History of the Club

 

1898 to 1968:

 

There has been a tennis club in Witheridge since 1898.  The Witheridge Lawn Tennis Club was formed on 25 June 1898.  They played on 3 grass courts on rented ground behind the Manse, where the Congregational Minister lived.  They played matches, mostly mixed doubles, against other clubs at Morchard Bishop and Crediton.  They would often hite the wall of the Manse and the Minister would complain...

There were 3 grass courts, one good, one fairly good and one dreadful.  The bad court was full of daisies and you never knew where the ball was going to go.  There was a shed beside the Manse where they kept the pony that pulled the roller to keep the ground rolled.  When the pony pulled the roller across the courts they would put leather boots on its feet so as not to damage the court. The Members replaced the pony but the pony boots remained in the shed for years.

 

The tennis club was really at its height before the War, when the Reverend Castlehow was involved.  He was one of the mainstays of the Club.  When four people had just come off and four more were getting ready to go on and the light was fading and it was almost impossible to see across the net, without fail he would say, 'come on, don't waste the light!'

 

The land that the Club occupied was owned by the Methodists so the Members were not allowed to play on Sundays.  The courts were situated in a line down the side of the Manse, which is now South Park, the house behind the Chapel graveyard, and the land is now part of Appletree Close.  By the mid-60s the land was sold off for housing and the Club had to find a new home.

 

1968-present day:

 

In 1964 the new Parish Hall was opened in its present location on North Street and Parish Hall Committe agreed to allocate some land for the purposes of building a single tennis court on it.  In 1968 the Club was given a grant for 50% of the total cost and the Parish Hall loaned the Club the remaining 50%, which the Club managed to re-pay within 3 years, through subscriptions, court booking fees and fundraising activities.  The 'new' court is still the same one that we use today, although it has of course been re-surfaced a couple of times since then.

 

The new court was officially opened in 1970 when a club from Torquay came to play for the inauguration and one of the young players was none other than Sue Barker, who went on to win the 1976 French Open, 15 WTA singles titles and reach no.3 in the world.  History does not recount how Witheridge fared against the 14-year-old Barker!

 

By 1980, it was clear that the original hard court, laid in 1968, was in desperate need of re-surfacing but with subscriptions of £1 an hour and a 'family' subscription of about £30 per annum,  yet again it was necessary to hold a lot of jumble sales and other fundraising activities to help pay for it.

 

In 1990, given that the club only has one court, one of the Club's members (Steve Powles) instigated the Rackenford & All England Tennis Tournament (RAETT) which was, and still is, played throughout the summer months on courts within a 15-mile radius of Rackenford, with a finals day held at Brian Peace's house near Rackenford.  Although some years ago the finals day location switched to Rackenford Manor where it is still held today.

 

Yet again, the Club's popularity wained with the deterioration of the court during the early part of the new millennium until the next group of enthusiastic tennis players put their backs into raising the funds and, with some very generous loans, the Club was able to re-surface the court yet again in 2014-15.  This has seen an increase in the membership and the ability to pay back the loans sooner than originally anticipated.  

 

Over the years, the Witheridge LTC has had a very 'rollercoaster' life but, with the right attitude and the support of local people, it still survives today and we are happy to say that membership is still on the increase - not bad for a Club that was started in a very sparsely-populated rural community some 120 years ago.  Let's hope it will survive for another 120 years!