By Geoffrey Cordingley

In 1894 the tennis club was playing at Balls Park as part of the Hertford Town Cricket, Lawn Tennis & Football Club. A comment later in the committee meeting minutes suggests that the club was re-established there around 1882. Football seems to have been tolerated rather than encouraged and finally disappeared from Balls Park between 1989 and 1901.

Photo:This photograph may look similar to how playing tennis in front of Balls Park might have looked.  Taken from Country Life in America, April 1907

This photograph may look similar to how playing tennis in front of Balls Park might have looked. Taken from Country Life in America, April 1907- tennisite museum

Tennis in the 1890s

It's difficult to understand quite how the courts were organised, since there would have been no exterior supports and netting without which we could not play to-day. Be that as it may the club had four courts, possibly on the lawn in front of the mansion at Balls Park or on the cricket outfield, and played, it seems, on Fridays, in the evenings and on Saturdays when there was no cricket match. Cricket was played on Thursdays (half-day closing for the shops) and Saturdays. Of course, since grass courts were used, the season lasted from the end of April/early May to the end of August/early September depending very much on the weather.

Men played in a shirt and a pair of flannels whilst women played in long skirts an blouses. The racquets they used were wood with a straight end and gut strings.

The club used a horse, sometimes borrowed, sometimes hired for the season, to pull the roller and used lawn mowers, one of which was also pulled by the horse, to cut the grass. The minutes of the committee meeting held on 22nd April 1897 contain the comment “Purchase of a horse was discussed at some length and caused great amusement.” The Cost of such a purchase was not to exceed £8. In the 1905 season the club was required to pay the Vets fee and associated costs when Mr Cox's horse (of Ware) had an accident, (no detail specified), when "turned out" at night. In the 1906 season the committee members seemed worried of the risk should the hired horse die!

In the late 19th century and into the 20th the tennis section of the club was very much the junior partner. Until 1894 it seems that they paid less subscription than the cricketers. At the committee meeting on 7th June that year it was resolved that “ ...all lawn tennis players on the Club ground in Balls Park will be required to pay the full subscription."  Notice was to be given that no reduced payment can be taken for part of the season or for Saturday play.

This resolution may have been prompted by the financial state of the club which was not good. The club was likely to be in deficit to the order of £20 at the end of the financial year, unless an "Entertainment" could be arranged. Holding an entertainment or concert was a common way the club managed to help increase its income. The one this year was to include the Royal Handbell Ringers, conducted by Duncan S. Miller.

This problem with liquidity dogged the club through the turn of the century and almost up to the First World War.

A New Tenancy Agreement

1894 was an important year for the club because Mr. Stoddard, one of the joint honorary secretaries, had a discussion late in the year with Mr. G. Faudel Phillips, (his father was Sir Benjamin Samuel Phillips who took the Faudel from a maternal uncle), about the future tenancy at Balls Park. It was agreed on the following terms:

  1. Annual rent of Ground to be £17 - as before.

  2. Whole of ground may be fenced in.

  3. Water to be taken by a meter, (fixed at Club's expense).

  4. Football to be allowed. Extra rent will be required but money will be returned to Club.


At the AGM in April, 1895, it was recorded that there were 55 cricket members, 35 men tennis players with 22 ladies, and 7 joint cricket and tennis members, 119 members in total. The club committee ran the cricket and football sections and a sub-committee ran the tennis club. The tennis sub-committee had a secretary who in some years seems to have been a joint secretary of the whole club.

The club allowed other institutions to use the ground and the tennis courts were made available to Christ's Hospital School in 1896 for 2 guineas (£2.2s.0d) a year. From 1897 the ground was let to the Ladies Hockey Club in the winter for £2 but the players must stay off the cricket table and have their pitch where the club secretary specified! A proposal by Rev. A.G. Lingley, in October 1896, to form a hockey section of the club was defeated.

In 1896 the club also bought some stop netting costing £6.2s.6d for the tennis section. Tennis balls were regularly sold after use which added a small amount to the income.

