He he would remain at the top of his game for a long, long, time: in his late fifties, he was selected for GB’s Bathurst Cup team – and proceeded to astonish the tennis world by taking a set off the future World champion, Howard Angus, aged 25.
A diligent researcher with an eye for quirky detail and wry sense of humour, Aberdare produced several excellent reference books, including The Faber Book of Tennis and The Story of Tennis.
On receiving a gift of tennis balls from the French Dauphin, Henry V took umbrage and declared war upon France. Within a month of setting foot upon dry land across the channel, the English enjoyed a decisive victory at Agincourt, a battle which saw France lose an estimated 10,000 men.
In the context of British military history, Agincourt is the equivalent of England’s 1966 Football World Cup victory: a triumph against expectations. As with the World Cup, we English refer to Agincourt at every opportunity, to the evident chagrin of our French cousins – who, like all foreigners, ‘don’t like it up ‘em’.
A ball which has ceased moving. If atop a battery wall in an opening (a gallery, the grille or dedans), it is deemed to have entered that opening.
The walls which span the width of the court, as distinct from its length. The ‘back’ walls are those between the penthouses and the court floor.
The strip – or band – immediately below the penthouses, which butts up to the wall below, or, in the case of the galleries, marks the upper edge of the gallery opening.
The sections of wall between gallery openings and the court floor.
Closer to the back wall – or further from the net.
One stroke in a set, conceded to an opponent. The player receiving a bisque may claim it to win one stroke in each set at any time, subject to the following:
Originally, a winning return into the dedans, hard-struck against the main wall (possibly derived from Bosse). Today the term is used more loosely: it needn’t be a winning dedans shot – and is also used for returns struck against walls other than the main wall. A return of a boomerang serve might be ‘boasted’ against the hazard end’s back (grille) wall.
A serve which describes a long, languorous arc across the service penthouse: bouncing low, unevenly and often, before falling – listlessly – tight against the grille wall.
The boomerang strikes the service penthouse, the back penthouse and then the service penthouse, before dropping onto the service floor. Performed correctly, the ball will fall tight against – and parallel to – the back wall.
Journalist, football commentator, businessman and sports administrator, John Camkin was LTCC chairman from 1978 to 1995. A man characterised by a keenly sardonic wit, Camkin could be capricious – if not thoroughly Machiavellian. Never in danger of being described as one of life’s most gracious losers, John Camkin was nevertheless excellent company: despite a firmly-stated preference for dogs over humans, he socialised easily – with just about anyone, anywhere.
On assuming the rôle of chairman, he announced that the club’s parlous finances demanded immediate attention. Subscription fees were tripled, and, only a few years later, he oversaw a fundraising campaign which yielded over £100,000. Today, the equivalent sum would stand closer to half a million pounds sterling.
Leamington’s enviable reputation for hospitality and strong links with international clubs owes much to John Camkin. He died in 1998, aged 75, and is remembered by all who met him.
Arrogant, capricious, petty, delusional – if not mendacious – and at times, extraordinarily incompetent, Brudenell was in turn, generous towards men found to be suffering hardship – and a frequent, anonymous subscriber to numerous charities.
Failing to strike the ball cleanly: ‘pushing’ it.
A chase can occur at the court’s hazard or service ends. A chase is called when the ball has bounced twice on the floor without first being intercepted by the player – or when it enters a gallery.
A return in which the ball strikes no wall.
In September 1893 the Chicago Athletic Association opened a tennis court, two rackets courts and a squash tennis court, with Harry Boakes, Professional at Quebec and formerly of Queen’s as manager. It foundered, however, and in 1901 the court was dismantled and replaced with bowling alleys.
In 1923, The Racquet Club was opened, with one tennis court, two rackets courts and five squash rackets courts.
A straight force to the dedans, where the ball enters close to one of this winning opening’s outer edges.
Named after the French Professional who perfected this stroke: a return into the dedans which first strikes the side penthouse wall between the last gallery and back wall.
A lofted return which falls cleanly – and precipitously – into the dedans.
A boasted return where the ball is struck against the service wall, then travels directly into the dedans. Named after Louis Philippe Joseph d’Orléans, Duc d’Orléans, who devised – or at the very least, perfected – this stroke. Commonly known as Philippe and an active supporter the Revolution, he adopted the name ‘Philippe Égalité’ but was nonetheless guillotined during the Reign of Terror. His son, Louis Philippe became King of the French following the July Revolution of 1830.
In an article published on May 10, 1884, The Field describes the ‘Coup de Pettitt’ as a singular half-volley which “…drops on the floor at about a yard, rises with a twist and deposits itself in the dedans”.
A boast off the back wall; an ‘emergency stroke’ performed when the ball is too close to the floor
To ‘slice’ the ball; to deliver a shot with backspin. A favoured stroke in tennis: a cut shot makes the ball ‘bite down’ when it hits the floor or bounces off the back wall.
The ‘Rev.’ Professor Sir Howard Dalton, FRS died on court at Leamington on Jan 12 2008, playing the game he loved. Noting that he had fallen at better than half-a-yard, friends later observed their only means of besting him would be to hurl themselves into the dedans! Howard would have enjoyed that. His loss is keenly felt by all who knew him.
President and Chairman of London’s Bath Club from its foundation in 1894 until 1942. At the Bath Club, Lord Desborough built a beautiful squash rackets court, noted for its outstanding lighting. The club’s popularity and success led to the Bath Club Cup, a squash league for London clubs. League squash greatly increased enthusiasm for the fledgling sport. The success of Squash Rackets in Great Britain is in large part a result of the Bath Cup competitions of the twenties.
In 1892, he built a stické court at his Berkshire home, Taplow Court, near Maidenhead.
[Desborough was such a fantastic character, I simply can’t resist offering an account of his achievements – RR]
William Henry Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough, (cr. 1905) KG, GCVO, (1855 – 1945) was a British athlete, sportsman, public servant and politician. Personable, intelligent and an effortless public speaker, his good looks, charm and superlative sporting abilities marked him out as the model English gentleman. Socially, politically and physically (he stood 6’ 5” tall), Grenfell was a towering figure of the Edwardian era. His most enduring contribution to the world of sport though, was bringing the Olympics to London in 1908.
Proxime accessit in Harrow’s Scholarship entrance exams, young Grenfell would run the mile in 4’ 37” and twice play in the first eleven against Eton at Lords. On progressing to Balliol, he ran the three-mile Lillie Bridge Varsity race in 1876 and in 1877 rowed in the only ‘dead heat’ in the history of the Boat Race, where a broken oar saved the Light Blues from a sound thrashing. The following year, he was part of the team which took Oxford to a win by two lengths. In 1879, he was elected President of Oxford University Boat and Athletic Clubs – the only man ever to fulfil both roles. He was also Master of Oxford University drag hounds.
Despite all this extracurricular activity, he took a Second-Class in ‘Moderations’ – an Honours Examination devoted to Classical Scholarship – and would have scored better in ‘Greats’ were it not for an acute bout of sickness. He remained in touch with his intellectual side: the Desborough’s homes, Taplow Court in Berkshire and Panshanger in Hertfordshire famously hosted meetings of “The Souls” – a group of England’s most distinguished politicians and intellectuals. The Desboroughs were hosts of great renown: following his return from the Boer War, Winston Churchill became a Taplow Court habitué. Arriving late to the first Taplow party given for Eton boys (April 1904), Churchill found the other guests already out on the river; having strolling through the woods to join them, he was promptly seized and flung out into the Thames! Here he remained, swimming in his greatcoat, spats and top hat.
A keen mountaineer, Grenfell ascended The Matterhorn by three different routes. In a single trip, he climbed The Little Matterhorn, The Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, The Rothorn, and The Weisshorn – within only eight days. He hunted big game in the Rockies, India and Africa, caught one hundred tarpon off the Florida coast and, by the age of 64 had bagged some 850 stags – a great many on behalf of “The Venison Committee” during the 1914-18 war.
