In India, Mahatma Gandhi was jailed for six years for civil disobedience. In Ireland, fighting breaks out in Dublin. In the U.S. telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell dies. In Greece King Constantine abdicates. In Italy Mussolini becomes PM. Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered. In England, Colchester, during this same year, moves were afoot among a number of Colcestrians to bring together various Clubs within the Colchester boundary, and to enable them to play against each other in a league. As a result the
COLCHESTER AND DISTRICT TENNIS LEAGUE
was formed in 1922.
The first AGM took place in 1923. Minutes of that meeting were adopted at the 1924 AGM (held at St. Georges Club) which is the first meeting where we have the actual records. We do however have the actual accounts for 1923 showing that £1.10.3 was carried forward from 1922 and that Clubs affiliating in 1923 were St. Marys Tennis Club, Shrubland, Garrison, Fire Office, Technical, Casuals, Castle, St. Georges, St. Botolphs, Paxmans and Culver St.. Affiliation cost 5/- (five shillings is 25pence), players registration 6d. (2.5pence) and 1/- (5pence) per entry into the Individual Championships.
The first Officers were: Chairman – JH Nunn, Vice Chairman -QMS Hill, Secretaries – F Chignall and LJ Barrell (who also was Treasurer).
Various Cups were donated as the League found it’s feet and started to grow. In 1922 Arthur Crowther presented the Crowther Challenge Cup for the Mixed Doubles Club Champions. In 1923 DW Jeffrey presented the Jeffrey Lawn Tennis Challenge Cup for the Open Mens Singles and AJ Waterman presented the Waterman Lawn Tennis Challenge Cup for the Open Ladies Singles. Also in 1923 FA Jacklin presented the Jacklin Cup for the Under 18 Junior Mixed Doubles.
Some 24 people attended the 1924 AGM including WG Death from Brightlingsea who asked that the League be expanded to include Brightlingsea Central Tennis Club. It was, by a 12 to 9 vote, decided to keep the League to within the Colchester boundary. However it was agreed to run a junior division (division 2). In 1924 more Clubs affiliated including Wimpole Road, Abbeygate, Headgate, Parsons Heath, and Eld Lane. The League also agreed to accept Mr Harper’s offer to stage the League’s Finals together with his own Harpers Tennis Tournament Finals on his own Grounds.
The 1925 AGM was attended by 32 people and this time Mr WG Death was succesful with his request that the League boundary be extended. It was resolved the boundary be extended to 12 miles from the Town Hall. Later in May following a letter from the Garrison Club it was decided to run a Gents Doubles and Ladies Doubles as an experiment if enough entries were received, alongside the Mixed Doubles, Gents Singles and Ladies Singles. Subsequently 203 entries were received for these Individual Championships ( 107 in 1924). The minutes record that a Cup value £8 has been donated by Messrs. Lawrence & Co for the division two Club Mixed Doubles and a further cup for the Open Gents Doubles has been donated by Mr. WH Herring. Meetings were often held at Joscelyn Cafe, High Street at a cost of 3/6 for the room, although the Garrison could make a room available free of charge. The Finals on July 23 together with the Finals of Harpers Tournament were held at the Garrison Ground.
The 1926 AGM was held at the Town Hall and resolved unanimously that His Worship the Mayor be invited to become President of the League for the forthcoming season. His Worship the Mayor, Councillor AW Piper was very pleased to accept and donated a Cup known as the Piper Cup which would be presented to the winners of the Restricted Gents Doubles and more recently for the Under 18 Boys Doubles. The Mayor of Colchester has continued to be the President of the Colchester and District Tennis League throughout its history. FH Fieldgate presented the Fieldgate Cup for the winners of the Restricted Ladies Doubles.
Wivenhoe joined the League. Other clubs that have joined include Myland, Hythe Bridge, Colneside, New Mascot, Charleston, and Atalanta although some of the previous clubs mentioned have not affiliated.
During the Season the Committee make a new draw at the semi-final stage of the Individual Championships and this year the semi-finals are to be played by July 15th. Finals Day would be July 22nd. In July the minutes confirm Mrs HD Hearsum presented the League with a cup for the Ladies Doubles on condition it remain the property of the League. It is also recorded that Mr Jeffery donated another vase for the Ladies Singles after the first was won outright. Funds in hand total £11.5.0 and it is resolved to place £5 on deposit.
The 1927 AGM agreed affiliated clubs could have 2 votes (if two people attended) but more than 2 people per club could attend. Ardleigh and Cossers TC are mentioned. In the League Championship Division, five teams are to play home and away. It appears the Individual Championships are always re-drawn at the semi-final stage. During the year CR Hill, who has been with the League since it’s inception, presented the Hill Challenge Cup for the then third division League Mixed Doubles, and the Fellowship of Freedom & Reform presented the Fellowship of Freedom & Reform Cup for the Open Mixed Doubles. Later that year Mr Hill resigned as he was leaving Colchester.
Spottiswoods name appears at the 1928 AGM. Shortly afterwards YMCA and Lexden and Wimpole Road seek affiliation. During the Season the possibility of an Inter-league match against the Clacton and District Tennis League is discussed. By this stage it is apparent that the majority of our present day Rules are in place.
In 1929 Clubs seeking to participate were: Casuals, Brightlingsea, Brantham, Garrison, Cheriton, Headgate, Culver St., St Botolphs, Spottiswoods, Myland, New Mascat(2), Hythe Bridge, Colco, Paxmans, Severalls, Wimpole Road, and affiliation only, Technical. In April Mr Oswald Lewis presented a trophy for the Gents Doubles Team competition. In May the Bonner Cup was presented to the League and Parkeston Railway Club was advised that their request to join could not be accepted.
