From The Archives

Tennis personalities at Roehampton Club in the early years – Ernest Wool Lewis

Ernest Wool Lewis had a distinguished tennis career prior to joining Roehampton Club in June 1919. He had made numerous appearances at the Wimbledon Championships between 1886 and 1895 in the Singles and Doubles competitions. In 1892, he won the Doubles title with his partner Harry Barlow, beating the famous Baddeley brothers Herbert and Wilfrid. He was a two-time winner of the Irish Tennis Championships in 1890 and 1891 and a seven-time winner of the Singles title at the British Covered Court Championships between 1887 and 1896. Five of these titles were achieved when the tournament was played at its original location in Hyde Park and the last two titles were won at the Queen’s Club in London. His application to join Roehampton Club was proposed by Captain Hope Crisp who was also a regular player at the Wimbledon Championships and had no doubt underlined the quality of the tennis at Roehampton Club and the efficiency of the tournaments. These events were directed by the Games Manager, Major Larcombe – another well-known figure at the Wimbledon Championships, who had also recently joined Roehampton Club from the All England Club.

Another factor in the recruitment of elite players to the Club would have been the successful reporting in the newspapers of the Open Tennis Tournaments at Roehampton in 1914. In the same year of joining the Club, Lewis was invited by the Lawn Tennis Sub-Committee in November 1919 to take on the role of Match Captain the following year for the matches against Oxford, Cambridge, Queens Club and Surbiton. 1920 was to be an eventful year with several significant decisions made by the Lawn Tennis Sub-Committee. The first of which was in January, when the committee agreed the club colours for players representing Roehampton Club including a cap, blazer, coat, and tie. At the same meeting it was agreed that Inter School Tournaments be arranged during the 1920 season with entries limited to one pair from each school. Colonel Miller stated that a Cap would be given each year by the Club to the winning pair which would become the property of the School with the players taking home small replicas. Almost 100 years ago to the day in October 1920, Ernest Wool Lewis chaired his first meeting of the Roehampton Lawn Tennis Sub-Committee when the following additional inter-club matches to those agreed the previous year were proposed – Army, Navy, Ranelagh and the Hurlingham. The second agenda item in the meeting agreed that the Tennis Coach, Tom Fleming would be allowed leave of absence to spend the winter months in the South of France playing and coaching the game. Lewis continued in his role as Chair of the Lawn Tennis Sub Committee for a period of at least five years. It seems fitting that the continuing success of the Open Tennis Tournaments at Roehampton Club during this period resulted in the newspapers reporting one particular event in 1926. It was the Sketch publication with drawings by HF Crowther-Smith which featured the Hard-Court tournament at Roehampton played in almost perfect weather.

The article referred briefly to the quality of the matches with caricature figures of the players and officials from the Club. These include two recent appointments involved in the tournament – namely Major SW Beeman who was recently appointed to the Tennis Sub-Committee and EU Story – Referee and Handicapper. On the playing side, the illustrations include LF Davin, CG Eames, Mrs T Murray and Roehampton Club member, George Greville. Davin played in the Wimbledon Championships in 1926 losing in the second round of the singles competition. Eames was featured in a tennis coaching film in 1924 with Bunny Austin – Mrs Murray was a well-known South African Mixed Doubles player. George Greville was a veteran tennis player at Roehampton Club with many appearances to his name at Wimbledon He was another elite tennis player who joined Roehampton Club in December 1919. He had married Wimbledon Singles player Edith Austin 10 years previously. He is the oldest competitor ever to play in the Singles Competition at Wimbledon at the age of 59 and played his last competitive singles match at Queens Club at the age of 65. A great inspiration for us all to enjoy sport in our later years for as long as our bodies allow.

Steve Riedlinger | Club Archivist