A first-class Whip, he was President of both the Coaching and the Four-in-Hand Clubs. He kept a pack of Harriers which had formerly belonged to The Prince Consort and was keen on point-to-points.
Desborough excelled on and in water; he stroked across the Channel in a clinker-built eight; with two others sculled the Thames from London to Oxford in only 22 hours – and when an MP, rowed for The Leander in the Grand Challenge Cup. He won the Thames Punting Championship for three successive years (1888-90) and retired, unbeaten. His likeness later featured on that event’s Championship medal.
He also swam Niagara. No, really – he swam Niagara – crossing beneath and between the thundering falls. When someone ventured to voice doubts that he had actually done so, Desborough went back in and did it a second time – as snow fell!
At one point, he was serving on some 115 committees – including being President of the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Lawn Tennis Association.
Having served from its inception as President of the Amateur Fencing Association, on formation of the British Olympic Association (BOA) in 1905, Desborough became its first Chairman. He led the British fencing team to the 1906 Intercalated Games (the Athens Olympics),in spite his age, he remained highly competitive on the piste: at 50 years old, he took the Silver medal in the team épée and proudly carried the Union Jack in the Parade of Nations.
Italy’s Mount Vesuvius erupted while the Athens games were in progress; Rome, host city for 1908, was forced to withdraw and Desborough was asked if London would step in. Before the year was out, he announced that London would stage the Games of the IV Olympiad.
By now a member of the International Olympic Committee, he became Chairman of the Organising Committee – and negotiated an inspired deal: in return for a generous slice of the gate receipts, Master Builder George Wimpey undertook to build the Stadium for a dramatically reduced fee. This was quite a gamble for Wimpey: there was no great rush for tickets to the 1908 Games! Nothing like “The Great Stadium” had been seen before: a velodrome circled the athletics track – and the infield featured a swimming pool!
Certain incidents at the London Games reveal the measure of Desborough’s character: on learning that the American shooting team’s gold medals had been stolen from their room, Desborough paid for their replacement out of his own pocket. The Marathon’s heartbreaking climax saw Italian confectioner Dorando Pietri collapse only yards from the finish, delirious with exhaustion. Although assisted to the line by well-meaning officials, he was then disqualified on a technicality following an American protest. Pietri’s distress provides some of the most powerful and poignant images in Olympic history – although his decision to take brandy as running refreshment may give one pause for thought! The spectacle of Pietri’s terrible suffering so affected Desborough that he sent the Italian flowers and a note expressing his personal admiration for courage shown.
On 2 December 1920, The Times confused Lord Desborough with Lord Bessborough and ran the former’s obituary by mistake. Desborough lived a further 25 years, passing in 1945, at the age of 90.
From April 15 – September 16 2012, SGI-UK (Soka Gakkai International), current owners of Taplow Court, staged an exhibition celebrating Desborough’s life and achievements Displays featured paintings, sculpture, posters, photographs, sporting equipment, medals and trophies – even an erupting volcano!
Not to be confused with doors of the marker’s box! At either the hazard or service ends, if moving from the net towards the back wall, ‘the door’ is the gallery which appears after the first gallery. If you prefer: moving from the back walls towards the net, ‘the door’ is the penultimate gallery before the marker’s box.
‘The inside’. A large, netted opening in the service end back wall; the service end’s only winning opening.
Derived from the estouffes or etoupes of wool (latin: stups) from which they were made, the earliest balls came to be known as esteufs. Wool though, was costly: less conscientious ball-makers would stuff the dog – or sheepskin – casings with any old thing: bran, barley or tightly-tied rags.
Winner of the 1928 World Championship; Etchebaster would go on to hold the title for 26 years, retiring – unbeaten – aged 60. In 1955, France awarded him the Légion d’honneur.
Confident, articulate, dashingly handsome, witty and intelligent – but enough about me; read Fahey’s profile in the section dedicated to Maître-Paumiers.
The line on the floor of the hazard end, extending from the service line to the grille wall.
In 1732, Louis XV rebuilt the covered court at Fontainebleau – incorporating, in the wall just beneath the net cord, a small cache to accommodate the stakes wagered on a match’s outcome. This in itself is a reference to the custom of placing stakes in a bag hanging from the net – “below the cord”.
A series of netted openings which run beneath the service penthouse. In the event of a ball entering during play, all but the last gallery on the hazard end (the winning gallery) are scored as a chase. Starting from the net, the galleries are as follows:
Service end: first gallery; the door; second gallery; last gallery.
Hazard end: first gallery; the door; second gallery; winning gallery.
The post between two galleries. If struck during play, considered to be part of the gallery nearer the net.
Located near London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Gibbon’s Tennis Court, was used as a playhouse from 1660 to 1663. Referred to as variously the “Theatre Royal, Vere Street”, the “Vere Street Theatre”, or simply “The Theatre”. It was the first permanent home for Thomas Killigrew’s King’s Company and saw some of the earliest appearances by professional actresses.
‘Robber baron’ railroad magnate and financier Jay Gould left his family a $72m inheritance on his death in 1888. His eldest son George established ‘Georgian Court’, Pine Barrens, Lakewood NJ.
Designed by Bruce Price and built by L’Hommedieu, the estate featured an 18-hole golf course and what the Gould family referred to as ‘the casino’: a games facility comprising tennis, rackets and squash courts, a bowling alley, a 56’ x 26’ swimming pool, a ballroom, Turkish and Russian baths, an automobile room, a tanbark equestrian ring – and living quarters for the Polo team which lived and trained there. The covered tanbark ring was also used for concerts, plays – and for life-sized games of chess, in which costumed people/pieces moved across the ‘board’ on command.
George’s wife Edith possessed a collection of jewels valued at more than $1 million ($23 million today). ‘She was very fond of jewels,’ recalled one acquaintance, ‘and wore them almost constantly, changing them from day to day.’ Edith frequently wore a tiara and brooch suite commissioned from Cartier. The suite was made up of eight diamond peacock feathers adorned with emeralds and had formerly belonged to the Emperor of China. Five fronds formed the lavish tiara; the remaining three were fashioned into a magnificent brooch. For motoring, Edith habitually wore her famous pearls – George had purchased five perfectly-matched strands of pearls from Tiffany at a rumoured cost of $500,000 ($11.5 million today) – although to be fair, to avoid any accusation of ostentatiousness, she rarely wore more than three at a time….
In 1921, Edith Gould died of a heart attack on the Georgian Court golf course. On examination, doctors discovered that she was sheathed from ankle to neck in rubber – a desperate measure intended to regain her youthful figure, after having seven children. Within a year of his wife’s death, George Gould married Guinevere Jeanne Sinclair, his mistress of eleven years, who had lived in high style at his expense on an estate at Manursing Island in Rye, NY. He also acknowledged the three illegitimate children she had already borne him.
Grandson of ‘robber baron’ railroad magnate, Jay Gould – who, in 1888, left his family a $72m inheritance, Jay Gould II (1888 – 1935) was raised at ‘Georgian Court’, Pine Barrens, Lakewood NJ.
Jay Gould II’s father George engaged Frank Forester – formerly of Prince’s Club, Knightsbridge – to tutor his two sons, Jay and Kingdon, in Rackets and Tennis. Forester arrived in March 1900 and started the boys off with an hour a day of Rackets. In the Spring of 1901, they turned to tennis – using lightweight (thirteen and a half ounce) rackets custom-made by Robert Moore at Tuxedo.
Leading professionals visiting the US would visit Lakewood – both to see Forester and also to play young Gould. Among them, Peter Latham – the then World Champion – Ferdinand Garcin, the French Master; “Punch” Fairs; Fred Tompkins of Philadelphia; Tom Pettitt; George Standing; Jack White; Alfred White.
