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Club History: Chapter II - 1919 to 1938
A HISTORY OF FULWOOD LAWN TENNIS CLUB
Chapter II
1919 to 1938

In 1922, under Mr. T.P.Powell's captaincy, the grass courts at the north end of the ground (now the car park) were relaid. This was a necessary, if costly, item as those courts had deteriorated badly. This is, perhaps, not altogether surprising as, at about this time, the writer remembers seeing Miss Dorothy Ayton and her sister Ivy, who, it is thought, could be classed as Bright Young Things of the 1920s, attempting to ride a motor-cycle round the courts. The machine belonged to Ernie Attwater, a committee member 1920-24, which may, or may not, account for the fact that he later married Ivy Aytonl Another, club romance in the later 1920s was the marriage of Arthur Eaves, joint Hon Secretary 1923-25, and Winifred Sykes.

Henry Parker Bee succeeded Peel Powell as Captain in 1924 and immediately had to deal with a crisis affecting the whole future of the Club. The Guardians of the Union gave the Club six months notice to vacate the ground!

However the dark clouds passed and, following negotiations, the tenancy was renewed at an annual rent of 30. It was to remain at that figure for many years. An attempt to obtain a lease of the ground met with no success. The continuing annual tenancy, then as later, presented problems when major expenditure on the courts and pavilion was being considered. An attempt was made in the 193Os to purchase the freehold of the land; again with no success.

In the following year, the Fulwood Tennis Dance was held at the Bull and Royal Hotel. The charge for the Derby Room was 2 guineas and the music for dancing was provided by Booths' Cafe orchestra for a fee of 3 guineas. Members paid 1/-d per head for refreshments. Those were the days!

The Club Room, erected in 1897, either never had a wall on the front overlooking the courts or, if it had originally, it had been removed or, perhaps, fallen off. The front was, instead, covered with wire netting, which from a distance, gave the effect of a cage at a zoo with the human inmates milling around inside it. When exactly this 'improvement' had been carried out is not known but the 'rabbit hutch' as it was affectionately called, was there for a number of years in the early 1920s [to the writer's recollection]. There was no lighting in the pavilion until gas was installed in 1925. Thereafter sometimes, on Saturday evenings, there was impromptu dancing to the music of gramophone records. The dancing couples presented a bizarre appearance in the gas-lit pavilion viewed from the Highgate Avenue entrance to the Club.

By the late 1920s, the wooden front had been replaced, with windows from which to watch the play on the two middle courts. The interior was sparsely and spartanly furnished with two trestle tables and four wooden benches at and on which members took the Fulwood Tennis Club teas; which have continued until the present day. The only other furniture was a notice board outside the changing rooms, on which the names of those selected to play for the Club teams were pinned. The changing rooms too were pretty primitive being furnished only with a bench and a few hooks. It was at about this time that the custom of a summer strawberry tea started. It was provided at the expense of the male members of the committee and one or two others.

A junior membership was introduced in 1923 but, for a long time, they were definitely third class citizens. They were allowed to play only on weekday mornings; and then only if the courts were not required by senior members, who had no hesitation in turning off juniors in the middle of a game! As a result there were few junior members. Many of the local children were at schools away from Preston so they were confined to the school holidays in any case. Coaching of juniors was unheard of. Their practice was against garage doors at their homes or, in the case of Highgate Avenue residents, in the road. A rough court was sometimes marked out with chalk.

By 1926, the two grass courts adjoining Watling Street Road were in a poor condition. The drainage was not good and the grass was affected by two large overhanging pear trees in the house next door in Watling Street Road, 'Fairmont', now re-built as a rest home, occupied, as it happened, by a member, T.M.Naylor, the head of Preston Technical College. It was, therefore, decided to relay them as hard courts and the contract was given to En Tout Cas, the premier supplier of shale courts. To meet the then high cost of 295, donations were, once again, sought and received from members and the Club's first bank overdraft was negotiated. The turf taken from the the courts was sold for 6/-d per ton.

The new courts proved very popular and, with their good drainage, a winter membership was introduced at an additional subscription of 15/-d Ii.a. The En Tout Cas courts lasted for many years with careful attention from the groundsman employed by the Club and it was not until 1947, 21 years later, that it was necessary for them to be resurfaced.

