Berkhamsted Tennis club turns 125 this year so thanks to John Shaw who helped provide us with this overview of the history of the club and its role in the history of Berkhamsted.
The Berkhamsted Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club was formed in 1897 to play on the ground provided by 3rd Earl Brownlow. There were 6 grass courts and one croquet law.
The arrangement to use the ground appears to have been quite informal at first and this was holding the club back. By 1910 a written guarantee of tenure of the property for 3 years was presented after completed negotiations with the 3rd Earl Brownlow.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 some 30 members of the club joined the forces. The club decided that during the war, members of the Club who were on active service would not have to pay their subscriptions. Also, that Officers stationed in the town should be allowed to use the Club.
In 1923 the club authorised the purchase of the freehold site known as Plots 58 and 59 and a committee was formed to secure the purchase of the land. A total amount of £760 (£31,204 in today’s money) was raised from members.
By 1927 the club had decided to drop “croquet” from its name and became “Berkhamsted Lawn Tennis Club”.
In 1936 the club took a £600 (£30,397 in today’s money) loan to help construct a new pavilion and a larger but lower pavilion with a Ruberoid roof and separate tea-room were completed.
The AGM in 1939 was postponed until March 1940 due to the “international difficulties”. Wartime meant subscriptions had fallen with a number of members being called up for National Service. By 1941 losses had mounted and the club was forced to close three of the six grass courts. The decision was determined not to close the club for the duration of the war because “recreational facilities were already limited”.
In 1958 a bar was introduced at the Club for the first time.
In 1965 the Club investigated the possibility of merging with the cricket and Hard Court Club with a new combined pavilion and by 1967 the merger was agreed. The Lawn Tennis Club acquired the assets of BHCTC forming a club with 6 grass courts and 6 hard courts.
By 1970 agreement with the Squash Club had been reached and in that same year a modern spacious pavilion was built on the site of the current clubhouse. Behind the new pavilion a squash court was built, and a shared lease was signed between Berkhamsted Squash Club and the Tennis Club.
In 1976 the club was renamed to Berkhamsted Lawn Tennis & Squash Rackets Club. Alongside the introduction of Squash, for the first-time floodlights were installed to extend use of the tennis courts in the winter evenings.
During the 1980s demand for tennis all year round and the costs of upkeep of the grass courts meant that the club decided to replace the grass courts with artificial grass. By the early 1990s the final grass courts were replaced with artificial grass.
The flat roofed wooden pavilion built in the 1970s was rotten and often leaked. The club began a major redevelopment to create the brick-built pavilion with pitched roof in 1999. The new pavilion incorporated a Glass-backed Squash Court.
The introduction of two indoor tennis courts in was completed in 2006. Then in 2009 a sixth squash court was added, and the lounge re-organised to allow better viewing of the two glass backed courts.
This has been a very brief history of the Berkhamsted Tennis club, but you can find out much more about the fascinating history of this club by visiting their display in our display cases at Berkhamsted Library.