Avondale Lawn Tennis Club was founded in 1908. Originally a cycling and tennis club, the court was originally behind the Oatsheaf Inn, then, around 1913, at the Fleet Station Hotel. Via premises in Avondale Road, where the club acquired the name, Avondale moved to an acre site in Albany Road, sold to the club by the Calthorpe Family in 1925 for £100 (borrowed from Barclays Bank!). The three grass courts were converted to tarmacadam and an army hut purchased and fitted out as a pavilion. This site was sold for £51,000 in 1973.
Two acres of grazing land were bought in Ewshot Lane for £12,000, the five courts costing just £15,000; the pavilion, car park and landscaping taking another £17,400; and, after settling the capital gains and Corporation Tax liability, only a small sum was left to furnish the pavilion and improve the facilities. This was finally completed in 1976 with the installation of floodlighting on two courts and the building of a practice wall and half-court behind the pavilion.
In 1978, the difficult solution to the problem of deterioration of the courts, which had suffered subsidence after the heat waves of 1976, was found. Members subscribed to £50 bonds in order to replace the courts. The bonds were re-paid within 2 years. Bioflex courts followed in 1981 on courts 1 and 2 with tarmac remaining on courts 3 to 6.
In 1992, courts 1 and 2 were replaced by the present artificial grass, with the remaining courts following in subsequent years. Floodlighting of courts 3, 4, 5 and 6 was completed by 2005.
Since moving to our present location, Avondale has been involved in many different undertakings. On the playing side, one highlight was the club’s appearance in the National Finals of the Silk Cut Tennis Challenge in 1990. The finals, held at Queen’s Club, were for teams of non-county players. Sean Wilkins and Claire Blackman had made significant contributions in the early rounds, but it was our team of Howard Moseley, Dave
Henderson, Sue Adams and Elaine Leitch (Perryman), who eventually came fifth in the whole country.
Success in the Slazenger sponsored Club Tournament Competition found Avondale again playing at Queen’s Club on two further occasions, as well as reaching rounds up to the Regional finals.
A Junior team reached the quarter–finals of the National En Tout Cas Club Championship. A “young” Simon Seymour, was one of our quartet which also included Claire Blackman, Helen Eckersley, and Howard Moseley.
For several years Avondale hosted a VW Ratings tournament which drew players from across the country. This two week event required considerable commitment from our organisers, helpers and general club members, but it did raise substantial funds for the club, as well as heightening its profile. The last tournament, under its eventual LTA banner, was held in 1994.
In 2008 the Club celebrated its Centenary with a celebration day at the Club and a dinner and dance at Hartley Wintney Golf Club. Our Centenary Garden in front of the pavilion and the Centenary Clock represent on-going reminders of that celebration.
2010 was another eventful year with our coach, Kathy Charles being awarded Coach of the Month by the Lawn Tennis Association. Later that year Avondale were named Club of the Year for medium sized clubs (4-8 courts) by Hampshire & Isle of Wight LTA.
In 2015 the Club was presented with the AEGON British Tennis award for Club of the Year for Hampshire & IoW and our Head Coach Kathy Charles won a similar award for Coach of the Year. These awards were presented to the Club by Cathie Sabin, President of the LTA.
Avondale Lawn Tennis Club, as remembered by Bill Archer
My first recollection of Avondale LTC was in the year 1949/50 when I was 7 years of age and my family moved to a cottage in the grounds of “High Beeches House” overlooking the tennis club. At that time the club consisted of 2 grass courts and a red/brown hard court with a loose dressing on top, this court sported a practice wall at the far end. There was a small wooden pavilion consisting of ladies’ and gents’ changing rooms, a central area for making tea and an Elsan toilet. There was no running water, no electricity and when it was time for tea, buckets of fresh water were supplied by my cottage by means of an outside tap! Lighting and cooking were by gas.
The club was reached by a grass/gravel drive from Albany Road and was surrounded by grass and bramble bushes. The 2 grass courts were mown by Saunders Nurseries of Fleet every Wednesday and Friday and were then re-lined after each mowing by club members before play could commence.
When I was 12 I made a racquet from an old piece of wood and when everyone had left the club I ventured over to the practice wall with several lost balls and spent hours knocking up. It was also around this time that the high maintenance grass courts were replaced by 3 tarmac hard courts. Most of the membership seemed to be very professional men – doctors, dentists and accountants with very few lady members. When I was 17 in 1959 I joined the club, met Carol who was 14 and spent many happy hours playing junior tennis. At this time the club changed direction with families joining and spending the whole weekend socialising, playing tennis and eating huge teas provided by the members on a rota system.
About this time the old clubhouse was replaced by an ex-army payroll hut purchased when the Military in Aldershot was undergoing change. The new clubhouse was collected, piece by piece, by several members under the leadership of Jack Coe, a local dentist, and was erected by weekend working parties. One weekend, Jack, his 2 sons and I drove to Bishops Stortford to dismantle seats from a disused cinema, these were duly transported back and installed in the new pavilion which was erected by members over several weekends. Working parties completed the final cosmetic touches.
At this time the club was involved in the Aldershot & District League with Mens, Ladies and Mixed teams with a growing Junior section. My practice on the wall helped me to reach the Men’s Singles Final on 3 occasions, winning the title one year and with my partner Graham Temple, winning the Men’s Doubles 5 years in succession – I believe still a record to this day!
The curtain finally descended on the Albany Road site in 1975 when the land was purchased by property developers for a new housing estate, now called Russets Drive . The end of an era and many happy years.
In 1975 Avondale moved to Ewshot Lane at the rear of Redfields Garden Centre, when the club purchased 2 acres of White Land and hard courts were laid and the present clubhouse was built. In the late 1970s a team from the club drove to a tennis club in Norwich to view a revolutionary new playing surface called Bioflex which slotted together like Lego and was subsequently laid by the club on some of the courts. So the new club was formed with the addition of further courts, floodlights, many more teams in the Aldershot & District and Hants & IOW Leagues and a thriving junior section, leading to the club we all know today.
My personal recollections are having the honour of representing Hampshire in several matches and probably the most memorable occasion was in 1981 when a team of 4 of us played in a National Men’s Doubles competition reaching the last 8 in the country, finally losing to Queens Club in London .
My whole family has been involved with Avondale for many years and enjoyed many happy hours socialising and making numerous friends. Congratulations to you all – enjoy the Centenary celebrations and here’s to the next hundred years!!