Photo:Accounts for a concert held in February, 1898 to raise money for the club

Accounts for a concert held in February, 1898 to raise money for the club

The New Pavilion

The club finances improved and in 1898 a new pavilion (now the old pavilion at Balls Park!) was built by Mr Salmon of Bengeo for £128.15s.0d. Dr. Tasker Evans of Fore Street was heavily involved in obtaining funds to cover the cost and a plaque created in oak by Herbert Peck, stonemason, also of Fore Street, was attached to the pavilion. Also the doctor was given a gold match box which was the result of subscriptions raised from the club members in gratitude for his efforts.

There was a tennis club at Froghall and the roller was loaned to it in August 1900 for 3/- without horse shoes and 5/- with!


Photo:The "Wingfield" Costume with 18" skirt

The "Wingfield" Costume with 18" skirt - tennisite museum

Throughout the first ten years of the decade there was a continual fight to keep the club solvent. By March 1901 there was still £29.15s.0d still owing on the new pavilion account and an adverse balance of £12.3s.0d which had accumulated over the last two years. An entertainment was not thought appropriate because of the waging of the War in S. Africa, (The Second Boer War). However Mr. Farrow who was the cricket scorer, was appointed assistant secretary and charged with collecting club subscriptions with the incentive of 5% commission. (The payment of subscriptions was an on-going problem.)  This was obviously an effective way to collect subs as he collected £74 and gained £3.14.0 in commission. (He was also remunerated with £2.6.0 on £46 he collected in 1902.) Later in March, some of the members became guarantors for a loan of £60 to allow the debts to be paid and the club to open for sport.

In 1901, at a club committee meeting after a second AGM that year, 25 people were accepted as members of Lawn Tennis Club and a tennis sub-committee was appointed. It seems that the tennis section was flourishing, since it is recorded in the minutes, “.... that the entire management of Lawn Tennis & Croquet be referred to the Lawn Tennis Sub-Committee and that the powers of the Committee with regard to framing of Rules, the electing Lawn Tennis & Croquet Members, and the management of the Ground for those games, subject to the requirements of the Cricket Club, which shall in every case take precedence, be delegated to the Sub-committee, but the sub-committee shall have no power of spending money or incurring liabilities without the consent of the Committee or in case of emergency of the Secretary.”  Further Mr P.R. Longmore asked for one night in the week to be given to lawn tennis but although agreeing in principle, the committee could not agree a night.

Presumably the tennis section had created rules by May, since it was then decided to create general rules for the club since the tennis section and the cricket club each had their own rules. A further 57 new tennis members had joined and croquet mallets were being bought.

In July it was agreed that Friday be set aside for tennis, so no cricket would be played on that day of the week.

By November, 1901 the club was back in the black and the guarantors were released from their obligations. Mr. Farrow was thanked for collecting the subscriptions.


At the AGM in February, 1902 the rules were modified to include a minimum subscription for full Cricket, Lawn Tennis £1.0.0 (£1.1.0); for full Cricket 12/-; for Lawn tennis only - Gentlemen 12/- Ladies 10/- (15/-); for Cricket Practice and Saturday Team only 5/- (10/-) The amounts in brackets are the revised figures agreed at the committee meeting on March 16th, 1902.

A Hertfordshire Mercury report stated, “the past season {1901} was in many respects a most successful one. Lawn-tennis, which had been moribund for several years, had been revived, and had attracted a very large number of supporters. Provision had also been made for croquet, and although the grounds were too bad to encourage many exponents of the game, it was hoped next season (if adequate promises of support could be obtained) that the Club would be able to provide grounds which would prove an attraction to many croquet-players in the town and neighbourhood. The Committee felt it only just to record their appreciation of the services rendered to the Club by the Lawn Tennis & Croquet sub-committee and its secretary, Mr Fulton.” The lawn tennis & croquet sections now included 44 lady members and 30 gentlemen.


At the AGM in March, 1903, Lady Faudel Phillips was elected President of the lawn tennis section, a position to which she was re-elected every year until her death in 1916.

The subscriptions for tennis that year were £29.13.6 just under half those for the cricket section. A similar situation continued for a couple of years until the cricket club subscriptions began to swamp the tennis ones.


