Upton Tennis Club

Brian & Jill Smith playing Andrew Jessop & Dorothy Forster

The idea for a tennis club in Upton originated in 1975.

David Hart, an Upton resident, saw in a local newspaper that the Parish Council was asking if anyone was interested in starting up a club to make greater use of the public tennis courts at Wealstone Lane. He was interested, being a tennis player himself and having four young daughters, who he hoped would also take up the game, and having noticed much to his surprise that the courts were not at all well used particularly at the week ends. In fact the attendants went off duty and the courts were locked up every Saturday and Sunday evening.

He had moved into the area in late 1974 and had thought what a dreadful waste this was, particularly on those warm sunny summerís evenings, which seem so perfect for tennis. After having an initial meeting with the Council to get an idea on how a club possibly could share court time with the public, he sounded out local interest via posters, getting an article in the newspaper and then having a meeting at his house.

Around 50 enthusiastic people turned up there with about another 50 having contacted him to say they too were interested. Alison Finlay, Cliff Evans, John Todd and Wendy Constable volunteered to join him to form a group to carry the idea forward. The formation of a tennis club did seem to be a possibility.

After more meetings and negotiations with the Council, the next significant step was a meeting of all who had shown an interest at Wealstone Lane Pavilion on 8th April 1976. Here the provisional arrangements that had been agreed with the Council were outlined and discussed, including the most important matters of Playing Times and proposed membership fees. The princely sums of £3 for adults and £1-50 for juniors were agreed as the annual fees.

A committee was elected and there was general tremendous enthusiasm. The club seemed to be up and running. The first proper committee meeting was held on 13th May at 43 Church Lane. Chairman was David Hart and the other members were Frank Mawdsley, Cliff Evans, Alison Finlay, Beryl Diment and John Todd with Tony Bass, himself (at the time!) a junior, representing the juniors. At that meeting the main topic discussed was membership numbers, the concern being the possibility of there being too many members(!) for the limited playing times we were allowed by the Council.

Membership stood at 84 with about 20 on the waiting list. In subsequent early meetings with the Council, this topic of trying to negotiate more playing time for the Club was always the main issue, together with that of gaining better access to the pavilion for tea and toilet breaks!

At these early meetings, the Club philosophy evolved. First and foremost we were to be a friendly sociable Club welcoming members of any standard. There were to be no cliques. Positive efforts were to be made to ensure that people mixed, with anyone prepared to play with anyone else regardless of standard. Right from the start, juniors were seen to be important members of the Club and early on, junior coaching on Saturday mornings was started by the excellent John Ashton. These are still going on with Johnís help! Mike Jenkins, who until recently has helped with the coaching and now has a junior Jenkins of his very own, and Neil Faichney now Club secretary, both were early partakers of this coaching.

Social events throughout the year were to be important.

And so we really were up and running! On a beautiful sunny October 3rd 1976 the first Club Annual Tournament Finals were held with Mrs Sheila Garston, our friend and supporter on the Parish Council, presenting trophies-rather small they may have been, but engraved and kept by the winner.

Left - to -right

Ian Williams; Alison Carter; Tony Bass; Dot Whitehead; Andrew Jessop; Nicola Shepherd with Councillor Shiela Garston

An Honours Board recording the winners names was installed in the pavilion and is still there. Over the next few years membership grew to nearly 150. Many social events were held, perhaps the most popular being the annual Clog and Whippet Barn Dances, where well over 100 people used to attend, but there were also Cheese and Wine parties held in members houses, car treasure hunts, and very successful Club Trophy presentation evenings which were usually an excuse for a get together and a disco for the juniors.

4 years later the 1980 prize winners

In fact the Club was always looking for an excuse for a social gathering and these were held with the willing help of volunteer Club and family members. Wine, tea and refreshments became the norm at Finals Day and there was never the problem, which is usually the case, of getting people to attend the Annual General Meeting. Maybe the topics were not too exciting but after a glass of beer or wine, there was never a problem getting a discussion going and even a volunteer or two for the committee! And then there was always a spot of food to finish off the evening.

On the tennis front the Club eventually decided to have a go at putting teams in for the Chester and District Tennis League and also a Chester junior league and we had a fair degree of success. So we also actually managed to play some relatively serious tennis. Maybe the friendly and social side has always come first but the Club has always tried to cater for all standards and tastes.

Members come and members go. David Hart and family left to live abroad for 10 years but he is now back in the fold. Among those early members who have stayed the course and can still be seen regularly on court are Pat Andrew, Diane Crees, Bryan Smith and Bernard Carter. John Todd now does not play but is still a strong supporter and friend of the Club.

If anyone would like to know more about the early days, then just ask one of them. David Hart -April 2000