In 1930 further team names appear viz. College Staff, Grammar School, and West Mersea. In 1931 Mr WC Harper who has been involved with the League for some years is the new Mayor. Semi finals would no longer be played together but played on neutral courts individually. The League would be represented in the Colchester Carnival and would provide a tableau for mounting on a lorry. The exhibit won first prize in the Sports section!
In 1932 the radius of the League is raised to 20 miles. It is required that all Clubs must be represented at the AGM, failure to attend would be dealt with by the League. New names seeking to join the League are Lexden Hill, Pembroke, Parkeston, Hillcrest Dovercourt, West Clacton, Wivenhoe, and Coggeshall.
In 1933 Mr A Heasman presents a trophy for the Ladies Team Competition which will run this year. In October Mr WC Harper wrote to the League as he found it impossible to organize the Colchester tournament again as Colchester Corporation owned Harpers Sports Ground. He suggested the League consider taking over the running of the tournament and added that the donors of all the Cups were happy for ‘their’ Cups to be handed over to the League. The League took over the running of the annual tournament, and combining some of the events previously run by Mr Harper meant an enlarged tournament and the reallocation of some of the Cups.
Post Office and Kelvedon applied to join in 1934. Finals day would be at West End Sports Ground for the first time. The public would be charged an entry fee of 6d and programmes would be printed. A presentation dance was to be held after the Finals and tickets would cost 2/6.
The principle of promotion and relegation within divisions was discussed and adopted at the 1935 AGM together with the Rule that no Club may concede points without the consent of the League.
During 1936 the Town Council was approached by one of the affiliated clubs for permission to play on Sundays (between 2pm and 6pm) and asked that the League also support the request, although the League felt they would have to seek all Clubs views before adding their support. The Law Clerks Club sought affiliation and the Essex Telegraph carries an excellent article on tennis engineered by Mr JH Nunn, the current Chairman. This year the prizes for Finals day would be displayed in the window of Griffins for the few days before the Finals. Ardleigh TC applied to join for next year.
In 1937 Clubs indicate they wish a standard ball to be used and ask the League to provide and invoice Clubs accordingly.
During 1938 competitors who did not complete their matches would be scratched (subject to any weather considerations). The Carr-Ellison cup was donated. Woods TC name appears. The Essex Newspaper Press Fund Cup is donated for a competition open to the County of Essex and to members of Clubs affiliated to Colchester and District Tennis League. Seeding is used for the first time in the Individual competitions. Funds in hand at the end of the Season amount to £41.18.11. Congratulations are recorded for The Hon. Secretary Mr LJ Barrell upon his appointment as Colchester Borough Treasurer.
Meetings take place in 1939 until June when they cease. Mr JH Nunn who has been Chairman since the League’s inception, chairs the June meeting when the Secretary is instructed to make the necessary arrangements for the Finals.
The next meeting in April 1940 records Mr GC Houseby being elected to the Chair and the meeting discussed the question of at least some modified form of activity in order that the League should function, perhaps by asking the Clubs to run their own five tournaments with the winners being notified to the League who would arrange a Finals Day. This proposal would be put to the AGM. Entrance fees would be at the Clubs discretion but could be used for Club purposes or directed to a War-time Charity such as the Red Cross.
At the April 1940 AGM Mr FJ Parsley spoke eloquently and movingly about the passing of the League’s late Chairman Mr JH Nunn and the valuable services rendered since the inception of the League. It was hoped that a way would be found whereby the name of JH Nunn would be perpetuated in the realms of tennis. The meeting stood in silence by way of commemoration.
Captain Skelton was elected Chairman. A letter had been recently sent to all Clubs advising the War-time Policy of the League as outlined two paragraphs above. All trophies should be retained by the present holders. The League Executive was elected to act for 1940. There is no recorded response to the circular letter.
World Events would dominate everyone’s life for the next five years.
The next meeting of the League was held at 114 Shrub End Colchester on January 20th 1947. Nearly all Cups had been returned to the League and consideration was being given to restarting the league that Summer. An immediate advertisement would be inserted concerning the restart and a later one to advertise the AGM at the end of March. It was reported that Mr HE Gunton had resigned as assistant Secretary and thanks are recorded for his long and valuable service since 1925. An invitation had been received from Holland to send a representative team and it was suggested that the Dutch team’s return visit to Colchester should coincide with the Finals.
At the 1947 AGM the League took the first tentative steps towards restarting competitions. The commitee comprised:- Chairman – Capt.A Skelton, Vice Chairman – Mr GE Housley, Hon Secretary – Mr LJ Barrell, (Mr CH Cranmer became Asst. Hon Sec from May) Hon Auditor – Mr AJ Jennings, and Executives – Messre. RJ Brown, HW Whybrow, P Benham, JE Ogden, and WG Birtwell. Cosmopolitan TC name appears, as does Barclays Bank and Brantham. It was confirmed that if a Club entered two teams, players registered for one team could not play for the other team. Finals would be at West End Sports Ground, followed by a dance at a hotel. Prizes would be vouchers from Bonner & Sons, Heasman & Sons, Shippey, Poyser, and Harpers.
The visit to the Zwolle Tennis League was scheduled for August with the return visit taking place in 1948 when the Zwolle Tennis League presented a Cup for the winners of the Under 18 Girls Doubles.The minutes of the League between 1948 and 1963 are missing. Can anyone throw any light on their possible whereabouts? If you can help in any way please contact any Committee Member – their names and clubs are on this web site – or click on the e-mail button.