"The Chronicles of a Country Parish" - A village appraisal of Sulgrave published in 1995

(Back to Chapter 3 Index)

Sometime during the 1950s, a group of village youngsters approached Major Magnay of Bell House with a view to gaining permission to use the tennis court. The court was rarely used by the family at that time, and permission was readily granted on the basis that the players undertake a modest amount of regular maintenance. This basically involved sweeping and rolling the excellent hard court surface and occasionally mending or renewing the surrounding netting.

For about 20 years players were able to enjoy their tennis in an idyllic country house setting, surrounded by lawns, shaded by beautiful trees and brightened by flowers in their season.

The atmosphere was always that of a relaxed country house party; rules were few, being mainly confined to the desirability of whites being worn and that no singles were played if sufficient numbers were present for doubles.

Some of the best memories are centred on sunny summer Saturday afternoons when it was not unusual to enjoy men's singles without interruption; the young ladies of the those days presumably being committed to shopping, and other young men to (the less energetic) cricket.

For many, the summer evening meets were more of a social occasion than a sporting opportunity but, at close of play, spectators and players alike shared a dusk stroll across the Close for a pint of best Hookey at the Star Inn. During one glorious summer, a regular spectator was a tame jackdaw, found by Molly Wootton tied to a beam in the old windmill. She had name him Jim in the mistaken belief that the battered fledgeling she nursed back to health was a young crow. He enjoyed complete freedom and his decisions to accompany Molly and Colin Wootton to Bell House were entirely his own. He was clearly fascinated by the game (and may well have been very knowledgeable!) He would perch on the net post, eyes never leaving the ball, head going from side to side in true Wimbledon fashion. More mischievous youngsters would tend to aim the ball directly at him, whereupon he would float lazily into the air, soon resuming his accustomed place. His own idyllic summer unfortunately came to an abrupt end when he was cornered by a particularly nasty and jealous Wootton dog!

Occasional matches were arranged against other villages, or works clubs, but these never reached the levels of inter-village cricket or football rivalry.

1960s - Ladies Single's Cup presented by Mrs Magnay

Valerie Henn was for many years the Secretary responsible, amongst other things, for collecting the 3d (1p) per game which the club levied; other regular participants included Tony Butcher, Colin and Molly Wootton, the Dore Twins (Sylvia and Laura), Ian and Allan Preece (attracted by the aforesaid twins!), Clive Carter (the son of the then Star Inn landlord, sadly killed in a car accident before his twentieth birthday), Bruce Carter and Ken Parker.

1960s. Tony Butcher at Sulgrave Tennis Club