Senior & Junior Club Tournament Finals Days

Congratulations to all the winners of this years senior and junior tournaments.

Winners can be found by clicking here


HARTFORD  BOWLS  and TENNIS CLUB, formerly the RECREATION CLUB,  in July 1923

After the dark days of World War 1, how cheering it must have been for residents to hear of the generous offer of the Brunner Mond & Company, owners of the Fountain Field in Hartford, to provide this land a century ago, for the purpose of Bowls, Tennis and a Clubhouse.

The Hartford Parish Council Minutes reveal that the Company broached this subject to them in June 1920 and, thanks to the hard work, support and business acumen of those Parish Councillors over the next two years of negotiations, agreement was finally reached with Brunner Mond & e Company and the Recreation Club was founded.

This was also a great benefit for the Parish Councillors themselves, as they were able to use the Club to hold their meetings, instead of having to hold them at the School.

It is interesting to note that the Company stipulated that the ground must be prepared for the Bowls green and Tennis courts before the building was erected.   Brunner Mond had a great reputation for looking after their employees and providing sports grounds and recreational clubs in the area from 1890 onwards, beginning with Winnington Park. 

NO, this is NOT a picture of Hartford Tennis Club players 100 years ago,

although the wooden tennis racquets look very similar.   These ladies and

gentlemen appear to be social players, especially the ladies, who must have been very encumbered by their fancy dresses.

Judging from the contemporary pictures in black and white of Hartford tennis players of that time, as shown in Anne Loader’s history of the   Recreation Club, their tennis outfits were far simpler than those shown above.   In common with players at the annual Wimbledon All England championships, the rule was to wear only white clothes.

Similarly with the Wimbledon championships, Hartford tennis courts were all on natural grass, as Hartford bowling green remains today.

It has not always been plain sailing for the Bowls and Tennis Club;  in the Sixties, the tennis courts and bowling green were in bad shape and few members left.  DISASTER!

Luckily for the players of today, the Cavalry arrived in the shape of a group of friends, who got together and made a plan, starting by posting leaflets through doors regarding saving the Club.   Those who responded were fast tracked on to the B & T Committee.  

They worked hard with volunteers to drum up money by holding Jumble plus Bring and Buy sales, Fairs, seeking grants, eventually raising enough money to restore the bowling green, tennis courts and nets.   A final touch by canny tennis player Geoffrey Barnes was to establish and tend flowers along the strip between tennis courts and bowling green.

After this Herculean task, the committee then appointed a professional tennis coach to encourage junior members and were very fortunate to engage Mrs Ann Applewhaite, a tiny lady with loads of energy and humour, once a ballet dancer, then married into the well-known Applewhaite family of great players and coaches.   Since that time the Club has been fortunate in having strong and resourceful committees and gone from strength to strength.

However, as the number of tennis members, both senior and junior, continued to increase in numbers, the original Recreation Club became the Village Hall, much occupied by new hirers, so the tennis players were much in need of a Clubhouse themselves.

In 1995 inspirational Chairman Dave, with members Bill and Justin, managed to locate a classroom unwanted by Bowdon school, available for no cost – apart from the large sum needed to remove it and bring it to Hartford.   This large building arrived on a flat bed truck and required an enormous body of work to restore it.

Heroic Tennis Secretary Eileen left her racquet unused for many months, mustered a squad of volunteers, who gave help in refurbishing, mending, cleaning, painting and tiling to make the building, not only habitable and fresh, but in excellent order.

In the 1996 season Dave wrote to members ‘clubhouse now fully functional’ and he had also succeeded in obtaining sponsorship of the tennis teams by a local company.

Moreover, Julia, tennis member and acclaimed artist, gave the final ‘icing on the cake’ by painting the superb mural on one newly-painted wall of Jana Novotna, Wimbledon singles winner in 1998.    (Jana also memorable to this day for crying on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder after losing the final years earlier to Steffi Graff!)

Jana Navotna, Ladies’ Wimbledon Singles winner 1998

Mural on wall of tennis clubhouse

                                                                                                        Painted By Julia

After Dave stepped down as Chairman, his final act was to welcome a new young coach, John – more on him later!             

Since that time, The Clubhouse has proved an invaluable asset and in succeeding years   the Tennis Club has benefitted from having equally dedicated and resourceful Chairmen,  with hardworking and supportive committee members.   This Centenary year is also special in having Jane in the Chair, which could never have happened 100 years ago, when the Parish Council were made up solely of men and we heard that, at Winnington Hall, another Brunner Mond asset, women were only permitted to enter by the side door rather than the main entrance!

In 2002 the Bowls & Tennis club, with Chairman Ian, were much engaged in trying to agree a new Lease with the Parish Council, much needed so that the Club could get help with grants and advice from the Lawn Tennis Association regarding artificial grass courts and much-wanted floodlights.   At that time there were six hard courts and three grass courts.   Joining the LTA not only gave access to grants and loans but also gave the club the added and most welcome benefit of entering the draw for the annual Wimbledon All England Championships tickets.

Today the Tennis club boasts six artificial grass all-weather courts, with floodlights, two hard courts and a ‘Kids’ zone court for Mini tennis.

Even in the dark, play can continue till 10 pm

(Now, lights changed to LED)

What can we say about John, 20 years ago that ‘new young coach’?   He has nobly stayed all this time with Hartford Tennis Club for over two decades, through thick and thin, which includes the Covid pandemic.

His skills and enthusiasm are far beyond the brilliant coaching he offers to adults and juniors alike.   He not only runs tournaments and fun games, but runs marathons and charity events;  his talents are endless and he would shin up to dizzy heights to change a floodlight bulb if permitted, but follows his Safeguarding mantra by erecting scaffolding for the task instead.   He attends Committee meetings in his own time, even taking over  the onerous task of doing the accounts, when the then treasurer left the club before a  replacement treasurer was found.

Many thousands of pounds have been raised for various charities and good causes in which John has run and refereed tournaments which members such as Maria and Coral have set up.

During the Pandemic, clubhouse and courts were closed, but John and Jarrod continued working to maintain the courts and surrounds for the club.   John also mows the grass around the courts, as agreed with the Parish Council.   (The courts have been surveyed by the company makers themselves and they were astonished to see the superb condition of the courts after over ten years of use.)

When players were first permitted to return to play on the courts in the Covid era, on the premise that they brought their own tennis balls, used the sanitizers attached to the netting on entering and did NOT shake  hands after the game, John ensured that the nets were put up permanently and the courts cleaned, rolled and regularly brushed.   In the autumn he ensures the fallen leaves are brushed off the court and he and Jarrod work together in all types of weather

In the school holidays, he runs tennis camps for juniors, four weeks in the summer, one week at Easter holiday, from 9 a.m to 3.30 pm, frequently with six assistant coaches and 25 Mini tennis leaders, whom he has encouraged to train and pass LTA exams.   These camps enjoy stroke play, fun and games for all, including prizes, certificates etc.   He has also encouraged his assistant ‘new young coach’, Jarrod, in his career   In short, he is a Treasure and would not want to read this at all.

In Autumn, John and Jarrod brush the fallen leaves from the tennis courts, in fact go to work in all weathers, brushing snow from the courts for the benefit of the hardy folks who play throughout the winter.


Happy Centenary!

As part of the Centenary celebrations, John and Jarrod are participating in yet another Marathon, playing tennis from 9 am on Saturday 22nd July until Sunday 9 am on 23rd, hoping that some tennis members will join in from time to time to make it a doubles game rather than all singles.

TP                                                                                                                                                       July 2023