Manfully overcoming such difficult beginnings, in 1905, the 16 yr-old Gould startled the tennis world by finishing runner-up in Tuxedo’s Gold Racket. The following year, he won – and thus became the US Champion. At London’s 1908 Olympics Gould took the Gold medal in Jeu de Paume – and was World Champion from 1914–1915. He held the U.S. Amateur Championship title continuously from 1906–1925, winning 18 times. During this period, he never lost a set to an American amateur – and suffered defeat only once: to English champion E.M. Baerlein.
Allison Danzig tells us that Gould perfected the “overhead American twist” service to the point that it became synonymous with him. In time, it earned the soubriquet The ‘Railroad’ – a reference to the source of the Gould family’s fantastic wealth. Devastatingly accurate, asserts Danzig, Gould could effect endless variations of pace and spin – and moreover, employ the serve tirelessly throughout a match.
Gould’s obituary in The New York Times; January 27, 1935, reveals that one of the grand salon rooms in his Manhattan apartment – an entire floor 444 East Fifty-seventh Street – featured a penthouse and dedans.
The Monarchs of Europe were preoccupied with outdoing one another: an early – Royal – version of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. In response to King James IV of Scotland’s great ship Michael (ordered 1505) Henry VIII commissioned Henry Grace à Dieu (‘Henry Grace of God’) – also known as ‘Great Harry’: 180 feet long and weighing over 1,000 tons. Watching from across the Channel and determined to upstage Henry, Francis I of France ordered the construction of a maritime colossus, La Grande-Françoise – a third longer than Great Harry and weighing 2000 tons. The largest of her four masts stood 210ft high, with a girth of 25ft! She featured a forge for mechanical repair, a windmill to grind flour, a bakery, a private chapel and…a tennis court. A classic example of vanity rather than sanity, this maritime folly grounded before even leaving the harbour – then capsized and sank in a storm, blocking the port in the process.
Working with his four brothers, Rackets World Champion and Cambridge University Professional Henry J Gray strung rackets for countless Cambridge students – including King Edward VII and King George VI. The year 1885 saw the establishment of the Grays Rackets Co. – an enterprise which would become one of England’s foremost racket manufacturers.
Despite appearances, Grays has always been keen to develop and diversify: in 1908, for example, Horace George Gray created the World’s first laminated racket, ‘The Masterpiece’. In 1941, Grays merged with J. Hazells to form Grays Hockey and also with batmaker L.J. Nicolls to create Gray-Nicolls: renowned to this day for crafting top-quality English willow bats.
When hockey sticks using smaller, mulberry wood heads became popular; the Pakistani government took the calculated move of banning the export of mulberry timber. Thus was Grays of Pakistan established, in turn leading to the development of the famous Karachi King. Grays of Pakistan was floated on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in 1987 – and remains one of that country’s most successful manufacturers.
In 2002 the company purchased rugby pioneer Gilbert – with which its connections stretch back to 1868. Gilbert remains the Official and Exclusive ball supplier to the Rugby World Cup.
Today, the fifth generation of five Gray cousins ensure that their brands – Grays, Gray-Nicolls and Gilbert – remain at the top of their game.
‘Greentree’ is the Payne Whitney estate in Manhasset, Long Island, designed by d’Hauteville & Cooper c. 1903 with landscaping by Guy Lowell. Born William Payne Whitney, Payne was the second son of William Collins Whitney (and younger brother to Harry Payne Whitney) but styled himself ‘Payne’ after falling out with his father. The bulk of William C. Whitney’s estate was left to the eldest son, Harry and only a small fraction (nb. everything is relative) went to younger brother Payne. This said, Payne was in turn remembered in the will of his uncle, Oliver Hazard Payne. Payne Whitney was a success in business, becoming associated with the Great Northern Paper Co., the First National Bank of New York, the Whitney Realty Co. and the Northern Finance Company. Along with his wife Helen Hay Whitney he ran Greentree Stable, an interest also taken up by their son John (Jock) Hay Whitney and daughter Joan Whitney Payson.
The T. Markoe Robertson-designed “playhouse” at ‘Greentree’, is reputed to have cost the eye-watering sum of a quarter of a million dollars. Frank Forester left ‘Georgian Court’ in late 1914 and took charge at the Whitney estate the following year. The court opening was celebrated for an entire week and the great and the good of Society came to enjoy Payne Whitney’s generous hospitality.
Greentree also contains ‘Cromwell House’ – a cottage and a bird garden designed by J.H. Phillips for Mrs Payne Whitney c. 1917 – which features panelling and fixtures taken from a house in Stroud, Gloucestershire at which Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed.
In May 1927 Payne Whitney fell ill during a game of tennis at ‘Greentree’; twenty-five minutes later, he was dead – doctors cited acute indigestion as the cause. Payne Whitney’s estate was the largest recorded up to that time: roughly $180,000,000. It produced the largest death tax ever recorded – $20,000,000! In 1924, Whitney had paid the third highest income tax bill in the country – a sum exceeded only by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Henry Ford. He left $60,000,000 to charities, institutions and organizations.
‘Greentree’ continued to be owned by the Whitney family throughout the 20th century. In 1951, John Hay Whitney (“Jock”) and his wife Betsey Cushing Whitney donated land from the ‘Greentree’ estate toward the building of North Shore Hospital. Currently called North Shore University Hospital, it is the flagship hospital of the 3rd largest not-for-profit secular healthcare system in the United States, the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.
Today, the ‘Greentree’ estate functions as the Greentree Foundation, a United Nations conference centre dedicated to international justice and human rights.
One of the hazard end’s two winning openings: a square recess in the hazard end’s back (grille) wall, located adjacent to the tambour.
Also known as the ‘back wall’ of the hazard end.
Beneath the net, running from marker’s box to main wall: a wide, gently-inclined trough in which the balls gather. The gutter’s slight slope encourages the balls to collect in the basket well.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”
Lord Darlington, Lady Windermere’s Fan – Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde
Today, play is regulated by a complex handicapping system which enables each player to begin the game with an equal chance of success. Better players may start the game with negative points, be disallowed service errors – or even restricted from using certain court features.
Returning home from the Crusades, Knights introduced the Arabic word ‘hazard’ into western language. Originally, the term meant ‘dice’ but in time, ‘hazard’ evolved to mean ‘chance’.
The Hazard End:
The end at which service is received.
The end possessing the grille and the winning gallery – two of the court’s three winning openings.
The end which features the tambour.
Abandoning his family and social class to pursue a career on the stage, in June 1643 Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière) founded the Illustré Théâtre with actress Madeleine Béjart. Within two years, they were bankrupt: among other debts, they owed 5000 livres for the rent of the theatre venue: a Jeu de Paume court in Paris’ Marais district
In 1875, Sir Edward Guinness (later 1st Earl of Iveagh) built a court in the grounds of his townhouse at 80 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Its walls and floor are comprised of vast slabs of midnight Connacht marble, hewn from Merlin Park, Galway.
In the last week of May 1890, the Iveagh Court provided the venue for the World Championship singles final, between Tom Pettitt and Charles Saunders.
As a guest of Lord Revelstoke, Henry Johns would play the Lambay and Dublin courts during his “poor boy’s holidays” to Ireland – but was obliged to explain that the Iveagh court’s polished marble surface was dangerously slippery. On his return the following year, Johns was astonished to find that Lord Iveagh had engaged a team of men to ‘key’ the marble’s polished surface with emery cloth.
‘Game of the palm’ – in its earliest form, tennis was played using the hand.
“Champion of the World at Lords”, Henry Johns was Head Professional at MCC from 1954-1975. Johns was credited with saving American tennis, after agreeing to supply 3,000 handmade balls to the US. In an era of clothes rationing, this was a huge undertaking. Working with his wife and using strips of cloth torn from old coats and flannel trousers, it took five years to fulfill the order.