By 1904 the tennis section was growing in stature as it was agreed that tennis could be played on some Thursdays if there was no cricket match being played.


At the end of October, 1907 an EGM was held to consider the reconstruction of the tennis club, although the reason this was thought necessary was not specified.  Judging by a sub-committee report, see later, it seems that the trend to increased membership of the tennis section had been reversed. 

“.... it was finally decided that the Tennis Section of the club as at present constituted be wound up, and that a Sub-Committee, {Messrs G.R. Henry, R. Sutherland, S.P. Godsell, S.W. Howe & A.K. Gibson}, be appointed to consider and report to the General Meeting in February 1908 of the Club, as to the possibility of reconstructing the Tennis Club and if they deem reconstruction possible, the lines upon which they recommend it should be formed.”

The Sub-committee Report

As can be seen from the report of the sub-committee this did not seem practical but there appeared to be no reason why the tennis section could not continue in a similar way to the way it was run at the present time but with more autonomy and a set day for playing which had happened earlier in the century.

This report was considered at the AGM in February, 1908. “The Report of the Special Sub-Committee with regard to Lawn Tennis was read by the Chairman. 'The Sub-committee carefully considered the question and made numerous enquiries amongst many classes of persons residing in the town with a view of seeing whether it were possible to obtain active support for the Tennis Club if it were reconstituted upon a fresh basis, and the Sub-Committee are unanimously of the opinion that reconstruction is impracticable for the following reasons.

(1) The great difficulty that would be experienced in obtaining fresh players.

(2) Competition of neighbouring clubs.

(3) General lack of enthusiasm coupled with the fact that there appears to be no desire upon the part of the townspeople for the formation of a fresh club.

The Sub-Committee however having carefully considered the matter think it is feasible and desirable to continue the Tennis Club upon Self-Supporting lines if certain alterations are made in the management of the club. In particular the Sub-committee think it essential that Rule 10 should be altered so as to give the Lawn Tennis Sub-committee power to expend a sum not exceeding £5 in connection with the Lawn Tennis and Croquet Section as considerable delay and inconvenience has been experienced in the past owing to the Tennis Club Committee having no power to expend money and it is thought that in view of the fact that the subscriptions of the Tennis members amount to over £30 per annum this is not an unreasonable suggestion to make.

The sub-committee recommend as follows.

(1) That the Tennis Club be continued on the same lines as before.

(2) That a Sub-Committee of three persons, one of whom shall if possible be a lady, be appointed to manage the details of the Lawn Tennis Section of the Club with a view to encouraging more interest amongst the members, and that all official notices be sent out by the Secretary of the Club and all demands and receipts for subscriptions be issued by him.

(3) That there is a fixed day in the week exclusively set apart for Lawn Tennis and Croquet and that this day be preferably Friday.

(4) That efforts be made to induce members who have hitherto confined themselves to Cricket to play Lawn Tennis also, especially on the days set apart exclusively for Lawn Tennis.

(5) That with a view to creating greater interest an American tournament be arranged early in the Season, each couple entering to have played a fixed number of matches by a certain date thus ensuring more play on the Courts.

(6) That towards the middle or end of the Season a club tournament on the knock out principle be arranged.

(7) That matches be arranged with other clubs.

(8) That the question of providing tea upon the days exclusively set apart for Lawn Tennis be left to the members of the Club and that the Tennis Sub-Committee be directed to arrange the dates with them.

(9) That any member of the club be allowed to introduce five guests on any day upon which he or she may be providing tea irrespective of whether they reside in the town or not.

(10) That the Tennis Sub-Committee be authorised to expend a sum not exceeding £5 in connection with the Lawn Tennis and Croquet expenses.”

This report was adopted and the minutes went on to state that the club should look into the possibility of altering the back of the pavilion to allow ladies a room of their own. Presumably it was considered this would attract more lady members.

