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 it 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 it's even older than our new age. 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 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's new courts. 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 Granville Avenue courts were 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 etc. 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.
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 1960s Hartlepool Tennis Club on the Headland joined West Hartlepool and closed. 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. Seaton Carew Tennis Club joined not long after. 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.
Over the years the club has experienced many successes and failures, both on and off the court. It has overcome adversity time and again and achieved great things. Just a few years ago, the club was rudderless. Struggling financially, it had outdated facilities and dire membership numbers. With a new team, membership has since doubled, our finances are secure, we’ve been awarded Club of the Year 2021/2022 and our leadership has won national recognition.
Hartlepool Tennis Club has nearly 150 members. The club boasts new all-weather surfaces, secure fencing, paths and disabled access. The club has a championship grade acrylic court and floodlights - the only club in the area. The club also boasts a new pay-and-play facility, allowing public access to the courts with secure PINs.
With a strong tradition and proud heritage, the club continues to show the same passion for tennis it always has by continuing to develop and invest in the future of our local community.