Having started out as ball-boy at The Prince’s Club, Johns had a lifetime’s worth of anecdotes, recalling with sardonic bemusement the bizarre antics of Jai Singh, the exiled Maharajah of Alwar – a man described elsewhere as “sinister beyond belief”. Warned by a soothsayer that he would die from the bite of a mad dog, the Maharajah instructed his lackeys to inspect every inch of the court lest an errant canine be lurking in wait.
On retirement, Henry Johns was accorded the rare privilege of an honorary lifetime membership of MCC.
Born in 1879, Edward James ‘Ted’ Johnson, Moreton Morrell’s first professional, served the club for 65 yrs. His father was Professional to the first Lord Wimborne at Canford for 50 yrs.
Ted played the finest exponents of the game: Cecil “Punch” Fairs, G.F. ‘Fred’ Covey, Peter Latham, Lord Aberdare and Edgar Baerlein. His early posts were at Prince’s Club and Tuxedo, but at the age of twenty-five he was installed at Moreton as Professional to Charles Garland.
In 1909, Ted unsuccessfully contested “Punch” Fairs’ World title at the Brighton court. In 1912, he threw down the gauntlet to title-holder Fred Covey, but, after much procrastination, Covey refused the challenge. Although Ted was entitled – indeed, authorised and instructed – to claim the title by default, he declined to accept an honour for which he had not competed.
Witnesses attest to the purity of Ted’s style: his skill and strength – and of the exceptional quality of his underhand twist serve. At Newmarket, King Edward VIII became so engrossed in Ted’s play that missed the first race. “Chases for Races” smiled Ted, laconically.
The vertical walls inside the winning and last galleries, dedans and grille.
Tennis: the game of Kings – and the King of games.
The Hon. Cecil Baring worked tirelessly with his friend Thomas Suffern Tailer to establish the court at Pierre Lorillard’s Tuxedo Park. Somewhere along the way, he and Tailer’s wife Maud – Lorillard’s youngest daughter – fell in love.
Once Maud was divorced the couple left the US for Europe. In 1902, after finding an advertisement, “Island for Sale” in The Field, Baring bought Lambay, a small island north of Dublin Bay, for £9,000 in 1904. The island’s small castle was derelict, so the young Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll were commissioned to create what came to be considered an architectural gem.
Added some time after 1915, the tennis court is more of a folly than a playing court; certainly, it’s unique in that the main wall features a penthouse. Being open-air and adjacent to the sea, nature adds its own hazards to those of the court: rainwater, seawater, gulls and guano all conspire to defeat.
Cecil and Maud are both buried on Lambay. His epitaph reads:
“Cecil Baring; 3rd Baron Revelstoke;
Born 2nd September 1865; Died 26th January 1934;
Of whom this much it shall suffice to say;
He loved his wife, his children and Lambay”
Nought; nil; nada. The term is conjectured to come from l’oeuf – ‘egg’: zero-shaped, quicker to say – and, although comical, just short of derisory. It’s suggested by some that the term derives from the notion of playing for the ‘love of it’ rather than for a wager – but this is nothing but ex post facto rationalised whimsy. En Français ‘love’ est l’amour.
NOT the Lord Lucan (the 7th Earl) – who famously disappeared in 1974, following an assault on his wife and the murder of his children’s nanny – but LTCC member Field Marshal George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan GCB (1800-1888).
Lucan was criticised in his rôle as Commander of the Cavalry Division in the Crimean War – and for his implacable policy of mass eviction during Ireland’s Great Famine. Lord Lieutenant of Mayo, Lucan ordered the wholesale demolition of cottages and homes across his 62,000 acre estate – thereby rendering 40,000 destitute during one of the bitterest winters Ireland has ever seen. It earned him the sobriquet ‘The Exterminator’ – and excoriation in the House of Lords.
Lucan married Lady Anne Brudenell, the Earl of Cardigan’s sister; the two men heartily despised one another. In different circumstances, Cardigan would have been a safe bet for the title of Club Shit, but his brother-in-law beat him hands down.
When not orchestrating the activities of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), John Bruce Lockhart (1914-94) enjoyed tennis and a few pink gins with his friends at LTCC.
The vestibule through which one enters – and exits – the court.
When calling out the score, the player who won the last point is mentioned first.
France’s Queen Consort, Regent and mother to three French Kings, Catherine de’ Medici was a driving force behind the cultural development of Renaissance France. Catherine’s enormously influential Florentine family, the Medici were great patrons of the arts; finding herself in control of the Royal purse, Catherine launched a programme of patronage which would span three decades.
Architecture was Catherine’s great passion; she was closely involved in the planning and supervision of each of her numerous schemes – many of which featured Jeux de paume. The gardens of Charleval, for instance, featured four courts!
Fashion was another of her preoccupations: one her most famous hairstyles was coiffure en raquette en raquette_ – so-called because the hair was criss-crossed in bands, to resemble the strings of a racket.
Relocating to Oxford after the 1866 closure of London’s James’ Street court, Edmund Tompkins brought with him the old wooden benches from the galleries. Writing in 1959, Aberdare asserts that they remained in place – and in use.
In 1812, Napoléon Bonaparte played at Fontainebleau – a contemporary professional commented that the Emperor possessed no aptitude for the game.
From 1838-9, Napoléon III and his wife Eugenie lived at No. 6 Clarendon Square, Royal Leamington Spa. In 1862, after Paris’s Passage Sandrié court was demolished to make way for the new Opera House, Napoléon III – now ’Emperor of The French’ – granted permission for a new court in the Tuileries.
5ft high at post and main wall ends; 3ft high at centre. Divides court into hazard and service ends.
Ideally, set back within the marker’s box: hitting the post loses the point.
The 90° junction between wall and floor: “The ball landed in the nick”
The Liber Albus mentions the Oriel court in 1577. Charles I played his nephew Prince Rupert in December 1642 and King Edward VII had his first lesson here in 1859.
It’s thought the Oriel Court may at times have been used as a theatre. Although the court survived until 1923, the site is now Oriel College’s Harris Building: given over to student accommodation, a seminar room and lecture theatre.
When serving: if, after striking the Service Penthouse, the ball falls outside the service area without being volleyed, this is a fault. In France, it’s a ‘let’.
Sloping roofs which skirt three sides of the court perimeter.
Established in 1889, The Racquet Club of Philadelphia started life in a modest facility at 923 Walnut Street. In 1905, the decision was made to move ‘uptown’; club members George Dunton Widener and Edward Townsend Stotesbury were tasked with managing the project. Widener’s father, Public transit magnate Peter A. B. Widener had commissioned Lynnewood Hall, a 110-room Georgian revival showpiece from Horace Trumbauer, the doyenne architect to Philadelphia’s worthies. Thus, Trumbauer found himself charged with the task of creating a gentleman’s athletic club in the heart of the city’s Rittenhouse Square area.
Behind the classic Neo-Georgian redbrick facade, the Clubhouse boasted numerous innovations: it was one of Philadelphia’s first reinforced concrete structures and featured the World’s first Squash Doubles court – although to be entirely correct, the game didn’t actually exist until it was devised at the club (see, on this website: “The Games People Play”).
The Racquet Club also featured the World’s first ‘above grade’ swimming pool. To deal with the pool’s terrific weight, Trumbauer consulted noted bridge-builders Roebling: their innovative solution was a central tower which would carry the internal weight of the building – supported by steel girders and pilings drilled 26 feet deep into the bedrock. Featured in several movies, the Gentleman’s Dressing Room is a tour de force of masculine elegance: acres of carrara marble are contrasted with dark wood panelling. The GDR’s monsoon showers are legendary: streams of water as thick as a pencil rain down from a vast shower rose. In 1979, The Clubhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The latest in a long line of tennis professionals in his family, Frederick Charles Tompkins became the Club’s Head Professional. Records show that in 1799, the Ascension Day procession of Oxford’s Parish of St John included “John Tompkins – Keeper of the tennis court”; Marshall tells us that John’s father managed the Oxford court before him. Fred’s father, Edmund Tompkins (b.1826) was Leamington’s first manager/professional, leaving in 1849 to become lessee of London’s James Street court. Edmund won World Singles titles in 1862 and 1871.
