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Club History: Chapter I - 1892 to 1918
Chapter I
1892 to 1918

It had been believed for many years that the Club was founded in 1891. However, the Preston Guardian of 25th June, 1892, proves that the first courts were opened for play on Thursday, 23rd June, 1892. The twelve founder members had probably met in 1891 and started to plan the site and activities of the club.

Those who had attended the earlier inaugural meeting, at which they were all residents of Fulwood and included S.M. Bottrill, A.E. Healey, J. Healey, J.W. Pateson, J. Peak and T. Revely, it was decided to form Fulwood Lawn Tennis Club and who must be regarded as the founders of the Club, were:-
Dr. Anderson
S.M. Bottrill of 48 Victoria Road
James Butler of Poplar Lodge, Park Terrace, Garstang Road
William Gray of Craigmore, Albert Road
A.E.Healey of Highgate Terrace, 25 Garstang Road
John Healey, J.P. of Stafford House, 65 Victoria Road
John Lancaster of Ash Grove, Nooklands
J.O.Norris of 6 Queens Road
J.W.Pateson of 42 Lower Bank Road
J .Peak of Maybrook, 8 Garstang Road
Thomas Reveley of Park Terrace, 7 Garstang Road
A.Waterworth of Thorncliff, 13 Watling Street Road
T Williams

It will be seen from the above that all the founder members lived within a small area. The addresses of Dr Anderson and Mr. T Williams are not own but it is likely that they lived nearby.

These gentlemen approached Mr. James Gregson, of Highgate Park, who offered them a plot of land east of and adjoining what
is now called Highgate Close on the north side of Watling Street Road. At that time, what is now Highgate Close was one of the main entrances to Mr. Gregson's residence and led over a bridge over the Savick Brook directly to the house. At the Watling Street Road end there were massive stone gate-posts, which remained in position for thirty years or more. There
were similar gate-posts at the Garstang Road entrance to what is now Highgate Avenue but which was then little more than a rough track through an open field.

The Club, therefore, had a prime site centrally situated for the residents of Fulwood.

After the draining and levelling the land, three grass courts were laid. At the time of the opening of the Club, ladies' and gentlemen's changing rooms and a club room had been planned but had not yet been erected. The Preston Guardian reported that 'several games were indulged in and refreshments were partaken of in one of the canvas tents erected on the ground'.

The Club was opened formally by Mr. Richard Veevers, of 8 Lower Bank Road, who played the first ball. In his speech, he claimed to be 'about the oldest resident in Fulwood' so it is unlikely that he became a playing member of the Club! He was the first developer of Lower and Higher Bank Roads on land then known as Fulwood Park.

The founders selected to run the Club were:- Chairman, J .Butler; Captain, Dr. Anderson; Hon. Secretary, S.J.Bottrill; and Hon. Treasurer, W.Gray. Mr. James Gregson was elected President and nine local gentlemen, including Mr. Veevers and the Rev. J. Palmour, the vicar of Fulwood, were elected Vice-Presidents.

Little is known of the detailed activities of the Club for the next few years and there is now no-one surviving who could provide information.

However, it must have prospered as, after six years, in 1897, more courts were required and the Club moved to its present site, only a hundred yards or so up Watling Street Road. There six grass courts were laid thus doubling the number of courts available for play. They were laid by L.Black, a Fulwood landscape gardener, of 27 Watling Street Road. A croquet lawn is said also to have been laid. Nothing is now known of this and it is difficult to imagine on which part of the land it was situated. No attempt was made to compete with Wimbledon by renaming the Club Fulwood Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club! The land sloped up towards Watling Street Road and considerable levelling was necessary. This was to lead to drainage problems in due course. Two hutted buildings, one could almost say cabins, were erected as changing rooms and a third as a club room. They occupied the site of the present buildings. Whether the buildings had been transferred from the original site is a matter of speculation. It is thought that they probably were.

The land for the new courts was rented from the Guardians of the Preston Union, who administered the Union Workhouse up the road and owned the land west of it, which adjoined Mr. Gregson's land. The field between the Club and the Workhouse was known, in later years, as Whiteside' s Field from the name of the one-time tenant who farmed it. A stile was made into the field to allow the more erratic players to recover balls hit over the netting!

The opening ceremony of the new courts was performed by Alderman J .Roper, J.P., the newly elected President of the Club, who struck the first ball on the courts. Alderman Roper paid particular tribute to S.M.Bottrill, who, he said, 'had worked in season and out of season and had been largely instrumental in bringing the Club to its present satisfactory condition'. When not working for the Club, Sammy Bottrill was the proprietor and Headmaster of the private school, Fulwood Grammar School, situated opposite Fulwood Parish Church on the corner of Victoria Road and Albert Road. Some of the future members of the Club had been taught by Sammy Bottrill in their childhood. He was also a founder member of Preston Golf Club which was also founded in 1892.

