Sonning LTC Club History

Key Notes of Sonning L.T.C.’s History

Did you know………

  • Sonning LTC founded on 28th May 1946.  Membership fees were 25 shillings for adults and 10 shillings and 6 pence for juniors.
  • Dora Ballard died on court from a massive heart attack in 1986 whilst playing tennis.  The Ballard Trophy is awarded to the winners of the May American Tournament.
  • Parsons Trophy donated to the club in memory of Tony Parsons by his widow, Brenda.  Awarded to the winners of the September American Tournament.
  • Ric Lee, former drummer with the Jaybirds and member of SLTC, organised and performed at a fund raising event to raise money for resurfacing the courts and Royal Berks. Audiology Unit.
  • It wasn’t till 1990 that the club house gets running water and it was another eleven years before we got electricity.
  • 1987 the ‘Great Hurricane’ resulted in a poplar tree being blown onto the courts.  Tree sawn and debris removed in time for club afternoon by club members.
  • 1988 3rd court built, necessitating need to move the club house to its present position. You can still see the concrete base along the side of the 3rd court.
  • After a gap of many years, club championships and playing in the Berkshire leagues resumed in 2002.
  • May 21st 2006 we celebrated our Diamond Jubilee playing a wooden rackets tournament in the pouring rain.  Money raised was donated to the Age Related Macular Degeneration Society in honour of Sheila Loudwell.


Written by Michael Loudwell

Prior to and during the 1939 – 1945 war there were two public courts in King George V playing fields in Sonning.  These courts had a grey gravel surface with plastic white tapes for line marking.  The courts had to be ‘dragged’ after play to level out the surface.

On 11th May 1946, a meeting of interested parties was held in the Sports Pavilion to discuss the formation of a tennis club.  A Mr. Duncan Vincent took the chair for this meeting and it was agreed that the proposal to be put to the Parish Council.

On the 28th May 1946 a further meeting was held, the Parish Council had agreed to the formation of a tennis club with a playing season of 1st April to 31st October.  The rental for this season was to be £35 chargeable to the club.  Membership fees were set at 25 shillings for a senior, 10 shillings and sixpence for a junior.  Mr T Vincent was elected President and Chairman.

The first season was a success and the first annual general meeting was held on the 19th April 1947 when a cash in hand balance of £14 was declared.  The first club tournament was arranged for the 30th June 1947.

In 1948 it was agreed that the use of the courts to be opened to the White Hart Hotel (now the Great House) and French Horn Hotel for a visitor’s fee of 5 guineas a year. The teaching staff of the Reading Blue Coat School were also to be allowed to be members.

In 1949 four American Tournaments were held on summer Sundays and Club knockout tournaments were held.

In 1950 a representative of the Parish Council joined the Club Committee, the rental was increased to £50 but the playing season was extended to 1st march to 31st October.  The Council agreed that a limited number of members not resident in Sonning or Sonning Eye be allowed, the Club Committee to use their discretion in this matter.

In 1951 the season was extended to the end of December, the rental fee was raised by £3 in respect of this extension.  Membership fee was increased by 5 shillings.

In 1954, Mr. T. Vincent who had been President cum Chairman for a number of years resigned and Mr. Bennett Palmer was elected to the position.  In the summer of 1954 two tennis matches were held against Woodley Tennis Club.

In 1955 home matches against, Woodley, Twyford and Shiplake were arranged.

In 1959 records show that membership consisted of 32 seniors and 14 juniors.

In 1963 there were ‘Summer Season’ and ‘Winter Season’ members.  Apparently the winter of 1962-63 was so bad that little play was possible and the ‘Winter Members’ asked for a part refund of their subscription.  This was put to the vote at the AGM but the request was denied.  There were no club matches played in 1963 due to lack of support and interest by members.

In 1967 it was reported that the Council had agreed to resurface the courts.

In 1970 cash in hand at the club amounted to £200.  It was agreed that in view of this healthy situation the Club should contribute 50% of the cost of new nets.  The senior membership this year totalled 62.

In 1971 Mr. P. Holland was elected Chairman of the Club Committee. A Mr. J. Bowman was elected to the Committee; John Bowman was to serve as Committee member, Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman over the next 28 years.  At the AGM there was initial discussion regarding a new hut and a third court.

The 1973 AGM reported that a new club hut had been ordered for £500(Council contribution £300).  It had been agreed with Wargrave tennis Club that a joint Wargrave/Sonning team to be entered in the Berkshire League.

In 1974 a new hut had been installed.  The very poor condition of the courts had been brought to the attention of the Parish Council.

There was no AGM in 1975 as the courts were resurfaced to all weather macadam and there was little play.  The cost of resurfacing was £250 but because of exceptionally hot weather the courts took time to harden up.

In 1976 a coaching course for juniors was arranged.

In 1977 senior membership increased to 80 and there were 40 juniors.  These numbers again emphasized the need for a third court.  Mr. Mark Bodley-Scott became president of the club.

In 1979 a new Chairman Mr. Jim Ballard was elected.  There was renewed discussion on third court.  It was thought unlikely that the council would have any spare money for some years.  The club would not qualify for a grant because it did not operate under a lease from the Parish Council.  A supper dance was held.

In 1981, Michael Loudwell was elected secretary and John Bowman was made treasurer.  Michael Loudwell was to remain secretary for 20 years.

In 1983 the council decided to double all sports rentals and advised clubs that they should be more responsible for their own affairs i.e. maintain courts, pitches and equipment.  At the AGM it was reported that the Reading Cricket and Hockey Club were transferring from Earley to the top of Sonning Lane.  Included in the plans was the inclusion of the Berkshire LTA centre with grass courts.

In 1984 the condition of the courts was causing concern.  A subcommittee was set up to look into problems of resurfacing and the finance needed.  Alan Furness became treasurer; he would serve for the next 19 years.

In 1985 it was reported that no authority would give a grant for resurfacing the courts, the Berkshire LTA had withdrawn from the link with Cricket and Hockey but the latter were still keen on a tennis connection.  Cricket and Hockey had approached Sonning Tennis Club and meetings had taken place.  It later transpired that although planning permission had been given for 4 courts the Cricket and Hockey Club were unwilling to allocate any finance for the laying of the tennis courts. If Sonning Club were to transfer to the Cricket and Hockey site then we had to find the finance (£40,000 was mentioned).

In early 1986 an Extraordinary General Meeting was called to discuss (i) the condition of the courts and (ii) the Cricket and Hockey approach.  It was felt that we would be unable to raise £40,000.  The Cricket and Hockey understood our problem and offered a joint association membership in that for a payment of £250 a year all Sonning Tennis Club members would become associate members of the Cricket and Hockey and could use their facilities.  This was agreed.  With regard to Sonning Club courts, resurfacing would cost £8000 and we were £3000 short.  It was decided to launch an ‘interest free loan for members’ scheme to raise the balance.  Members to lend in units of £25 to be repaid over 4 years.  A draw at every AGM would decide who would be repaid that year.

Later in 1986 the parish Council agreed that the club could put on ‘leasehold’ footing so that a sinking fund could be set up for future resurfacing costs.

In this year Dora Ballard a long serving club member collapsed and died on court.  Her daughter offered the club £100 to provide a memorial for Dora and Jimmy (her husband and previous chairman).  It was decided to purchase the Ballard trophies.

Fund raising activities in 1986 included a Barn Dance at Sonning University farm.  Over 300 people attended.  Rick Lee a former pop drummer and a member of the Club agreed to organize and perform.  The profits were divided equally between the Audiology Unit at Royal Berkshire Hospital.  There was a Race evening for funds at the Blue Coat School.

‘Matchmaker’ resurfaced the courts.

In 1987 Geoffrey Roberts the owner of South Hill next to the courts was elected president.  In October of that year the Great Hurricane caused one of the poplar trees between South Hill and the courts to be blown down across the courts.  A working party was organized on the Saturday morning following the storm, the tree was sawn up and debris removed in time for club play in the afternoon.

In 1988 plans were formulated for the laying of a third court.  This project would entail the moving of the clubhouse to a new site.

The affiliation with the Reading Cricket and Hockey Club was discontinued.

In early 1988 another Extraordinary General Meeting was called to discuss the Club moving to a licence arrangement.  Under the terms of the licence the Club would pay 1/8th of the total surfacing cost to the Council each year.  The Council would invest the money in a sinking fund that would earn interest. The 1/8th factor to be revised every four years to take into account inflation.  The licence to run for 21 years.  The Club had to nominate two trustees to sign the licence on behalf of the club.  Mark Bodley-Scott and Les Farrant agreed to act as Club trustees.  Following the licence agreement the Council would apply for a loan and grant to install a third court (VAT advantages if work carried in the name of the Council).  During the summer of 1988 the Club House was moved to a new site and the third court was laid in the autumn.  Total cost was £13,000; grants of £1500 had been obtained together with a loan of £6,000 from Wokingham District Council.

The Clubs financial year was changed to a year ending 30th September basis.

A Halloween party and dance was held in the Blue Coat School as a fund raising event.

In 1990 running water was supplied to the Clubhouse.

In 1991 Mike Oliver was elected President, Geoffrey Robert having moved away from South Hill.  The two older courts were retextured and resprayed with colour.  New kitchen units were filled in the Clubhouse.

In 1992 the Club Supper Dance, which had taken place for each of the previous ten years was cancelled due to lack of support/ Plans were drawn up to extend the Clubhouse to include toilets and changing rooms.

In 1993 the final loan instalment in respect of the third court was repaid to Wokingham District Council.

In 1994 there was a recruitment campaign for new members.  Adverts were placed in the local press and a leaflet drop to every house in Charvil.  Very disappointing campaign.  In view of falling membership, plans for toilets etc were shelved.

In 1996 the club hired a surveyor to report on the condition of the new court, which showed signs of subsidence.  The surveyor reported that the foundations of the court were inadequate.  He also advised that the two older courts needed resurfacing.  The club contractors (Match Makers) had gone into liquidation so there was no redress from that source.

The Club President Mike Oliver died.

A 50th Birthday dinner was held in Pearson Hall.  Several past members attended.

In 1997 quotes were obtained to resurface all courts.  The new court required additional work to reinforce the foundations.  The Parish Council was somewhat reluctant to approve the work as a falling membership suggested that the Club might not be financially viable in the future.  They also expressed concern about a new private club on our doorstep (Berkshire County Sports).  This club had become private due to the dispersal of Berks County Council.

In 1998 meetings took place with Berks County with a view to a possible merger with Sonning Club.  It transpired that Berks County had been given three years to make their club viable (i.e. no more subsidies from Wokingham after that time). It was thought that Sonning Club might have problems due to the regulations of the King George V Playing Fields Association.

The courts were eventually resurfaced in the autumn of 1998 together with new surround netting for the older courts.  Because the work was carried out quite late in the year they were not colour sprayed (two tone green) until the spring of 1999.

A link was established with Sonning Primary School. The children to have use of the courts one morning a week in the summer.  The Club approached the Sonning Fire Brigade Trust who agreed to buy junior tennis rackets for the school.  The link proved beneficial in that several children and parents joined the Club as members.

John Bowman resigned as Chairman (moving away from Sonning) and Don Head was elected to the post.  Norman Ayles was elected President.

Brenda Parsons presented the Club with the Parsons Trophies in memory of the late Tony Parsons.

In 1999 the annual supper dance was revived.  The Club agreed to the ‘Woodley over 521’ Club using the courts on a Monday afternoon in the months of July and August for £2 per member per session.

In 2000 a summer club evening on Tuesdays was introduced/

In 2001 Alison Campbell was elected as Club secretary and is currently the Club Treasurer.

The Parish Council agreed that electricity be supplied to the Club House.

In 2002 Hilary Moss was elected Chairman, the first lady to hold the position.  Michael Loudwell was elected President.  Friendly matches with other clubs were organized.

In the winter of 2002-2003 the Club re-entered the Berkshire Winter League.



POST 2002/2003

The club continued to serve the local community and the courts were fully refurbished in 2008

Around this time, the new clubhouse was created, following extensive work from Chairman Hilary Moss and her committee - which is still in use today. This replaced the former, smaller clubhouse was on the opposite side of the courts, under the trees near what is now court 3.

In 2019, Tim Banks was elected chairman and remains in post, leading the committee today

2020/21 saw a boost in membership, when families were allowed out together following the restrictions of the Covid outbreak.

In 2021, the courts were repainted in the current Blue with Green surround - and the playing surface remains the "jewel in the club's crown" today. 

Since 2021, the club continues to thrive, with around 140 members (approximately 100 adults and 40 juniors)