When the New York Racquet & Tennis Club opened, Fred Tompkins was invited to become Head Professional. However, on asking his brother Alfred to loan him the funds for the passage, Alfred decided to go over in Fred’s place! New York’s loss was Philadelphia’s gain: Fred Tompkins ended up at The Racquet Club.
The Racquet Club is as much a dining and member’s club as an athletic club. Open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the Club’s Grill Room took as its centrepiece an enormous plancha, from which members were served oysters, steaks and chops, washed down with plenty of refreshments…. The door key to the Grill Room is buried beneath one of the Mercer tiles with which the room’s huge fireplace is decorated. Inscribed on that tile is the Latin motto, “DUM CLAVIM TENEAM” – a reference to the motto on William Penn’s coat of arms. According to Quintilian, (Institutio Oratoria, n 17) dum clavum teneam was a phrase Romans might use when vouching to do their duty, come what may. Here though, “clavum’ is playfully replaced with “clavim” – the latin for ‘key’.
When the 18th Amendment to the United State’s Constitution – ‘Prohibition’ (1920-1933) – came into force, the Club gave official notice that any member found to have alcohol on the premises would be subject to severe censure. Unofficially, Charley, the Club’s Oysterman was also the Club Bootlegger, buying in whiskey at $0.32 per pint and selling it on for $1.00. The Club installed liquor lockers by the Grill Room and the Basement Bar – available for any member to rent. The Racquet Club was not alone in such subterfuge; on February 2, 1931 that venerable institution The Philadelphia Club, was raided: the cops found 401 quarts, 118 pints, and a 1-gallon jug of spirit in member’s lockers. The only man arrested however, was the Club Manager – poor fellow!
In The Perennial Philadelphians: The Anatomy of an American Aristocracy (Little, Brown and Co., 1963), Nathaniel Burt describes The Racquet Club as “by far the best appointed, most frequented and prosperous* of all Philadelphia clubs.” The asterisk next to the word ‘prosperous’ leads one to an amusing footnote:
“However, here too, things are not as they were. The club has depended heavily in the past on revenue from its bars. Just lately, this has been declining, which worries the House Committee. What’s the younger generation coming to, anyway? It’s a crisis.”
I hardly think they needed to worry….
George D. Widener would lose his life on RMS Titanic. Having helped his wife Eleanor, and her maid, onto Lifeboat No. 4, George and his son Henry stepped back onto the ailing ship and prepared to meet their fate. Henry could not swim.
Gifting $2,000,0000 for Trumbauer (who else?) to construct the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard. Eleanor Elkins Widener requested of her son’s alma mater that thenceforth, its students should pass a swimming test prior to graduation.
George D. Widener would never see ‘Miramar’, the 30,000 sq-ft ‘cottage’ he and Eleanor commissioned Trumbauer to build in Newport, Rhode Island. Opened with aplomb on August 20, 1915 it had 27 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms. Its 27’ × 63’ first floor ballroom opened onto a 4,000 sq-ft oceanfront terrace. The 10,000 bottle wine cellar contained a 20ft-long stone bath, in which 200 champagne bottles could be chilled at one time.
For Edward T. Stotesbury, the other member of The Racquet Club’s building committee, Trumbauer would build ‘Whitemarsh Hall’, a 100,000 sq foot Neo-Georgian mansion. Its grounds were tended by over 70 full-time gardeners. Forty or so house staff travelled with the family, remaining in attendance at the Stotesbury properties: El Mirasol, Florida, during winter, and Wingwood House, Bar Harbor, Maine during summer. For close to a decade, lavish balls and receptions were hosted at Whitemarsh, but as the Great Depression took hold, it was considered unseemly to party while so much of America starved. Stotesbury once declared that it cost over a million dollars a year to maintain Whitemarsh.
The Racquet Club is open to members 365 days a year. Facilities include three international Squash Rackets courts, a Squash Doubles court, a Real Tennis court, a Rackets court and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. there’s a full-service barber’s on site, a traditional reading room and private dining/meeting rooms. The four bowling alleys are, alas, no longer in use. Members and sponsored guests may also stay overnight in the Club’s array of rooms and suites.
An overhead serve delivered while standing close to the main wall, up near to the 2nd gallery line. The ball should land near the grille wall and fault line.
A fine-textured cotton weave, piqué – or marcella – was devised by Lancashire mill owners. They were attempting to emulate the corded Provençal quilts produced by Marseille mills (hence ‘marcella’). Today, piqué is recognisable as the cloth used in ‘polo’ tennis shirts originally popularised by lawn tennis champions Fred Perry and René Lacoste.
Cognoscenti Corner: Piqué is an equal combination of knit cam and tuck cam; an unequal combination is termed ‘lacoste’ cloth. On close examination, one sees a uniform honeycomb/hexagon design in piqué, but with ‘lacoste’ cloth, straight lines run between the hexagons.
Founded 1886 in West Kensington and named after its first patron, Queen Victoria. Queen’s Club was the World’s first multipurpose sports complex. Following the closure of Knightsbridge’s Prince’s Club, it became the headquarters for Tennis and Rackets.
Queen’s provided the venue for the Jeu de Paume and Rackets events of London’s Summer Olympics, 1908.
French-made rackets were considered the best in the World: Borelly; Lavergne; Tison; Leclerq; Brouaye. In England, only Pilet, (or ‘Pillet’) received respect and praise.
Writing in 1878, Marshall laments the dearth of French rackets: during the Siege of Paris (1870-71) supplies of well-seasoned timber were used for firewood. Subsequent demand for lawn tennis rackets depleted stocks further still. Today, Grays of Cambridge is the World’s premier racket maker.
A legendary Manhattan gentlemen’s club, catering to the White Shoe set. First opened in 1876 at 55, W26th Street, in what would become known as the Flatiron District, the redevelopment of Madison Square Garden prompted a move to 27, W43rd Street. In 1916, member Robert Walton (‘Bertie’) Goelet offered to build a clubhouse then lease it to the club.
The club boasts dining rooms, a billiards room, library, lounge, gym, barber, masseuse, steam room and icy plunge pool. There are two tennis courts, one rackets court, four squash courts and one squash doubles court.
McKim, Mead & White – architects for Newport Casino and Madison Square Garden – produced a neo-rennaissance palazzo: its height deliberately twice the width of Park Avenue. Atop the rusticated ground floor, a deep first-floor loggia; along the roofline the formal balustrade sits atop a cornice frieze decorated with rackets in relief. Mies van der Rohe’s profoundly influential Seagram Building (1958) stands opposite: its open plaza serving to complement and reflect the sense of space created by the club’s comparatively diminutive four storeys.
Devised by Richard Sears – and popularised by Tom Pettitt, ‘The overhead American twist’ changed the pace at which the game is played. Today, the serve is universally known as the ‘Railroad’ – a soubriquet bestowed in honour of Jay Gould II, whose family’s vast wealth was largely derived from railroads. Allison Danzig tells us that Gould perfected the serve to the point that it became synonymous with him. Devastatingly accurate, he could effect endless variations of pace and spin – and moreover, employ the serve tirelessly, throughout a match.
The correct term in Tennis for what in lawn tennis, is called a ‘rally’.
Rester: verb ‘continue’, continuer, poursuivre, perpétuer, durer, rester, reprendre
In 1807, Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The family seat, Goodwood House, had a tennis court (constructed 1760) and the Duke was an enthusiastic player.
Richmond would invite top English players over to Ireland for matches; one such guest was Lord Sydney Osborne. When Osborne boasted that he could beat ‘any man in the world’ at Rackets and rashly offered a wager of one thousand guineas, the Duke – an inveterate gambler – couldn’t resist.