J .Peak, who had served the Club with distinction, was honoured by being elected the first Honorary Life Member in 1926. He had been Hon. Secretary in 1906-08, a member of the Committee between 1906 and 1910 and was a founder member. In the early days of the Club he had played an important part in its progress and over the years he had retained a great interest in the Club's affairs. Forty years were to pass before the next Hon.Life Member was elected.

The Club was affiliated to the Lancashire County Lawn Tennis Association in 1927. In that Year the Club's membership was 104 playing members, 18 non-playing and 18 house and juniors. Friendly home and away matches were played regularly at this time by both Ladies and Gentlemen's teams; nearly always against clubs from outside Preston although a match against Penwortham Lawn Tennis Club is recorded in 1931. The committee had to be careful in arranging matches as the members in general disapproved of the courts not being available for general play on Saturday afternoons. The fixtures were, therefore, restricted to three home and three away matches. Clubs played in the 1930s included East Lancashire L.T.C., Blackpool South Shore L.T.C., Marton L.T.C., Fairhaven L.T.C.; and North Meols L.T.C. and Sphynx L.T.C. at Southport. After the matches in Blackpool visits were sometimes paid to the Pleasure Beach and the Hesketh Arms and the Bold Hotel in Southport became well known to the Fulwood team members. The men's teams included Henry Bee, Greville Berry, R.H.Beetham, Arthur Bottrill (son of Sammy Bottrill, one of the founder members), Maurice Croft, George Cruickshank, Arthur and Eddie Eaves, Jim Heys, Terry Heyworth, Basil Malthouse, Harry Meynell, J .Morley (one of H.M. Inspectors of Taxes), T.M.Naylor, Leighton Treasure, Tom Nicholson, Eric Robinson, Leslie Thornber, Gordon Wilson and D.A. Bee. Members of the Ladies' teams included Muriel Bryan, Eileen Coachaf'er, Mildred Dewhurst, Winifred Eaves, Muriel Hazlitt, Elma Bee, Mrs Phillips and Isabel Thornber. The team play was of good club standard and, only once, was Arthur Eaves invited to play for the Lancashire County 2nd team. No other member achieved such fame before WW2 but Leighton Treasure played Badminton regularly for Scotland. He was responsible for founding the Preston Badminton Club around 1930, of which the majority of the founder members came from Fulwood Lawn Tennis Club.

A Preston and District Nursing Association Tennis Tournament came into being in 1928. The first Chariman of the Tournament Committee was Counciller Vitty. He was suceeded by Pemberton of the Nursing Association. Mr. Pemberton was a man of great enthusiasm and genial character and invariably wore a straw boater when watching the tournament progress. He much enjoyed introducing the prizewinners at successive finals' days of the tournament. Local people of importance were invited to present trophies for the ten open and handicap events. There were the Toulmin, Croft and Collison Trophies and seven others. The Hon. Organisers were Henry Bee, by that time Captain of the Club, and Frank Brandwood. They were succeeded, in due course by Bob Beetham, Jim Heys and the D.A. Bee. All clubs in the district were invited to give the use of some or all of their courts during certain days of the fortnight over which the tournament was played. Members of the participating clubs entered the tournament together with those who played on the public courts in the parks. No entries were accepted from outside the proscribed Preston District. The organisation of the large number of players, entering up to six events to be played at up to half a dozen separate clubs, presented difficulties. The system the Hon. Organisers invented is still in use in a modified form.

The Nursing Tournament, as it became known, proved to be a good thing for local tennis. Members of the participating clubs got to know each other and there were a number of 'finds' of promising young players. Fulwood, as usual, took a leading part in organising and supporting the tournament.

The Club's two middle courts opposite the club house became due for urgent attention and, the first two hard courts having proved so satisfactory, it was decided, in 1932. to convert them from grass to shale. The Club, as usual, being short of funds, donations from members were again called for further facilities from the bank were agreed.

The contract for laying the courts was given to the Standwell Hard Court Company of Bury, whose quotation was much less than that, of En Tout Cas. This economy proved to have been a mistake as the Standwell courts were never really satisfactory. The En Tout Cas courts, laid six years earlier, were sought after for play in preference to the new ones.

The general standard of play in the Club varied from year to year. There were, as in most clubs, the awkward members and, of course, the rabbits. The committee tried hard to see that all members had their fair share of the courts and one was expected to make up a four from those who had been waiting longest for a court. A certain amount of jockeying took place and it was strange how often a 'good men's four' appeared on the courts.

