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Red kite

TWO VILLAGES, ONE HEART

LACEY GREEN & LOOSLEY ROW

LACEY GREEN & LOOSLEY ROW

Red kite

20th CENTURY


The Indoor Tennis Court

By Rosemary Mortham

Church Lane, Lacey Green

In 1897, a new Vicar arrived to serve the parish of Lacy Green. The Reverend William Robson came from Bishop Auckland and his wife from Ashford in Derbyshire. They were both keen tennis players, so c1900, the Vicar ordered the erection of an indoor tennis court, measuring 118 feet by 20 feet., on the site in Church Lane which has now become Hambye Close. The building was intended solely for their use.

The indoor tennis court building

The vicar's family were not without some means but it is believed the financing of such an extravagance would have come from his wife's side - the Craven family - the wealthy owners of a Calico printing business.

The building, of brick construction, with skylights in the roof, was probably unique
in its day. The "sprung" wooden floor was made to a very high standard by a local builder. It was constructed of narrow boards "secret nailed", and painted green with a special non slip surface.

The Vicar and his wife enjoyed the use of the Court for some years. It is not recorded what the parishioners, who were very poor, thought of such an extravagance.

The Vicar's story, however, is a very sad one. Due to an accident of some kind he lost his health. His wife went to live in Cheltenham, and he was left alone in the rambling vicarage. The tennis court fell into disrepair and, apart for a brief use by the army in the First World War, was to remain silent until the Vicar is believed to have rejoined his wife in Cheltenham in 1922 when he retired. He died in 1931.

Mr Harold Carter, head of Carter's of Broad Street, Merchant Shippers in the City of London, purchased the Tennis Court, following the departure of Revd. Robson. The Carters resided at Grimsdyke, in Lacy Green, living in some style, and employing many servants, gardeners and grooms.

The derelict tennis court was lavishly restored, to include ladies and Gentlemen's washing and changing facilities. The Carters often held tennis parties, entertaining the current Wimbledon stars of the day, many of whom played on the court.

However, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Mr. Carter transferred his business from London to Lacey Green, using the Tennis Court as offices and accommodation for his staff. The building was divided into three sections with ladies living accommodation at one end, gents at the other and offices in the middle.

Married couples were found accommodation within the village.

It is understood from people who lived and worked there at the time, that it was an extremely cold building, due to the height of the roof. Small freestanding oil stoves supplied the only heating. Eventually, a suspended ceiling was installed to make the building warmer.

Immediately after the War, Carter's vacated the premises, and the firm of Austin Hoy, manufacturers of coal mining equipment moved in. Coal chains, used for cutting coal, were produced here, and despatched to mines throughout Great Britain. There was also a good export trade to Canada, Ireland, France, India and Australia. The company employed a large number of local people. A photograph bearing the names of all the employees at this time still survives.

After Austin Hoy moved to Saunderton, the building was used as a warehouse, firstly for a builders merchants, and latterly by a sweet manufacturer, Palmer and Harvey. For some years the bulding again fell into disrepair, until after almost a century of service, in 1991, it was demolished to make way for Hambye Close.

Updated and corrected by Laurence Rostron 2017