The earliest mention of West Hartlepool Tennis Club is in an edition of 'The Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph' dated 9th August, 1884. This recent discovery means we are a whole 3 years older than we first thought. All our previous records, and newspaper clippings from 'The Northern Daily Mail' at the time, dated the club to 1887 when the club opened its 'new courts' in Granville Avenue, however, according to the article, the club had 'ground' at the town's 'Foggy Furze Cricket Field' in 1884. Since the article only mentions the club 'organising a tournament' it is still possible that the club is even older than our new age of 136 years old. This means the club was in existence just 11 years after the game of lawn tennis was first codified by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1873, 10 years after the first tennis club was founded in Leamington Spa in 1874, 7 years after the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877 and 4 years before the Lawn Tennis Association was founded in 1888. This discovery certainly cements our status as one of the very oldest surviving lawn tennis clubs in the world.
The club was founded by the likes of Sir William Gray, Lady Gray and Sir Christopher Furness MP. The earliest reference to the club's Granville Avenue courts is in a ‘wanted ad’ in The Northern Daily Mail of September, 1886. The club required ‘turf to sod’ for the development of several new grass tennis courts.
On 29th April, 1887, a notice was published in the same newspaper announcing the opening of the club. The notice opened with the lines, “We are glad to state that this game which is making rapid strides throughout the country is being taken up by the ladies, and gentlemen of West Hartlepool in real earnest. A new club – in fact we may say the only club – has been got up on a large scale. There are 110 gentlemen members, and 60 ladies making a total of 170. The ground which is situated in Grange-road, is a first class one. The committee have spared neither trouble nor expense in the laying out of the eight courts, and a bowling green, and they expect they will all be in good playing condition on the opening of the ground, which they anticipate will be a month to-morrow, the Saturday previous to Whitsuntide.”
On Saturday 28th May, 1887, the club was opened for the first time. A number of interesting articles appear over the years, including trouble with the town’s commissioners about the erection of a pavilion, club tours, tournaments and, in 1882, a move to the current site on the corner of Grange Road and Granville Avenue. The Deeds show that the land was bought by Sir William Gray and Frederick Pyman from the Wooler family (of Wooler Road fame) who sold it to pay off a debt.
The club continued to develop over the years, fielding a number of successful senior teams. Here come the girls…
From the 1920s through to the 1950s the club also enjoyed a strong social diary, and the club hosted annual gala dinners and dances at The Grand Hotel in Hartlepool.
In the early 1970s the Club, by then called ‘Hartlepool Lawn Tennis Club’ amalgamated with Linden Grove Tennis Club when the Linden Grove courts were sold for private housing. In 1974 the sale of the piece of land on which the Club’s original wooden pavilion was sited allowed the club to build the present Clubhouse, providing new changing rooms, showers and toilet facilities. In 1976, as the four grass courts had not been in use for some time, it was agreed the two courts to the south of the plot adjacent to Granville Avenue would be sold, and the two remaining grass courts replaced with Allweather Tennisquick courts. The Club at this point had three Red Shale courts now numbered 3, 4 and 5 and the new Tennisquick courts now numbered 1 and 2. Subsequently the three shale courts have been replaced with all-weather surfaces and in 1996, with a grant from the National Lottery Fund, courts 1, 2 and 3 were re-laid with Acrylic surface.
Today 'Hartlepool Tennis Club' has nearly 150 members. We have recently refurbished our courts with brand new all-weather surfaces, new fencing, paths, disabled access and facilities. We also have a championship grade acryclic court and sport floodlights. - the only club in the area. We have a new pay-and-play facility allowing players to book courts online with a PIN feature giving access to the venue. We are the premier facility in the East Durham and Hartlepool area. There are a large number of juniors and the Club places a strong emphasis on junior and new member development. We have men’s and ladies’ teams in the Cleveland League and they always place well in the league tables. We also have a vibrant social scene with quizes, fairs, competitions and events throughout the year. As one of the oldest surviving lawn tennis clubs in the world we have a strong tradition which reaches back 136 years. With this amazing heritage the club continues to show the same grit, passion and love for tennis it always has by continuing to develop and invest in the future of the sport.