Craven Lawn Tennis Club in Gargrave Celebrate Their 140th Anniversary in 2019

Craven Lawn Tennis Club, Gargrave – 140th Anniversary.

Craven Lawn Tennis Club based in Gargrave, just outside Skipton, is celebrating its 140th Anniversary in 2019. Here is the background to “Craven’s very own Mini Wimbledon”.

140 years ago in 1879 the distinguished and influential ladies and gentlemen of the Gargrave area decided to set up Craven’s first, and to this day only, Lawn Tennis Club – a year ahead of the similarly minded folk of Ilkley and only eleven years after the founding of the All England Club at Wimbledon. The club is, therefore, one of the very oldest in the whole of Yorkshire.

Initially matches were played on the Gargrave Cricket Ground but then land was acquired in “The Smithy Crofts” part of the village and five grass courts were created and a pavilion erected which in 1908 had a glass veranda added. This really was a club for the local elite as tennis was a particularly fashionable new sport at the time and the list of members at that time read like a “Who’s Who” of the day including as it did many of the most prestigious local addresses. Membership, in those days, was strictly by invitation only but today the club is known for being one of the friendliest, welcoming and socially active in the area. Family memberships have always been an integral part of the club and continue to be so today with several generations of some families all playing regularly. The Club feels that family memberships have been one of the secrets to the longevity and prosperity of the Club as playing together is one of the most sociable and fun ways of enjoying tennis for all ages and around half of the Club’s memberships fall into this category.

Although great affluence may have given birth to the club originally, the legacy left behind from those days is a thriving club which is eternally grateful to the foresight of the original members who purchased the land to ensure it has a beautiful and permanent home for all in the local area to enjoy. Gargrave Primary School have close links with the club and the children have access to the courts as part of their PE curriculum as the club Coach also works part time at the school. The Club is rightly proud of its inclusivity and the anecdotes of the past are simply that – anecdotes.

Today the membership is open to anyone who is interested in playing tennis, to whatever standard, and of any age. There are regular junior and adult group coaching sessions available plus several social sessions throughout the week. One group, who have now all joined the club, started out as a U3A group who simply used the venue and liked it so much they joined! For those who enjoy playing competitively there are four Mixed Doubles teams, two Men’s Doubles and two Ladies Doubles teams playing in the Wharfedale and Bradford Parks Leagues throughout the season. Budding talent, of whatever age, is always welcomed and several juniors play in the senior teams and are encouraged to gain formal LTA coaching qualifications to pass on to the younger ones in turn.

There have been times, over the years, when life for the Club wasn’t always easy as it was closed down during both World Wars in the last century and sheep grazed on the courts and the pavilion was used for storing oats. But, each time after conflict ended, the Club revived itself and was quickly up and running once more.

Sadly in February 1995 the original timber pavilion was burnt down due to an electrical fault and it wasn’t possible to save the building. This unfortunately meant that many mementoes, photos and other items were lost for ever but not the “Tea Bell” which was discovered in the ashes and can still be used to summon players to the rebuilt clubhouse for refreshments. The replacement Clubhouse was amazingly up and running by July 1996 thanks to an enormous fundraising effort and the improvements have continued ever since.

The two original hard courts and one of the grass courts, have now become three fantastic All-Weather courts which means that play can happen almost for twelve months of the year – only the “Beast From the East” prevented play for any substantial time in 2018 and even the grass courts (though parched) were playable throughout the summer heatwave. Thanks must also go to Sport England, Craven District Council, The Craven Trust and The Coulthurst Trust for their support in enabling the latest improvements to take shape. However, the very active membership have also played a huge part with innumerable volunteer hours being offered in a huge variety of roles to complete the work.

2018 also saw a visit from the “Bright Ideas For Tennis” charity founded and run by Danny Sapsford, a former GB Davis Cup Player, which attracted players from both the club and surrounding clubs who had a chance to be coached by him on the day. The Club will be building on this association in 2019 and hosting one of their “Breakpoint 2019” events where Danny Sapsford and Robyn Moore will be playing for 12 hours per day at clubs around the country every day during June to raise money for mental health charities. They aim to hit a ball for every person in the country who is suffering from such issues. The club will be hosting on Saturday 15th June in Gargrave.

To commemorate the 140th Anniversary some members have planted bulbs in part of the grass banking to read “CLTC 1879-2019” which it is hoped will flower and provide a focal point during this very special year.

So, if you live in the local area and fancy a game of tennis, or have never played on a grass court, the club could be the place for you to soak up the atmosphere and dream you’re playing at SW19!

Like all clubs today Craven Lawn Tennis Club have a presence online at www.craventennis.org and also on Facebook and Twitter too. Further details about the Club can be obtained from Club Secretary, Beth Whitley by emailing secretary@craventennis.org.uk or ringing 01756 749664.