Towards the end of the fifties the village was slowly returning to normal after the Second World War. The village school had been rebuilt after the direct hit from an enemy bomb, and in order to raise money to encourage sport in the village the Long Marston Sports Association was formed. This enabled us to apply for any grants that were on offer. Money had been raised for a new village hall; football and cricket were in full swing, albeit both sports on the recreation ground with the help of a concrete wicket! So thoughts were starting to turn to tennis.
Duncan Mead, the pioneer of the current farm shop with a stall outside his house, very generously allowed the youth of the village to play on his court at Highover, Gubblecote one evening a week, in the same way that Major Stoddart allowed the Cheddington youth to play on his court at the manor.
But naturally our aspirations were higher than this so with the support of the Sports Association an open meeting was called in the new village hall for anyone who was interested. A good turnout ensued and a small committee was formed with Bill Milsom: Chairman, Michael Tomlinson: Treasurer and yours truly as secretary. The year was 1960, I remember it well as I was heavily pregnant with my third offspring so there was not going to be much action from me! We kicked (or rather served) off with a handful of members at a subscription of £1 pa. The first subscription came in from Miss Calder the village Headmistress as a sign of support, I don’t think she ever played.
Fund raising began, aided by small grants from Dacorum Council and the LTA. The one from Dacorum came with the proviso that the courts should be open to all on payment of a fee, and this pertains to this day. Visitors to the village and inhabitants are all welcome to use the courts.
So the court was built on the recreation ground, just the one, not enough money or room for two, and no clubhouse. And the Long Marston Tennis Club was born, and very quickly Badminton was added and played on Thursday evenings in the winter as an alternative to tennis
Soon friendly tennis matches with other local clubs were arranged and we all got very competitive, but our Chairman was a bit appalled by the apparel some of us turned up in and insisted that whites should be worn for matches!! However, this was not always welcomed by all players especially on one memorable occasion when we all turned out in our whites, a bit like an advertisement for Daz!! to find only 3 players from the opposition at the venue, which was a grass court in the garden of a local farmer. Once we had knocked up and being assured that their fourth player would appear, a young man strolled out of the nearest cow shed, jeans and bobble hat in place, this will be easy we thought until he proceed to stroll round the court hitting balls we had never seen the like of before, I don’t think anyone got a game off him. It was quite difficult after that to insist on the white rule!! And look at the top players today, anything but white, the exception being Wimbledon of course
Of course, as today, players do like to make up their own double or single games and there was one memorable mens four who played on a Sunday morning at 10am. Organised by Archie Bracher who extracted 10p a minute from each player who was late on court.
We all took our tennis extremely seriously so seriously in fact that I well remember one couple who reached the semi final of the ladies singles only to toss a coin to see who should go through to play the clubs leading singles player in the final!!! No one would get away with that today.
The next milestone was the move to Emma’s orchard in Cheddington Lane where we play to this day. We leased the Orchard from a Mrs. Harrington for £20 a year for 28 years this expired in 2005 and was renewed for a further 20 years at £200 pa which is now paid to her daughter. Mrs. Harrington didn’t live in the village, but had a great attachment to Long Marston through her family.
Fund raising began in earnest in 1977 and great initiative was shown including bowling for a pig at the Tring Donkey Derby, although I gather the pig changed into a lamb when it was discovered that a licence had to be obtained to move a pig!! (the winner could have it alive or ready for the freezer)! Grants were also obtained again as follows:
Dacorum Council – £2,680.00
Herts Playing Fields Association – £200.
Loans were also obtained from:
Herts Playing Fields Association – £500
National Playing Fields Association – £600
Dacorum Council – £600
The members also provided loans of £975 (the majority of which were never called in).
So after three long years of fund raising the courts were eventually laid down in 1980. The first clubhouse was a caravan and the second a wooden shed which was burnt down, these were used whilst planning permission for the current clubhouse was applied for, this was erected in 1983 and is the envy of every club in the league who plays here, spotlessly kept by the current members.
So the Tennis club thrived and prospered to where we are today with 60 adult members and 33 children. The adult subscription is now £65pa. We put out four teams in the winter and six in the summer in the Aylesbury and District League (we are founder members of this). For a village side this is no mean feat, playing clubs three times our size: Berkhamsted, Great Missenden, Halton and Aylesbury to name but a few.
The big challenge at the moment is getting permission from Dacorum for floodlighting the courts. We are the only club in the league without floodlighting and it is desperately needed to in order to bring the facilities up to standard and to remain competitive with all the other local clubs. This has been ongoing since 2000, unlike in neighbouring counties, the planners have not been sympathetic.
This memoire sadly does not have room to record the generations of Chairmen, secretaries, Treasurers and committee members who have contributed so much over 60 years, there would just be too many to mention. Suffice it to say that our current Chairman, Jane Dean: Secretary, Margaret Kelland: Treasurer, Andrew Screech and all the committee members are acutely conscious of the huge debt we owe to our forerunners who have made the Long Marston Tennis club the success that it is today.
Article was written by Joan Dean.
For further information see the Long Marston Tennis Club website.