Ace milestone as Wigan tennis club celebrates 100 years

The grassroots organisation is marking its centenary this year.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 3:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 3:26 pm
Ann Marie Sandelands, Christine Charnock-Jones and Wendy Heaton
Ann Marie Sandelands, Christine Charnock-Jones and Wendy Heaton

Winstanley Tennis Club was founded in 1921 and its members have served, volleyed and smashed their way to plenty of success over the decades.

The club has provided generations of Wiganers with the chance to try out the sport and improve their racquet skills, with the membership currently standing at around 170 players of all ages.

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An old photo of Winstanley Tennis Club which has been colourised and restored

It now has one floodlit all-weather tarmac hard court and five other courts of the same surface, while its well-appointed clubhouse opened in September 2014.

The club is currently getting people back to playing their favourite sport following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions which have allowed for outdoor pastimes to take place once again.

It is also planning an open day for August 1 to show prospective new members around the site and a big Centenary Day celebration to mark 100 years of tennis in Winstanley on the Bank Holiday Monday at the end of August.

Christine Charnock-Jones from Winstanley Tennis Club said: “The club has grown from strength to strength and the facilities that we have today are second to none.

“The club caters for all ages and has allowed people to enjoy the game of tennis when the Covid-19 restrictions eased to allow for outside sports.

“The next project is to raise funds for adding floodlights onto three further courts to allow play all year round and we would welcome any support with the project.”

Ahead of the centenary celebrations the club also spoke to Wigan local historian Tom Walsh about its long history.

The club was founded in May 1921 and its early years were a fairly difficult time for the country, with the organisation being established just three years after the end of World War One and five years before the general strike of 1926.

Originally named Winstanley Park Tennis Club as its first home was within the parkland of the Winstanley Estate, the idea came from members of the adjacent cricket club.

The first tennis was played on a grass court, followed by three shale courts shortly afterwards.

The club quickly became famous for the quality of the playing surface thanks to the efforts of Jimmy Winstanley, a long-standing stalwart who eventually became president.

In the late 1970s it was decided that the club would move to a location it owned and a site just off Winstanley Road was identified as it was big enough to expand the organisation and in particular grow a junior membership.

The land was purchased from the local farmer with the help of Gerry Rickards, the club chairman at the time, and donations and loans from members allowed the erection of three hard courts. This was followed in 1980 by a very basic wooden clubhouse.

Members ran jumble sales, afternoon teas, sponsored walks and various competitions to help raise the money to run the club, while at one point tea and biscuits were given out from car boots during matches to keep up Winstanley’s reputation for hospitality.

The clubhouse was extended in 1993 and two further hard courts were laid, with grant-aid from The Foundation for Sports and the Arts and a loan from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

Following a bequest from Jimmy Winstanley’s estate, land for a sixth court was purchased in 2000. It was named in his honour when it was opened in July 2004 and floodlighting was installed in June 2006.

That was the year the club also embarked on its most ambitious recent project, to replace the timber clubhouse with a new building.

The scheme to build the impressive brick and tiled-roof structure which now sits on the club’s site took several years, steered by chairmen Geoff Bradshaw and John Elmer. President Dr Ken Walker cut the ribbon in 2014.

The club received the Tennis Clubmark in recognition of its voluntary work in 2009 and its courts have been recently resurfaced in a smart blue colour.

The club has been part of the Warrington and District League for over 50 years, entering men's, ladies and mixed teams as well as participating in the annual knock-out competition.

More recently the junior section has been playing in the Bolton League, winning Division One in 2017.

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