From the Archives

Notable Events at Roehampton Club 100 years ago – Tennis

In a Directors’ meeting at the Club in November 1921 recorded in the Club archives, the Managing Director placed before the assembled gathering, details of a scheme for instituting a Lawn Tennis School at the Club to be run by Mrs DR Larcombe and Mr AE Beamish. He also stated that the two instructors mentioned would each require a salary of £500 per annum (£24.6K in today’s money). After a full discussion, the matter was sanctioned by the Directors and subsequently approved by the Lawn Tennis Sub Committee which met shortly afterwards.

The significance of this decision may seem inconsequential but the newspapers at the time were quick to point out that these individuals had now crossed the line from being Amateurs to Professionals in their chosen sport with implications for their future in the game. The Daily News publication carried a feature article which began with an introduction that there had not been a more interesting and significant event in the lawn tennis world than the announcement that AE Beamish and Mrs Larcombe who had decided to become professionals in the sense that they are going to devote themselves to paid instructional work at Roehampton Club – a decision which will automatically debar them from calling themselves Amateurs and playing in tournaments. The article goes on to say that it appears rather whimsical to associate either of these individuals with the notion of professionalism. Beamish was described in appearance and mannerisms as a ‘pukka’ amateur while Mrs Larcombe was labelled as a gentle-souled lady who wielded a racket. 

The report went on to highlight the amiable character of Mrs Larcombe as someone that everybody liked with her smiling face reminding everyone of her likeness to a Jane Austen heroine. But it was the Lawn Tennis Association definition of an Amateur which meant that neither of these two prominent players in the game were no longer eligible to participate in tournament play. Other commentators at the time thought that the ruling was harsh, referring to other sports where amateurs were paid for their services and yet still retain their amateur status. In another example, a certain cricketer announced that he was going to coach Lancashire Cricketers but would still retain his amateur status. These anomalies in other sports turned out to make no difference whatsoever to the decision for these players to be excluded from tournament competitions from this point forward.

Born in Richmond, Surrey, Alfred Ernest Beamish had achieved a distinguished tennis career around the world finishing runner up in the Australasian Championships in 1912 losing to James Cecil Parke in the Men’s Singles Final. He partnered Charles Dixon to win the Bronze Medal in the indoor doubles event at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and was runner up in one of the early tennis majors, the World Covered Court Championships in 1921.

He also competed in the 1920 Summer Olympics and was a semi-finalist in the Wimbledon Championships in 1912. Mrs Ethel Warneford Larcombe has been featured in previous newsletters as the wife of the Games Manager at Roehampton Club. She won the Ladies’ Singles tennis title at the Wimbledon Championships in 1912 and had also achieved the distinction of winning eleven badminton titles at the All-England Badminton Championships.  

Steve Riedlinger | Club Archivist