In 1807, one thousand guineas was a colossal sum; an earnings index calculates it as the modern equivalent of £798,000. The Duke knew of an Irish tailor who, away from the shears, was blessed with a prodigious talent for racket sports. That tailor’s name was Flood – and Richmond was confident that the Irishman he’d watched at Dublin’s John’s Lane Rackets court would prevail.
However: having thus agreed the wager, the Duke was alarmed to learn that Flood was languishing in Dublin’s Newgate Gaol. The tailor had added pick-pocketing and highway robbery to his repertoire and was scheduled to be hanged that coming Saturday. Approaching the condemned man, Richmond outlined his plan; Flood promised to win the match – and the wager – and a pardon was hastily arranged.
Osborne started well, but Flood slowly wore his opponent down. Appalled and ashamed at the prospect of losing to a mere tailor – a tradesman – Osborne lost his concentration, his composure – and his cash.
Richmond gave Flood £50 and suggested he leave Ireland; changing his name to Waters, Flood found work as Marker at the Rackets Court in Tottenham Court Road. The Duke Richmond left Ireland in 1813 but died in 1819 – of a rabies infection, after being bitten by a pet fox.
A dynasty of tennis professionals for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: cool, clever, competitive and commercial. Civility supplants servility.
MP; banker; racehorse owner; aviator; yachtsman; Rose built the Newmarket Court and later moved to Hardwick House, Whitchurch, Oxfordshire. Returning from on a cruise to North America, Lady Rose found a new tennis court where her garden of prized and irreplaceable roses had once stood: dissatisfied with the original location of Hardwick’s tennis and fives courts, her husband had ordered the lot grubbed up!
With terraced gardens sweeping down to the Thames, Hardwick is reputed to have provided the inspiration for E.H. Shepard’s illustrations of ‘Toad Hall’ in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. The new – and old – courts can be seen on Google Earth: a tree grows through the roof of the old court.
In 1872 Irish immigrant John MacKay (pronounced MACK-ee), became a very, very rich man: one of his mining claims hit The Big Bonanza, a shelf of gold and silver worth – at the time – more than $100 million.
In May 1898 his son, Clarence Hungerford MacKay (Clarry) married Katherine (‘Kitty’) Duer , a New York socialite fêted by the Chicago Chronicle as “the prettiest woman in America”. John MacKay’s wedding present to his son and daughter-in-law was a seven-hundred-acre estate in Roslyn, on Long Island’s Gold Coast. The estate’s rolling hills deliver views both of the Atlantic and Long Island Sound. “on a clear day”, said the New York Times “Brooklyn Bridge can be seen without the aid of field glasses”.
Unencumbered by financial constraints, Clarry and Kitty engaged celebrated architect (and infamous roué) Stanford White to create their dream home. It was a huge undertaking – the largest commission of White’s glittering career. At one point, a thousand artisans from all over the world were employed on the estate. The landscaping program alone required the relocation of a cemetery and the closure of a public road which crossed the estate. There were even plans to build a twenty-three mile-long private road to Long Island City, for the Mackays’ personal use.
Unveiled to the world in November 1901, Harbor Hill was quickly recognised as one of America’s most opulent homes. Guests passed through a granite gateway and wound their way along a sinuous two mile-long driveway. Modeled after François Mansart’s Château de Maisons (latterly Château de Maisons-Laffite), the house itself was almost as wide as three football pitches; it had twenty-six bathrooms and featured twenty-three foot ceilings, marble floors and meticulously carved woodwork.
Although a keen breeder of thoroughbred horses, racket sports were Clarry’s first love. He won the 1902 National amateur Rackets title at the Boston Athletic Association, against defending champion Quincy Shaw (Tom Pettitt was marker), took half a dozen Racquet & Tennis Club championships at the 43rd Street courts – and won the Tuxedo Gold Racquet three times.
The murder – by a jealous husband – of architect Stanford White contributed to the delay in completing the Harbor Hill ‘Casino’. Having just completed the Racquet Pavillion at Tuxedo, Warren & Wetmore – like McKim Mead and White a knickerbocker institution – received the commission. One hundred and eighty-two feet long and one hundred and thirty-three feet wide, the Casino’s huge north-facing sitting room overlooked two lawn tennis courts and past a vast sweeping expanse of woodland out to the Long Island Sound. No expense was spared: Italian tiles, Alabama marble, Maine dressed stone, Indiana limestone, French steel – and, of course, Joseph Bickley’s patented English cement for the courts. In sympathy with the main house’s aesthetic, the $200,000 multi-story casino had a distinctly French feel – a cousin of the Vanderbilts, Whitney Warren spent ten years at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His firm would go on to design many landmark buildings, including New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
The Casino comprised a real tennis court, a ‘squash tennis’ court, a billiards room, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a sauna and a gymnasium. Mackay
formally opened the tennis court in March 1908 with a match between Eustace Miles and World Champion Peter Latham. Latham, conceding 0-15 handicap, won 6-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. The wood-lined ‘squash tennis’ court meanwhile, saw use during The Prince of Wales’s visit: the Prince played both Clarry Mackay and Cecil ‘Punch’ Fairs. An enormous polar bear skin – replete with bared teeth – decorated the hunting room’s fine parquet floor; on the wall hung ‘Gentleman’ Jim Corbett’s heavyweight boxing title belt.
The first pro at Harbor Hill was ‘Bobby Moore, the eldest son of Robert Moore Snr, the highly-regarded pro at the Racquet & Tennis and Tuxedo clubs. In 1915, Bobby was succeeded by former World Champion ‘Punch’ Fairs. Although Fairs remained at Harbor Hill for twenty years, the court was never very active; Greentree, just down the road, saw far more use.
In 1913, Kitty fled to Europe, secured a divorce and married Clarry’s physician, Joseph Blake. The Mackay’s younger daughter, Ellin, meanwhile, fell in love with Irving Berlin. Romance between a Jewish immigrant from the Lower East Side and a Catholic Knickerbocker heiress made good copy – the Press and public alike were enthralled.
Clarry instructed his daughter to forget Berlin and sent her off to Europe to meet other suitors. Berlin however, wooed Ellin over the airwaves with such songs as “Remember” and “Always” “Even before Ellin returned from Europe” writes Berlin’s biographer, Philip Furia, “newspapers rumored they were engaged, and Broadway shows featured skits of the lovelorn songwriter”. On her return, Ellin and Berlin were besieged by reporters. Variety reported that Clarry had vowed a marriage would happen only over his dead body; Kitty however, counselled her daughter “Follow your heart.”
The young lovers eloped and married in a simple civil ceremony.
“Although Broadway for months had expected the one-time newsboy and Bowery singer of songs to wed the prominent young society girl” crowed the New York Times on its front page, the next day “…the marriage took Clarence H. Mackay, father of the bride, completely by surprise. He was reported to have been stunned when he learned from a third person of the Municipal Building ceremony.”
Incensed, Clarry disowned Ellin. Deeply affected by his young wife’s sacrifice, Berlin assigned to Ellin all rights to several of his most popular songs – including “Always”. Once more, she could be assured of financial security for life.
Despite appearances, Mackay wasn’t as bad as it may at first seem. Martha Letson Kaufman’s father, Peter, was Harbor Hill’s Head Dairyman between 1914-1938:
“Mr. Mackay felt it was important to be an active part of the Roslyn community. Harbor Hill would be opened on the 4th of July each year so that everyone in Roslyn could enjoy the fireworks display celebrating our Nation’s birthday. I remember the party Mr. Mackay threw for Charles Lindbergh: there was Paul Whiteman’s orchestra – and I remember the fancy, gold dining room furniture when I peeked through the dining room windows.
Sometimes I accompanied a night watchman on his rounds inside the big house. There were suits of armour in the hallways and on the staircase; in several places, he had to turn a key in a lock as a report to the insurance company that he had been there.