In the later 1930s some stealing of small amounts of cash from the changing rooms occurred. The Committee investigated and the culprit was traced and left the Club.

The social side of the Club was good although the emphasis was on the playing of tennis rather than other activities. There was a table tennis table that was used between games but there was no bar and liquid refreshment on the premises was confined to minerals. These were sold on a trust basis, pay for what you take, and regular losses were incurred. The absence of small change was the usual reason. Excellent home-made ice cream was obtainable from the shop of Mesdames Grimshaw and Pomfret and, particularly in the hot weather, there was regular traffic from the Club to their premises at the corner of Albert Road and Victoria Road.

Some members required something a little stronger after an evening's hard play and, at dusk, members, in immaculate white flannels and colourful blazers, could be seen heading west down Watling Street Road to the Withy Trees Hotel. In those days, tennis gear was a little conspicuous in a public house but the landlord, Walter Taylor, made the tennis players welcome. After a period of probation, some were even admitted to a room occupied, by custom, only by senior regulars, known, aptly, as The House of Lords. The pub billiards table was used occasionally and sometimes, towards closing time, Club members would join in the revelry in the Singing room.

The lighting in the club room and the changing rooms was, at last, converted from gas to electricity in 1936; a great improvement. In 1937, Henry Parker Bee, the Captain for the past twelve years, died at the early age of 58. He was playing tennis to within a few months of his death. In his memory, two silver cigarette boxes were bought as trophies for the future winners of the Ladies and Gentlemen's Handicap Singles events in the annual Club tournament. Raymond Williams, the Lancashire County Surveyor, took over the captaincy for a period of one year and the office of President was revived after a twenty year interval. George Toulmin filled this office for a year, after which, Jim Dewhurst, another long serving member, took over. He was to continue in office for the next twenty years until 1958.

In 1939, Derek Bee was elected Captain rather, revered, he claims, because he happened to captain of the 1st team than because of any particular merit. He had, however, had some experience as Hon.Treasurer since 1933, when Cecil Richards, The Hon Treasurer for the previous ten years died; and as a member of the Ground Sub-committee, which inspected the courts weekly and gave instructions to the groundsman. There were also some changes on the Committee and, at the instigation of the Captain, a notice appeared on the board 'Children will not be allowed in the Club after 5.00pm on weekdays and 12 noon at weekends'. It was firmly believed that the Club was a place for tennis and not a children's playground!

The Club has been blessed with a succession of Hon. Secretaries, whose names are listed in the Appendix. Service in excess of three years was given by Douglas DaIl (1909 & 1910 and 1915 to 1920); Paddy Tracy (1930 to 1934); George Cruickshank (1935 to 1939); Alice Duxbury (1941 to 1944); Barbara Nutter (1947 to 1953); and Winifred Eaves (1954-58). Others were to give even longer service in later years as mentioned in Part II. Paddy Tracy, a widower, lived at Sunny Bank in West Road. George Cruickshank was the Deputy Director of Education for Lancashire and lived in Higher Bank Road in part of a house that had been divided into two that had earlier been Miss Shappel's kindergarten school, attended by some members in their childhood. Both Paddy and George were hospitable people and it was not unusual for a party to adjourn from the Club to one or other of their houses for a game of pontoon, poker or even darts. George and Nancy Cruickshank had a small son, Sammy, of whom George once said "we called him Samuel because he is often called in the night"!

In the mid-30s, Paddy Tracy married Jean Renton, a Club member, who was on the staff of the Park School, which provided several other members.

In 1937, the office of Vice-President was created and eleven members who had given past service to the Club were elected to that position. Their names and those of members later so honoured appear in the Appendix.

At about this time, another social activity was to dance at Quinneys (now the Pig and Whistle), a cafe restaurant on the Blackpool Road at Lea. The music was supplied by the radio broadcasts by Ambrose and his Orchestra, Harry Roy, Roy Fox and others. They went off the air at midnight and, on occasions owing to the lack of transport, members had to walk back to Fulwood.

One day in the late 1930s, a thick iron bar between concrete posts appeared across the whole of the Club frontage at the top end of Highgate Avenue. It had been erected overnight and it completely blocked the entrance to the ground. By whom and why it had been erected was never found out. It was suspected that a resident of Highgate Avenue had objected to the traffic, at that time pedestrian or bicycle only, past their house. The fence disappeared equally quickly and quietly within a very short time!
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