Weeke local History - Winchester Lawn Tennis and Squash Club


Winchester Lawn Tennis & Squash Club

A group of Winchester residents held a meeting in October 1906 to set up a tennis and archery club. Tennis and croquet as well as archery were games enjoyed by the growing middle class residents in Winchester. Up to this time the only courts were privately owned and it was probably the lack of any facilities in Winchester which lead to the first meeting. This created several sub committees to start the process of providing a club. These were involved in raising capital for the venture, locating suitable ground on which to build the club and building a pavilion (Mussell, 1994).

The Title of the club was decided to be the ‘Winchester Lawn Tennis, Croquet and Archery Club’. The Title was to change as the interest of members changed. By 1921 the title had changed to the ‘Winchester Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’. This then changed by 1935 to include Bowls in the title and by 1946 to ‘Winchester Lawn Tennis and Squash Rackets Club’. The modern name of ‘Winchester Lawn Tennis and Squash Club’ was finally set in 1982 (Mussell, 1994).

The sub committee to raise finance had recruited 363 members and raised a debenture of £800 out of a planned £1,000 by February 1907.

The site for the club was obtained from Col Thomas Burnett Hitchcock who was resident at Weeke Manor and owned considerable land in Weeke Without. Between the 1891 and 1901 censuses Bereweeke Road had been laid out. Bereweeke Road connects Weeke Road (now Stockbridge Road) to Andover Road. By the time the Tennis club was being conceived there were 10 houses that had been built on the city side of the road. On the Weeke side there several houses. These were Silwood Lodge located opposite the future Chilbolton Avenue and the gardener’s cottage for Silwood Lodge both facing onto Stockbridge Road. Pinehurst had been built in 1901 (HRO W/C11/2/505). There were no houses then to the line of the future Bereweeke Avenue (this was not laid out until the 1930s when the first half to the junction with Bereweeke Way developed).

Col Burnett Hitchcock kindly leased to the fledgling club an area of over 5 acres in November 1906 so that by February 1907 the greens and courts were well on the way to be laid out. In February 1907 another lease was generated in which Col Burnett Hitchcock provided more land to the right of the modern driveway ‘being used as an archery ground’. This established the land for the club which is largely unchanged today.

By the time of the first Annual General Meeting in November 1907 the club was well established. Games had been played on the new courts, club rules produced and the club had obtained affiliation to the Lawn Tennis and Croquet Associations. Even at this early stage the interest for archery was limited. It was agreed to have the AGM in future in April so the next AGM was held in 1909. In the meantime tournaments were started and the club was beginning to develop a good reputation. In 1909 Col Thomas Burnett Hitchcock had died but his son Captain Burnett Hitchcock, who inherited the estate, was very supportive to the club (Mussell, 1994).

In early 1912 the club abandoned archery because of a lack of support among the members. It also undertook to purchase the land the club was built on from Captain Burnett Hitchcock. The purchase was completed in early 1913 for £1,500 for about 6 acres of land. This was financed by £750 of debentures and a mortgage of £800. The additional money raised was used to improve and expand the facilities including building courts on the land available when archery was abandoned.

Finance delayed the reuse of the archery area for more courts. They were finally finished in 1914. World War I lead to Army and Navy officers in the area being allowed temporary membership. In 1914, 1915 and 1917 saw the club finances balanced despite a decline in membership in 1916 and 1917. In 1918 the original thatched roof on the pavilion was replaced by tiles and two members took out debentures to pay for the work (HRO W/C11/2/2942).

In 1919 the reduced membership was having a serious effect on maintenance and so a new debenture of £200 was raised and membership fees increased. The increasing costs of running the club led to further debentures of £700 and £300 in 1920 and 1921. There were 355 members by 1922, the same as when the club started but fees had to be increased yet again. The membership slowly grew in 1923 and 1924 and a move was made to lay two hard courts but finances would not allow the work to go ahead.

The years up to 1930 saw continuing credit balance in club affairs. The club was seen by other clubs that developed in the area as ‘exclusive’ and very much for wealthier players. In 1930 the boundary of the city which had dissected the club moved out to the present boundary along Harestock Road.

In 1931 the last three of the original debenture holders, when the club was started in 1907, were paid back. Bowls were introduced at the club. The club progressed up to World War II with the decline of croquet but the start of squash with nearly 80 playing members by 1939. Further alterations were made in 1937 (HRO W/C11/2/3907).

The war years were a problem for the club as deficits increased and membership declined with only 111 members by 1946. The club was reconstituted with four business men taking over the club. They were then responsible for the £1,500 debentures outstanding and the £1,300 mortgage outstanding. The plan was the takeover would only be for 3 or 4 years. At this stage croquet and bowls were both in decline so Lawn Tennis and squash were the future and reflected in the title change in that year.

The club struggled with losses although membership grew. It was not until 1959 that the club members managed to buy the club back from the four businessmen. This was achieved with a Ministry of Education grant of £2,400 and members raising money to pay the £7,000 required.

In 1960/1 the club suffered the threat to its privacy by a roadway to link a new estate to Bereweeke Road via the club’s roadway. This threat was overcome and the club built a six foot wall to separate the club from the new estate. IBM approached the club in 1964 and negotiated for reduced fees for its staff using the club. In 1968/9 the club facilities were replaced with a new pavilion (HRO W/C11/3/1426). This was partly funded by various grants and a loan from Winchester City Council with a total cost of £27,500. In 1970 the membership was a healthy 1,000 with a limit of 300 squash players.With the new pavilion bar facilities were developed and started to provide surpluses to support club expenses (Mussell, 1994).

The squash membership grew and a waiting list of 200 had been reached by 1980 and plans made to expand the facilities which were made in 1982. This involved a substantial overdraft but the success of the club was generating significant surpluses. The club has continued successfully with further developments in the years since.

Release 1.0 last update 02/09/08

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