However, all the sub-committee's efforts seem to have come to nought since, in spite of the decisions of the AGM, the club  committee at a meeting 21 days later was presented with proposals by Mr L.L. Hammond (who presumably was the organiser) and signed by many members of the club, (presumably cricketers), which overturned much of what had been agreed at the EGM. The proposals were:

(1) That one Hon: Sec: be appointed, who shall have sole control of the funds of the Club, subject to the Committee's approval.

(2) That no permanent sub-Committees be appointed.

(3) That no day be set aside for Lawn Tennis to the exclusion of cricket practice, as any inconvenience caused thereby can easily be obviated by additional stop-netting, it being understood that no tennis be played while cricket matches are in progess.

(4) That there be no differentiation between cricket and tennis.

(5) That Monday be considered the club day for Lawn Tennis.

An EGM was arranged and so one month after the sub-committee's proposals had been accepted they were put aside and these later proposals were accepted, having been voted on individually. So much then for tennis section autonomy. It appears the cricketers wanted to keep control of the club and have first call on the grounds.


However at least one of the sub-committees recommendations was taken up since, in March, 1909 it was decided to organise tennis matches (men only) if possible with Broxbourne, Hitchin, Hatfield & Cheshunt. And later in the year a club tournament was arranged.

The need for side netting for the courts was identified but the cost was not to exceed £3!

1910 - 12

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Hertford Lawn Tennis Club' page

In 1908 & 1909 the club had 100 male members but no ladies. In 1910 there were 97 males and 8 ladies. By 1911 this had become 120 men and 18 ladies.

Frog Hall Tennis Club disbanded in 1910 and it was considered that this would probably lead to a few more members joining Hertford. Perhaps some of the ladies from this tennis club were some of the 18 ladies who joined Hertford in 1910.

In July 1910 it was decided to keep the number of tennis courts at four as the season is half over and because of the extra expense involved. However increasing the number to six was raised again at the end of 1911.

Photo:Income and Expenditure Account for 1911 AGM

Income and Expenditure Account for 1911 AGM

In 1911 it was decided to lay on water to the pavilion and install a shower bath. As a result of this expense and the possibility of incorporating a ladies' dressing room into the pavilion it was decided to post a notice in the pavilion stating:

“That owing to the extra expense in providing new dressing rooms etc. the Committee are unable to provide new tennis balls oftener than 2 dozen every three weeks & members wanting then more frequently are requested to make their own arrangements.”

Indeed at the AGM in February 1912 it was decided not to providing tennis balls at the club's expense. An alternative proposal to raise the subscription of the lady members was discussed at some length but eventually defeated. However in March at a committee meeting it was decided to have six courts in the following summer and to allow three dozen balls every three weeks for the six courts.

In May it was decided that members are entitled to introduce friends as temporary tennis members at a charge of 2/6 per week. Also boys can be introduced by members to be admitted for the holidays at a subscription of 5/-. These proposals were confirmed by the next AGM (March 1913) although only members' friends resident three miles or more from Balls Park were allowed to be temporary members.


Photo:Notice for clubhouse

Notice for clubhouse

The Secretary reported to the AGM in March 1913:

Tennis has gone ahead again during 1912, the membership still being on the increase. 5 matches were played during the Season resulting in 2 wins – both over Hitchin - & 3 loses, against Haileybury once & Ware twice. Mr M Girling, (tennis section secretary), can look back upon the years work with great satisfaction, as nearly every fine evening all 6 courts were occupied.”

In September, the committee agreed that there be no cricket practice on days upon which there are tennis matches, a list of which will be posted in the pavilion before the 31st of May.

In May 1914 Christ's Hospital School staff were accepted as members at 12/6 until the end of July, the end of the school year.


Photo:Notice the lack of perimeter netting even for a prestigous tournament

Notice the lack of perimeter netting even for a prestigous tournament - tennisite museum

1917 -21

Cricket, mainly practice, and tennis continued at Balls Park through the early war years, until 1917 when Sir Benjamin Faudel Phillips (Sir George's son) who now lived in the mansion, decided to use the field for hay production.  Cricket was allowed to return (in 1920) but tennis had to find a new home. In spite of the conflicts which occasionally arose between the two sections, the cricketer members seemed keen to maintain the club as one even though they would be playing on different grounds. This was probably because the subscriptions raised from the tennis members were considered necessary to help keep the cricket club going.

