The History of Lawn Tennis
The origins of lawn tennis can be traced to the meeting of two men in a pub in Bath Street, Birmingham, more or less opposite to St Chad’s Cathedral. Originally the Welch Harp its name seems to have been changed to the Racquet Court Inn when the Bath Street Racquets Club was formed in 1859 with a court beside the pub. Here gentlemen and players met for entertainment and to play racquets – a game similar to fives and a forerunner of squash.
Secretary of the club was Thomas Henry Gem (40), known to all as Harry and his particular friend and playing partner was JBA Perera (37). Whilst not dissatisfied with racquets they fell to wondering whether it might not be possible to devise a less expensive game. One that did not require an indoor court and all the costs that entailed. They were also interested in developing a game which was simple to set up and play outdoors at home, a game for both sexes to enjoy. Their first experiments in 1859 took place in the garden of Perera’s home in Ampton Road, Edgbaston and initially they called their game Lawn Rackets or Pelota in homage to Perera’s Spanish roots.
Gem & Perera moved to Leamington Spa where, in 1874, they formed Leamington Lawn Tennis Club together with local Doctors Arthur Tompkins and Frederick Haynes. This was perhaps the first club in the world formed specifically for playing lawn tennis and was based at the Manor House Hotel. It appears to have survived for some 15 or so years. Major Gem died in 1881 and is buried in Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham.
Bank Holiday Tournament 3 August 1908 at Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society, the oldest lawn tennis club in the world.
The Harry Gem Project
The purposes of the charity: