Sodbury Tennis Club was formed by local tennis enthusiasts on the 14th May 1954 with a public meeting held in Chipping Sodbury Town Hall with the objective of forming a Tennis Club at the Ridings on the courts provided by the Amalgamated Roadstone Corporation Limited. A Lt. Col. DW Clever DSO of Amalgamated Roadstone Corporation, later to become known as ARC and now part of Hansons, was elected as President and Mr F. Trotman Chairman. Amongst the committee members was the local District Nurse, a Miss Snowsell.
Mens Team 1970
From the minutes of various meetings held in those early days there were several matters raised which still have modern parallels. On 31st May 1954 there was a rule that stated that “all adult male members must wear grey or white flannels or shorts and a white shirt and all lady players may wear white dresses or white shorts and a blouse”. This rule was challenged by a Mrs Shipp who stated that she did not have time to change after school into whites and then change again to go out after tennis. After what appears to be some heated discussion this rule was change to read that it would only apply for tournaments and matches. What they would make of the current ruling that only predominately sports clothing is acceptable, with all the associated colours that appear nowadays, is hard to imagine.
Records of the progression of the club are rather scarce and it is not until the 70’s that the club records return in any detail. During the 70’s an additional court was provided and the original 3 courts were resurfaced in the winter of 1975, again by ARC. Throughout the 70s the Men’s 1st team had considerable success winning their Bristol and District groups on 5 consecutive years taking the team from group 7 in 1970 to Group 3 by 1974. Some of the men that played in these teams were Barry Riley, Ken Grant, Dave Bowden, Tony Walker, Nigel Fox, Tony Goscombe and Dave Williams.
Ladies Team 1977
In 1983 two of the courts were provided with floodlights that greatly increased playing time especially during the dark nights of winter. In June 1988 all the courts were resurfaced with porous tarmac with the courts painted green and the surrounds red, a vast improvement on the previous surface.
For many years the club had discussed replacing the original wooden pavilion that had been erected in 1955. Finally during 1991 the club raised sufficient funds for a Cotswold stone building erected complete with changing rooms with showers, a kitchen, bar and a lounge area that is still admired by visiting clubs today.
Division 1 Winners 1994
In the 90’s the club achieved great success in what is now called Avon County summer league with the Men’s 1st team winning Division 1 and becoming Avon County champions in 1994, the first time in the club’s history. They repeated this success in 1995 and the team consisted of Dale Curtis, (additional update 2014, Dale has now won the singles Sodbury Tennis Club tournament in every decade since the 70s) Craig Smart, Rob Edney and Neil Howitt all of whom were by then Gloucester County players. This same team stayed together for some years and won the championship again in 1998, 2000 and 2001. With 5 championships in 7 years this was a really creditable consistent performance. On the conclusion of the 2012 summer league season the 1st team yet again retained their Division 1 status with a fine win in the last match of the season. Two of the 90’s team Rob Edney and Neil Howitt are still playing at this high level, a remarkable feat.
The club decided in the late 1990’s that having improved the infrastructure off the courts attention to the playing facilities was needed. With the support of the Chipping Sodbury Town Trust who agreed to change our licence from a yearly one to a 15 year lease, which was crucial for the club’s application for lottery funding, plans were made to improve the playing surface and floodlighting. Undoubtedly the highlight of all this hard work was when the club was awarded £52,150 from the Sports Lottery fund on 24th June 1998 to assist in the complete refurbishment of the court surfaces and the floodlighting. With this grant, club funds and a LTA loan the club was able to have all four courts resurfaced in acrylic artificial grass and had three courts floodlight to county standards. Once these improvements had been carried out membership that had been declining started to rise again and for several years now has been at a healthy balance of Adults and Juniors. Recent improvements to the club facilities has been, the refurbishment of the kitchen, that was carried out by two club members. The exterior façade of the club has been replaced in 2012 with the old wood cladding that was rotting away replaced by plastic cladding that looks very similar but which we hope will last for many years. The club hope to provide floodlights on court 4 in the near future to provide additional opportunity for members to play in the evenings.
Over many years the club has provided coaching to literally hundreds of children. This could not have been achieved without the dedication and contribution of stalwarts who have provided their time, skill and at times much patience in coaching children in the sport of tennis, Audrey Smart, Dave Tanner, Gordon Runcie and Andy Elliott are a few names that immediately spring to mind with contributions from others who are too numerous to mention. Hopefully this grounding in playing tennis, will stand these children in good stead for future years playing.
The club now provides short tennis coaching for children as young as 5 years old. In order to enhance the coaching further the club appointed a “Club Coach” in the early 2000s and this has provided a more structured basis of coaching within the club, the current coach is Steve Johnson. Similarly the club has a committee member as “Coaching Co-ordinator” to provide a link between the club and the coach and for several years now this role has been undertaken by Kathy Ryan.
The annual club tournament continues to provide members with the aspiration to get their names on the “Honours Boards” and finals day held early September provides a full day’s entertainment to the spectators that turn up and generally is held in good weather.
The social side of the club continues to be an important aspect of the clubs year long activities with an annual ball for members and friends. During the year a number of American Tournaments are held which are well supported and provide a bit of fun tennis with a competitive edge. We have also recently extended to participate in a Bike ride too.
Looking back at the history of the club it appears that every decade the club has undertaken a new project and the challenge will always be to improve the facilities for the clubs members. With the club finances at very healthy levels and dedicated committee members the club looks well set for the next 58 years of playing tennis on The Ridings.
Geoff Witherden 2012
Footnote April 2014
The Clubmark was awarded to Sodbury Tennis Club in 2013.
On 11th April 2014 Steve Webb MP joined us to officially switch on the new flood lights on court 4.
Sodbury Tennis Club was 60 years old on 14th May 2014.
Footnote October 2018
After being allocated grants from Ibstock Enovert Trust and Enovert Community Trust as well as the the TownLands Charity and a LTA loan, an extension and total refurbishment project took place.
The Official opening of the new clubhouse and the revealing of the new plaque, was presented by Chloe Ball-Hopkins, a local Para-athlete and BBC Radio Bristol Presenter, on September 1st 2018.