The Tennis Club moves

Finding an alternative site for tennis had proved a difficult task and the committee had eventually approached Sir Charles Longmore with reference to a field just below Mr. Norbury's gardens, at the rear of the Cowper School in London Road and he offered to let the ground for £20 per annum. This was eventually agreed after the club decided it could raise the estimated £250 necessary to level the ground for four courts, lay turf and provide the necessary netting.

At a meeting at the Shire Hall, where there was a good attendance nearly all of whom were tennis players, Mr. Etheridge was very optimistic and said he thought the money could be raised. Mr. Leonard Partridge had generously offered £50, an unnamed gentleman had offered £10 and if they could get forty members to give 2 guineas (£2.2s.0d) each they would be well on the way. Surely, they could raise £100 by dances and other forms of entertainment. It was thought unwise to separate the two clubs since members would not pay two subscriptions and if there were two clubs, half would join one section and the half the other.

The fund was obviously successfully raised since the next AGM (1920) was informed that the courts had been laid out and the financial statement showed a balance of £14.16s.6d. The appeal for funds had resulted in sixty-five sportsmen who had donated a total of £252.8s.4d. Expenses were particularly heavy and £217.13s.9d had been spent on preparing four courts with the cost of turf, wire and supports to "inclose" the courts and the pavilion to come. This would be roughly another £50. Once the courts were fenced they would be ready for play.

Subscriptions were decided at the following rates: cricket £2 2s, tennis £2 2s, combined cricket and tennis £3 3s,under 21s £1 1s each section or £2 2s combined, non-playing members 10s 6d, daily visitors 2s and holiday members 10s.

Dr. J. Burnett Smith who was in the chair suggested at the end of the meeting that perhaps the Corporation of Hertford should be approached to give a field for cricket and tennis as it was its responsibility to do something for the young men of the town. Alternatively it might provide a sum of money for the purpose of the club.

A committee was appointed to run the tennis section. It consisted of Messrs. Etheridge, Stuart Purkiss Ginn, B.W. Girling and A.E. Bunning.

The Lease for London Road

The lease, dated 12th June 1920 for "Lease of land situated on London Road commencing September 29th 1919." The term of years was 21 years, determinable at expiration of 7th or 14th year. The rent was £20 per annum.  The lease was signed by Sir Charles Elton Longmore, on behalf of Christ's Hospital, in the presence of JJ Alderton, 20 Raynham Road, Hertford, Solicitors Clerk. It was between Sir Charles Elton Longmore, on the one hand, and Arthur Exton Bunning, Reginald Etheridge, Brough Watson Girling, Walter Windham Golding, Stuart Purkiss Purkiss-Ginn and Walter Stanley Hoare Esquires as agents for and on behalf of the Hertford Town Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club to hold all that piece of meadow or pasture land (formerly Glebe land*) containing two acres or thereabouts situated in or near the London Road in that part of the parish of Hertford which was formerly Parish of St. John Hertford aforesaid.

The members were very enthusiastic for this new site and at great cost they built a pavilion and laid down 4 grass and 2 hard courts (shale or clay courts). The site was considered good enough for County Matches to be played there.

Play continued here until the mid-60s when the advent of the relief road and the widening of London Road meant that the land was re-designated as building land.  Christ's Hospital trustees decided that it was necessary to maximise the school's income and that the land would be sold for building.  As a consequence the tennis club needed to find another site.  This will be covered in a future article.

* Glebe land was land belonging to a benefice and so by default to its incumbent ( the priest.)

Note: Throughout this period monetory amounts were expressed as pounds (£), shillings (s) and pence (d).  One pound (£) consisted of 20 shillings and one shilling was 20 pence.  On decimalisation in February, 1971, a pound was split into 100 new pence, so each new pence was worth 2½d.  To give some idea of what the amounts discussed would be worth to-day: £1 required for club subscription in 1903 is calculated to be worth £100 to-day; £20 for ground rent of the London Road site in 1919 would be worth £1000 today

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