I never saw Irving Berlin on the estate but William Mackay [John William Mackay III, Clarence’s son] lived across the road and he wasn’t snooty at all. I also remember that Mr. Mackay [Clarence] loved to walk on the grounds of the estate with his dogs. My mother was ailing with a brain tumor and often sat outside: Mr Mackay always stopped and talked whenever he was walking by… he was very kind and friendly.”
Clarry and Ellin did achieve reconciliation – in 1930, following Kitty’s death. By then, Clarry Mackay was a different man. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and The Great Depression had all but ruined him. It was reported that Black Friday saw him lose $36 million in thirty minutes. Clarry and his second wife, Anna Case, an opera singer, closed down Harbor Hill’s main house and moved into a caretaker’s cottage.
When Mackay died, aged sixty-four in November 1938, three thousand people attended his funeral. Berlin’s New York Times obituary reveals that the Bowery boy had secretly bailed his father-in-law out following The Crash. Mackay left an estate worth $2 million in stocks and bonds.
The main house at Harbor Hill was never again occupied. During the 1940’s a syndicate of players organised by Clarry Pell made occasional use of the court.
In July 1943 the Army Signal Corps commenced using the estate as a radar station to spot submarines; they called it ‘Camp Mackay’. The main house was dismantled in 1947. Nine months after the Army’s departure, in November 1949, the Casino burned to the ground. Two hundred firemen struggled to fight the blaze, but the nearest water hydrant was a mile away. The cause was never settled upon: it may have been arson – but it’s also known that the Army had left a cache of explosives behind….
In 1954, Manhattan developer Samuel Roth bought the estate and built ‘Country Estates’ – four hundred-home upmarket homes; it remains to this day. Some remnants of Harbor Hill survive: the original granite gateway serves as the entrance to the community swimming pool, the dairyman’s cottage is still there, as is the watertower – and a life-size pink marble horse and rider, which was relocated to Roslyn High School.
Irving Berlin and Ellin Mackay enjoyed a loving and enduring marriage. Ellin died in 1988, aged 85.
It’s speculated that tennis scoring was based on the gros denier coin, worth 15 deniers.
Signed on June 20, 1789, the Tennis Court Oath was a pledge which precipitated the single greatest shift in Europe’s social order.
Made from the dedans (service) end, only. The ball must contact the hazard side of the service penthouse at least once. In the event of a service fault, a second serve is permitted, subject to handicap restrictions.
The area from which serves are delivered: anywhere from the back (dedans) wall to the 2nd Gallery chase line on the floor.
Arguably, the most important man at the club: the point of contact for incoming calls and the first – and often the last – person one sees when visiting.
Kevin’s association with LTCC stretches back to 1968. Within a short time of joining, he progressed to rank World No. 6. World domination wasn’t really on the agenda though: whether this reflects his pragmatism, a dearth of top-quality players to practice against – or perhaps, both – is open to conjecture. One thing one should not doubt, is that he possessed the talent: in one tournament, he took ten games in a row (6-0, 4-0) off reigning World Champion Wayne Davies – then at the height of his powers. Sports Psychologists would have plenty to say on the fact that Davies went on to win this encounter: did KS ‘choke’ – or did Davies draw upon the gimlet-eyed steely resolve needed to win – and retain – the World No.1 slot? Once again, perhaps it’s both.
Kevin’s exceptional powers of anticipation and classical style have made him a much-admired player – although many feel he didn’t realise his full potential: “You just want to grab hold of him by the shoulders and yell ‘Look lively, lad!’” said Henry Johns of Kevin’s unhurried style “Never seen anyone with keener powers of anticipation – never”.
At the hazard end: a vertical, canted (angled) buttressed section of the main wall, leading to the grille.
The origin of the term ‘tennis’ is hotly contested.
Some argue that it stems from the Anglo-Norman imperative ‘tenetz!’ (roughly translated as “Take heed! Play!”). It’s suggested that players would call this out before each serve – much as fencers announce “En garde!”. Surely even the most avid observer of correct form would soon tire of doing so.
Located on an island in Lake Manzala, southwest of modern Port Said, the city of Tennis or Tinnis (both: tĭn’ĭs) was founded by migrants from the abandoned City of Tanis. A significant centre of commerce, it was noted for fine fabric: tissus de tennis, which was was sold in tightly-bound balls. Travelers to Egypt from as early as 1042 mention both the City and its fine fabrics. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see how tightly-bound cloth balls used in Jeu de Paume might come to be termed ‘tennis balls’ by Knights on their return from the Crusades.
The City of Tennis sank into the Nile Delta in 1226.
On Wednesday April 10 1912, Charles Eugene Williams, Rackets Master at Harrow School and Professional World Rackets Champion, boarded White Star Line’s RMS Titanic at Southampton. He was travelling second class to New York (ticket no. 244373, purchased at a cost of £13 0s 0d) to defend his World title – for a purse, according to the Chicago Tribune, of some $5,000.
Titanic had its own squash court; First Class passengers paid two shillings and tuppence for a half-hour game and could have lessons with, or play against, the court manager, Frederick Wright. Formerly of Great Billing, Northamptonshire, Wright received a basic wage of a shilling a day and relied upon patron’s gratuities for his livelihood.
At 22:30hrs on Saturday 14th of April, Charles Williams retired from the Titanic’s squash rackets court to the smoking room.
Just over an hour later, at 23:40hrs, the collision occurred. Williams reports rushing outside to see a vast iceberg looming a good hundred feet above the deck.
Watertight bulkheads stretched from the ship’s keel all the way up to F deck; with the doors closed, these bulkheads would contain any floodwater. Titanic’s ship builders, Harland and Wolff calculated that the ship would remain seaworthy even if as many as four compartments flooded. The initial collision though, resulted in the rupture of five; the ship was doomed. Seawater rushed into boiler room six, adjacent to the squash court. By midnight, the court itself was flooded. The court was situated below Titanic’s bridge; her ship’s log records show that the crew monitored the rising water level from the squash court’s viewing gallery on deck F.
As panic spread, Frederick Wright encountered US Col. Archibald Gracie out on deck; they had played before breakfast that morning and Gracie had a lesson scheduled for 07:30hrs the following day. “Hadn’t we better cancel that appointment?” said Gracie; Wright, who couldn’t swim and knew the squash court and his cabin were both flooded, replied simply: “Yes… we’d better”.
When Charles Williams finally left the badly listing ship, he launched himself as far out as he could from the starboard side. After a couple of hours, he was finally hauled out of the water – initially onto the upturned ‘Collapsible B’, then later into the overcrowded Lifeboat 14.
In an interview with the New York Sketch, fellow Rackets Champion George E. Standing said that Williams told him he’d seen Titanic’s Captain, Edward John Smith wearing a lifebelt and swimming with an infant in his arms. Smith passed the child to passengers on ‘Collapsible B’ and, rather than climb aboard, asked after First Officer Murdoch. On learning that Murdoch had blown his brains out with a revolver, he pushed away from the lifeboat, removed his lifebelt and sank from sight. Other survivors mention a well-spoken man swimming by and addressing them with an air of authority, although it’s by no means certain that this individual was Captain Smith.
Lifeboat 14 drifted around the North Atlantic’s ice lanes for nine hours, its inhabitants standing, up to their knees in freezing cold water. Cunard’s Carpathia picked up the survivors. As Williams gave his account of the event for the records, he learned that his death had been announced by the London Press. From the Carpathia’s communications room, Williams telegraphed The Rackets Association; his cable a masterclass in diffident understatement: “Match postponed; return next week. Williams.”
The venue for the World Championship Challenge, New York’s Racquet and Tennis Club was in mourning: many members and relatives had been lost in the disaster and play was out of the question. Williams was extended the sympathy of the club and, Danzig tells us, a substantial testimonial was collected on the player’s behalf. Returning home to England, he was received as one who had returned from the grave.