The costs of removal were met from the small Club funds, much augmented by contributions from members, many of whom paid a double subscription that year.

The Preston Herald of 19th May, 1897, reported:-

'"Nothing succeeds like success!" and, when success is achieved, members rapidly increase and the fortunate club takes rank easily as a recognised institution. The Fulwood Lawn Tennis Club has always been fortunate and, now that the new ground is open, we think that we may predict for the club a cheering career of increasing prosperity. The new ground is upwards of an acre in extent and provides ample accommodation for six lawn tennis courts and a croquet lawn. On the old ground, a very short distance away, there was only room for three courts and that accommodation, owing to the encouraging growth of the club, was quite inadequate for the requirements of the members numbering, at present, about 130. They will always, however, feel extremely grateful to Mr. James Gregson, of Highgate Park, who was good enough to let them have the use of it at a nominal rent and who has been liberal in subscribing to the club's funds. With regard to past competitions by members during the last season, they played seven matches and won six and, in the ladies' competitions only one was lost."

The entrance to the Club was from Watling Street Road. Later, when some of the houses had been built, an entrance was made from the top end of Highgate Avenue, at that time a privately maintained road. During the late 1920s a large hole appeared in the road after which it was adopted and resurfaced by Fulwood Urban District Council.

The available records tell us nothing of the Club's affairs for the next nine years other than that, in 1905, Alderman A. Woods succeeded Mr. Roper as President. In 1906, mention of a new captain of the Club appears in the minutes when Mr. F. Gibbons was appointed. There were now four officials of the Club. Alderman Woods, President; Mr. J .Peak (a founder member), Hon. Secretary; Mr. C. Walsh, Hon Treasurer; and the newly appointed Captain. The office of Chairman had disappeared from the lists in 1897 and it seems likely that, from that time, the Captain presided over Committee meetings as future Captains were to do. In that year, a club tournament was held with an entrance fee of 1/-d and a match was played against Blackpool South Shore Lawn Tennis Club; The first recorded fixture.

In 1907, Mr. G.F.Toulmin was elected Captain and continued as such for the next four years. He was to be Captain from 1917 to 1919. George Toulmin was a member of the well known Preston family, which owned the Lancashire Daily (now Evening) Post and was himself on the paper. In due course he became Editor. He lived in Highgate Avenue and was a very tall man, affectionately nicknamed 'Long George' by the children in the Avenue. His son, John, was, much later, to marry Betty Wilkinson, who served on the Committee and was Hon Treasurer in 1944 and 1945. G.F. Toulmin contributed a great deal to the well-being of the Club.

During the next seven years, until World War I, the Club continued to prosper. The Committee minutes record, inter alia, that 'stone-pop' was made available for sale to members in 1910. E.Anderton and C.A.Peak agreed to be responsible for any losses. In that year, also, a match was played against North Drive Lawn Tennis Club, now the St. Annes-on-Sea Lawn Tennis Club and three ladies were elected to the Committee for the first time. It will be noted that the five male members saw to it that they could not be outvoted! The first recorded Fulwood Tennis Dance was held in 1911. The venue is not stated. An interesting condition imposed by the Committee was that the members of the Dance Sub-committee should be financially responsible for two-thirds of any loss incurred. It sounds as if there might have been some opposition to the function by some members of the main committee. Also, in 1911, the Committee decided that, when the heat in the tea room was oppressive, tables should be laid under the trees and that committee members should use their influence to prevent the formation of small parties in different corners of the ground!

President followed President until 1917, when that office fell into disuse until it was revived in 1937. It is thought that a succession of responsible Captains, who guided the affairs of the Club during those twenty years, made it unnecessary to have anyone in control over them.

The Club encountered difficulties during WWI as many of the male members departed to serve in H.M. Forces. They were transferred to honorary membership for the duration and officers stationed at Fulwood Barracks were admitted to the Club at half subscriptions.

The Club's expenditure was exceeding its income each year and, in 1918, loans were sought from members and an application was made to the Club's landlords for a reduction in the rent of the ground to 5 p.a., failing agreement to which six months notice of the termination of the tenancy was to be given. The result of the application is not recorded. In the following year, subscriptions were increased to 1- Gentlemen, 1.10.0d; Ladies, 1.0.0d; with an entrance fee for new members of 10/6d. After that, the Club's finances must have improved as, in 1920, it was decided that only former members and the near relatives of existing members should be admitted as playing members. Full House!
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