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Looking back: Badgers Tennis Club has served up fun for 127 years
7:10pm Wednesday 14th August 2013 in News
On June 6, 1883, keen tennis players proposed to play tennis in the Sussex Square gardens.
Finally in 1886 the committee informed the residents that from May 17 to September 30, four tennis courts would be available to play on.
It was argued that two more levelled courts should be made, which was fortunately done in 1893 at the cost of £21. Unfortunately, only two years later, the two newcourts were removed.
The ground was leased from the Marquess of Bristol. From the start there were four courts, one of which was reserved for croquet and bowls. The original title of the tennis club was The Kemp Town Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
The site of the tennis courts was originally part of the first Marquess of Bristol’s Estate, owned by Frederick William Hervey in 1828. When he died in 1859, his son inherited the title but he died in 1864. His grandson, also named Frederick Hervey, became the third Marquess of Bristol when it became tennis courts, and he then died in 1907.
The fourth Marquess of Bristol, nephew of Fredrick Hervey, continued to lease the site to the tennis club until his death in 1951. The tennis club could have been lost, but in 1953 the site was bought by one of the club members, Michael Hamilton Pope, who owned it until 2002.
Michael Hamilton Pope first played at the club in 1947, aged around 17.
He said: “It was a very small, friendly club with only 30 to 40 people at one point, but it eventually grew. It’s a very secluded area; very few people actually knew it exists.
"The only way people could see people playing would be from the top of a bus.”
At first his father had wanted to get a group of club members to get together to buy it but there wasn’t enough money raised. So instead he bought it in Michael’s name, and he eventually paid him back.
During the Second World War tennis was still played, and even with the food rationing, club standards still remained high and players were asked to contribute to the traditional tea.
Part of the tennis courts were also used by the Army. They commandeered part of it and put barbed wire across some of the court. It was recorded in the Minute Books that the general spirit of the club was very high and the committee was encouraged to open the club as usual.
Pam Piercy joined in 1941. She recalls that when she joined three of the players were still serving underarm.
She said: “It was a rather snobby club where you had to be invited to join but as the years grew on, it became much nicer.
“It was a lovely club, a nice place to play in.”
Unfortunately in 1960 Pamhad to stop playing tennis due to having a bad back.
In 1950, a gale blew the roof off the pavilion which was built in 1930 and cost £278 and 11 shillings, which is £11,774.20 in today’s money.
ON THIS DAY
1969: British troops go into Northern Ireland for what was supposed to be a “limited operation” and ended up lasting for 25 years.
2000: Russian submarine Kursk exploded and sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea. All 118 crewmen died.
1941: Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter stating post-war aims, sealing the alliance between the two countries for the downfall of Hitler.
1945: Japan accepted the Allied terms of surrender in the Second World War following the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened at the USA Theatre in California for the first time. It was the first major Hollywood film to be a ‘midnight movie’ and has a massive cult following.
The Argus’ popular “Looking Back” feature has been compiled into an A4, soft back book which catalogues the events that have made their mark on the people of Sussex. The fascinating archive of “Looking Back” images dates back to the 1930s when The Argus first started to print photographs. The book costs £6.99 including postage and packing. To order please visit theargus.co.uk/store
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