Magdala Lawn Tennis Club has a long history spanning well over one hundred years with a Wimbledon ladies champion and a Nottingham Forest and England footballer as club members! Check out more photos on our gallery page.
The very beginnings in 1883, or was it?
Members of the Park Club who wished to have a club closer to where they lived started Magdala LTC. Archie Wardle remembered as a boy helping his father, C.S. Wardle, with the construction of the courts in a corner of the old Mapperley Hall Estate, overlooked by the family home on Magdala Road. The work almost certainly took place in 1883. For the next year, the elder Wardle advertised for a 'respectable youth aged 16 to 18 years old to cut and roll the ground and make themselves generally useful'. But this is not how the present Magdala behaves today!
A touring party of lacrosse players
Also in 1883, a touring party of lacrosse players from Canada played an exhibition match at the Trent Bridge cricket ground. This match, between the amateurs and the Iroquois Indians, took place in June and was well received by an appreciative crowd. It is surely no coincidence that shortly afterwards the Notts Lacrosse Club came into being.
Notts Lacrosse Club
The club used part of the Forest Recreation Ground, which at that time was still the site of Nottingham's racecourse. After three years, it was decided to complement the club's winter activities by adding tennis for the summer. The game of lacrosse has at least a passing resemblance to tennis. The club was able to secure the paddock of the racecourse for use as a tennis ground at an annual rent of £20, with an additional £5 for the use of rooms in the grandstand building.
Lucy Booth and Teddy Leighton
In the meantime, Magdala was running quite successfully completing numerous fixtures not only with local clubs but also clubs in Derbyshire and Leicestershire. At a mixed tournament in 1885, Lucy Booth won the prize of a lady's racket with an engraved plate. One of the members of the club at this time was Teddy Leighton (see above photo), also a Nottingham Forest and England footballer, who would become a true tennis club stalwart. In June 1888, Magdala played a match against the Lacrosse Club. This was the last year of the original Magdala Club.
Notts Lacrosse and Lawn Tennis Club
The following year in 1889, it was the members of the Lacrosse Club who were making themselves at home in the ground wedged between Magdala Road and Mapperley Road.
What happened to Magdala Club? Financial troubles? An internal dispute? No revealing records have been found. However, what is certain is that the Notts Lacrosse and Lawn Tennis Club was now paying the £25 annual rent, and the names which had figured on the Magdala team sheets: C.S Wardle, A.B Oliver, A.H Brownsword, C.W. Wright, H.A Cursham and others were nowhere to be seen - only Teddy Leighton remained. Interest in lacrosse was now waning and in 1891, the club fought its last batter with lacrosse. The name Lacrosse was retained until 1901 when Magdala came out of the mothballs.
Inter-club competitions success
The club soon established itself as one of the county's strongest. In 1893, the Notts LTA inaugurated the Inter-club Competition for men's teams. After years of trying and twice finishing runner-up (in 1905 and 1906), Magdala at last won the trophy in 1914. The competition was then suspended because of the war, but the club went on to win it again in 1919 and 1920, followed by another two years as runners-up. In the ladies' competition, which started in 1921, Magdala was runner-up at least once in 1924.
Teddy Leighton as club secretary guided the club through the difficult years of the First World War. Another club stalwart, Harold Lymbery (see above photo), was one of the prime movers in the formation of the Notts League. He was awarded for his efforts when Magdala became the first winner of the Men's League in 1924. Unfortunately, the club was relegated the following season. Further league success came in 1934 for the men and in 1935 and 1952 for the ladies, who were also runners-up a number of times.
A key player in the men's team in the 1920s and 1930s was Cecil Hannah (see above photo), probably the club's best-ever male player, During this period, Cecil enjoyed considerable success in the county championships in both singles and doubles. He represented the county for over twenty years, servings as men's captain from 1925-36. Continuing the family tradition, his son Peter also represented the county. In 1966, Peter Hannah started a golf competition for players of Notts LTA affiliated clubs in honour of his late father.
Freda James, a Wimbledon champion
Freda James (later Hammersley) was the club's best female player. She went on to represent Britain in the Wightman Cup and had a number of tournament successes, notably winning the ladies' doubles at Wimbledon with Kay Stammers in 1935 and 1936!
Renovations to the facilities
in 1933, the club first allowed Sunday play, though the idea had first been raised in 1921. Until 1936, there had been separate pavilions for men and women. In that year, a new wooden structure at a cost of £500 replaced the ramshackle structures. Around 54 years later, extensive renovations were carried out at a cost of £7,000 and a bar was added. In 1944 for what seems a relatively insignificant sum of £1,750, the club bought the land on which it stands, and a limited company was founded.
Other improvements to the ground have been made over the years. A new grass court brought the total to five in 1920. IN 1958, the two courts furthest from the Woodborough Rad were converted to hard courts. The grass courts survived until 1987-88, when they were replaced by a carpet surface. By 1994, one of the Macadam courts had floodlights.
In 1998 with the aid of a £26,000 lottery grant and a £15,000 LTA loan, as well as £11.000 of club funds, the club realised an ambitious court development scheme. Three state-of-the-art 'Trojan' carpet courts replaced the increasingly unreliable carpet surface. Since that date, floodlighting has been updated and is now available on all courts.
Our thanks go to Denis Birch Von-Richter for supplying this information.