RMS Titanic sank at 0220hrs on Sunday, April 15th 1912. 1635 souls perished; 705 were saved. Fred Wright, unmarried and 24 years old, was never found. The Racquet Club, Philadelphia has an annual squash rackets competition, the Fred Wright Cup, in his memory. Gracie survived; the account of his exchange with Fred Wright appears in his book, The Truth About The Titanic.
For an account of Williams’s tenure as World Champion – before and after the Titanic disaster – see the separate listing under his name.
An 18-19th Century English tennis dynasty. Records show that in 1799, the Ascension Day procession of Oxford’s Parish of St John included “John Tompkins – Keeper of the tennis court”; Marshall tells us that John’s father had managed the Oxford court before him.
John’s son, Edmund ‘Peter’ Tompkins (b. 1802) – Champion of England – was lessee of the Merton and Brighton courts. Peter’s three sons – Edmund (1826), Alfred (1832) and John (1836) all followed their father and grandfather and became tennis professionals.
Peter’s son Edmund Tompkins (b.1826) was Leamington’s first manager/professional, leaving in 1849 to become lessee of London’s James Street court. He won World Singles titles in 1862 and 1871.
When the New York Racquet & Tennis Club opened, Fred Tompkins was invited to become head professional. However, when Fred asked his brother Alfred to loan him money for the passage, Alfred decided to go over in Fred’s place! Fred Tompkins later took over the Philadelphia court instead.
In a doubles exhibition match at the Racquet & Tennis Club on Jan 5 1900, an ‘A. Tompkins’ partnered Peter Latham against Tom Petitt and E.H. Miles. Latham and Tompkins won 6-3, 6-0, 7-5. here here One must question whether this was Alfred Tompkins: if so, he would have been 68 years old.
Scotland’s only true tennis court – alas, no longer in use.
Opened in 1886, Pierre Lorillard IV’s Tuxedo Park soon became a Knickerbocker institution: fine homes and a beautiful clubhouse set amidst lakes and woodland.
Designed by Architect Bruce Price and constructed in 1886, the original clubhouse was replaced by a second in 1928, from Architect John Russell Pope. Although destroyed by fire in 1943, it was partially rebuilt soon afterwards.
The shingle style cottages Price built at Tuxedo would influence Modernist architects Robert Venturi and Frank Lloyd Wright – the latter of whom would observe “Tuxedo’s architect…was Nature herself”. Eight of Price’s houses – including five from Tuxedo Park – were among the 100 buildings selected for George William Sheldon’s landmark survey of American domestic architecture: Artistic Country-Seats (1886–87). The most famous of these, the Pierre Lorillard V cottage (“Cottage G”), remains an icon of American architecture. Alas it is now demolished and now known only through photographs.
Writing in 1931, Price’s daughter wrote:
“In beginning Tuxedo, the architect’s idea was to fit buildings with the surrounding woods, and the gate-lodge and keep were built of graystone with as much moss and lichen as possible. The shingled cottages were stained with the color of the woods —russets and grays and dull reds — ugly to the taste of a quarter century later, though this treatment did much to neutralize the newness of the buildings. Old World and tradition-haunted as it looks, it is new – incredibly new”
To this day, the estate remains redolent of a gilded age wherein Edith Wharton convened with the Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys, Delanos, Goelets and Gwynnes.
Tuxedo’s facilities include an 18-hole golf course, tennis, lawn tennis, rackets, squash, ‘platform tennis’, swimming, and boating. The racquet pavilion, designed by Warren & Wetmore was funded by subscription, driven by T, Suffern Tailer and the Hon. Cecil Baring.
In 1881, Pierre Lorillard IV achieved a double-first: becoming the first American owner to win the Epsom Derby and moreover, doing so with an American-bred racehorse: Iroquois. Sired by the great stallion, Leamington. Iroquois won five of his seven races as a three year-old. He was placed in the first of these – the 2,000 Guineas – although his trainer said he’d ran below form on the day. That season, Iroquois went on to win The Derby and the St. Leger – alas, denied the Triple Crown owing to his second place in the 2,000 Guineas. When The Derby result reached New York, it was celebrated with such wild enthusiasm that business on Wall Street had to be suspended until order was restored.
‘Tuxedo’ has become a widely-recognised synonym for ‘dinner jacket’ – a tailcoat without tails. On a trip to England during the summer of 1886, Tuxedo Club member James Brown Potter and his wife Cora visited Sandringham as guests of HRH the Prince of Wales. Noting that the Prince wore a short jacket in the place of a tailcoat, Brown Potter had his tailor fashion the same. His friends at Tuxedo Park followed suit and soon, it was the attire of an élite clique. Ere long, East Coast Society magazines were abuzz with references to the ‘Tuxedo’.
Cambridge: Burrell’s Walk (2 courts: 1866 and 1890. The latter converted into squash courts in 1933 but restored in 1999)
Georgian Court University, Lakewood, NJ: (1902)
Middlesex: Vivian Avenue, Hendon (2000)
Oxford: Merton St, (1798)
Some of the many Châteaux to feature tennis courts.
Former LTCC Captain of Tennis and, since 1997, Club President, Charles Wade played an instrumental rôle in formalising the handicap system.
A top-drawer club player with a classic floor game of cut and pace, Charles Wade’s athletic abilities extend beyond the court – indeed, beyond reasonable expectations. The most celebrated entry in LTCC’s Betting Book is Wade’s assertion that he would win a 100-yard race against any car, where the driver effected a ‘Le Mans’-style start: door closed, handbrake on, ignition off.
The idea fired everyone’s imagination; fellow LTCC member John Terry stepped up to meet the challenge. Terry’s competition credentials are impeccable: on water, he has participated in more than 20 Round The Island Races; on land, he wears a BRDC badge with the pride of a petrolhead – and the humility of a true gentleman. This was the man for the job.
So it was that a crowd of LTCC members assembled at Wellesbourne Airfield to witness man vs machine – or at least, Charles Wade racing John Terry in his Porsche 911 Carrera. To everyone’s amazement – not least his own – Wade won by a 5-yard margin: 100 yards in 12.4 seconds. Charles Lawrence Wade Esq. may identify more readily with David Burghley than ‘Tupper of the Track’ but this is a storyline straight out of Boy’s Own Magazine. What would be a great result for the best of us was, for a 50 year-old, quite exceptional.
Charles Wade is author of The History of the Leamington Tennis Court Club 1846-1996
Privy expenses show that in October of 1532, Henry VIII’s tennis wagers had resulted in losses of over £50 – about a thousand times the typical weekly wage at that time. Between 1530-33, his losses for wagers at tennis and dice amounted to £3,243.5s.10d. There are different ways of calculating the modern equivalent:
in terms of purchasing power, it’s £1,560,000
in terms of wealth it’s £45,200,000
in terms of economic power, it’s £544,000,000
It should be noted, though, that quoting Privy expenses reveal only half the story: when the Monarch wins, he pockets the money; when he loses, he turns to the public purse (it’s great to be King!) Thus we have little way of knowing how often – or how much – Henry won.
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, reputedly lost thousands of crowns in a few short days when playing Marechal de Bironin in Paris, 1598: “chaqu’un semoque lui” (everyone mocks him) it was said.
A small, reinforced net at the first gallery, devised to protect the marker from stray shots from the Service End.
One of the hazard end’s two winning openings. The gallery located closest to the ‘grille’ (back) wall.
Further from the back wall – or, if you prefer, closer to the net.
…marks the spot. In former times, the marker would use chalk to mark the court floor with an ‘x’ to indicate where a chase had been made. Accurate and scrupulously honest marking is a cornerstone of the game. Insider trading is one thing – a lack of integrity on court is another, entirely.
Another name for the Railroad.
“Time for bed” said Zebedee