A Hundred Years Of Tennis On The Village Green
In the latter years of the 19th century the comparatively new sport of tennis became extremely popular in Beecroft. There were a number of private tennis courts in the new suburb, as many of the allotments were generous in size. In 1895 a group of residents formed the Kennedya Tennis Club, playing on the court of Mr Henry Perdriau in Copeland Road. By 1898, needing more courts, they were able to lease land on the Village Green. Two courts were constructed for £50. Play began in January 1899. A handicap tournament for ‘mixed couples’ was played in that year and young Joseph and Dora Seale (Dora was to be women’s singles champion in 1939) were the winners. A garden fete was held to raise funds for the club and inter-club matches were played. By 1902 three courts and a small pavilion catered for between 30 and 40 regular players. During World War 1 Beecroft Tennis Club, along with many local organisations, raised funds to support the war effort, as attested by a framed certificate that still hangs in the clubhouse. In 1916 a Red Cross Tennis Competition held on both Beecroft and Cheltenham Clubs’ courts raised more than £50.
Between the Wars
After WW1, members decided to build two new grass courts, convert the three existing gravel courts to grass and extend the pavilion. A £50 bank loan was secured and repaid, but in 1921 additions to the pavilion cost $201. A fete on the Village Green in 1920 and another in 1921 brought in £145 and £148 respectively. In 1921, now that the Club had become a lawn tennis club, it became affiliated with the New South Wales Lawn Tennis Association, the forerunner of Tennis New South Wales, and began entering teams in the inter-club Badge Competition. A special loan fund was set up and members lent the club sums at 5% interest. Many of these loans, however, were still not repaid in 1939. Many sums contributed were small but Dr Holt lent £50 as did Mr Robert Vicars of Cheltenham, principal of Vicars Woollen Mills.
The 1930s depression affected the club’s finances seriously. Subscriptions brought in £240 in the year ended July 1930 but two years later, at the height of the Depression, they had fallen to £152 when annual fees had been reduced. It may have been at this time, to save groundsman’s fees, that the members were called on during the summer closure to plant grass and do the topdressing. These annual working bees continued until 1982.
Wally Hall, a ‘partially paid’ fireman at Beecroft Fire Station, was groundsman in the 1930s. His dual roles could conflict. On one occasion Wally was working on the courts when he heard the siren of the fire engine and observed it setting off to attend a fire. Children at Beecroft Public School enjoyed the spectacle of Wally racing back to the fire station to collect his bicycle. He was then seen peddling as hard as he could after the fire engine, cheered on by the children in the school playground.
1940s – 1960s
Beecroft remained small enough for Badge and social players to mix at social tournaments, but men, especially Badge players, remained influential. When she joined in the 1950s Joan Austin was told approvingly that she made a fine cup of tea. In 1964 Cliff Gibson, who operated a business manufacturing shop fittings and was unavailable to join working bees, designed and constructed the sets board as a gift to the club. Its design ensured players of all standards met and played together and that a fair number of mixed doubles were played. Cliff’s sets board is still in use.
By this time, the old timber clubhouse was dilapidated and neighbours regarded it as an eyesore. The only seating was on the verandah, and the minute kitchen consisted of little more than a sink for washing up the cups and saucers after afternoon tea, served by the women members. The toilets were out the back of the building and there were no hot showers. In 1957 Hornsby Shire Council offered £2000 for the building of a new brick clubhouse, and an additional £1000 was obtained as a bank loan. The new clubhouse allowed social events to be held which raised funds to maintain the courts, repair fences, replace equipment and repay the bank loan. The Annual Dance and Presentation of Trophies began at this time. More women played regularly on Thursdays, but Sunday play, especially during church hours, was not approved.
The Schubert Shield competition between Beecroft Lawn Tennis Club and Cheltenham Recreation Club, began at this time. It is played once a year on the tennis courts of both clubs. Alan Schubert, a local building contractor, was at different times a member of both Beecroft Lawn Tennis Club and Cheltenham Recreation Club. When he died suddenly in 1960, the Schubert family donated the Schubert Shield for this friendly annual tournament between the clubs. His son, John, now a life member, joined in 1948 aged 15, served a term as President and still plays with the Veterans’ Club.
1980s – present
The Club’s financial problems were solved when two courts were converted to artificial grass and lights installed to allow night play. These courts became available for hire, ensuring a regular income from hirers. At last the Club was able to employ a professional groundsman to do work previously done by the members. The standard of the grass courts present improved. Saturday nights became social nights for members, who stayed into the evening for a shared meal and social tennis until 10 p.m. A social committee organised whist nights and dances. Stan Bowman (President 1983 – 4) and June, his wife, who served as social convenor, persuaded the committee to found a successful Veterans’ Club.
Pat Walker began a career in tennis management when she served as a Beecroft Club delegate to the NSWLTA. She joined the NSW Tennis Umpires Association and was elected its President in 1982. Later, as President of the national body of umpires, she oversaw the design and inception of a volunteer training program for linesmen and umpires to provide accredited officials at major tournaments. As an international umpire, Pat was invited to be a chairumpire at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, one of only two international women. For a number of years she was Chief of Officials at the NSW Open and worked at numerous Davis Cup ties.
In October 1998 Beecroft Lawn Tennis Club celebrated its centenary at a lunch held at Oatlands House. Geoff Pollard, President of Tennis Australia, and John Whittaker, President of Tennis NSW, attended. Fittingly, in the same year, Beecroft’s top Badge team won the 1/1 Badge competition. A club founded by a group of Beecroft families had grown to become a Northern Districts institution.