Something About the Mead
Before 1907 there were two tennis courts facing East to West with a croquet lawn below in what was known as the Terrace Gardens, Ryde. The Gardens were for the use of the residents of the nine houses comprising Brigstocke Terrace.
In the Diaries of Maud Berkeley, she writes that she entered a tournament played at the Terrace Gardens in 1892.
When the Mead Lawn Tennis Club was formed in 1907 the courts were extended to the North, the original croquet lawn removed and converted to face North/South. An early photograph shows that croquet was still played on courts 1 and 5, tennis being on courts 2, 3 and 4. The land below the courts (now a car park) was later used as a nine-hole pitch & putt course.
The founder members of 1907 were: Mr Harold Senior, Mr J B Purnell, Mr F Randall, Mr H B Fowler and Mr Charles Langdon.
The Mead LTC was kept going by the townspeople of Ryde during the First World War. A most successful junior tournament held every August (competitors had to be under 18 years of age on the first day of the tournament) from 1919 until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Winners who became International and Wimbledon players included Miss Peggy Scriven and Mr Geoffrey Paish.
The grass court season at the Mead commenced on the first Saturday in May and finished about the middle of September when the grass usually became too wet to continue. Mr W P Brigstocke, who lived in the central house of the Terrace, would only grant a maximum lease of 3 years to the club, so no one was prepared to invest money on a possible conversion from grass to hard courts.
Following the death of Mr Brigstocke in 1956 his estate was divided up and sold (his wife and two sons had pre-deceased him during the War) and there were no direct heirs.
1959 saw the granting of a 15-year lease which enabled the club to apply to the Lawn Tennis Association, the National Playing Fields Association and members were willing to invest various amounts of money in interest free loans to convert 3 grass courts to hard.
In those days the cost of a red shale court (which needed constant watering and rolling) was £330 and the En-tout-Cas “non-attention” court £450. It was anticipated that the loans etc would be repaid over a period of 8 years but such was the enthusiastic response from members in organising Whist Drives, Raffles and Jumble Sales, that the amounts owing were re-paid far earlier.
The official opening of the 3 hard courts took place on Sunday 3rd April 1960. The Mayor of Ryde cut the ribbon. Mr Michael McMaster (President) then introduced Mrs Bea Walter (British Wightman Cup Captain) and Miss Deidre Catt (Wimbledon and International player) who played an exhibition singles, followed by a doubles with club members Derek Warman and Chris Weeks. For the first time in the history of the Mead tennis could now be played throughout the year.
It was then that the forward-looking Hon. Secretary (Stanley Wright) persuaded the Committee that the remaining 2 grass courts be converted to hard. Further loans and grant applications enabled this to be done and another 10-year lease was granted by the Landlord.
In 1961 at the Annual General Meeting the decision was made to change the name from the Mead Lawn Tennis Club to Ryde Mead Lawn Tennis Club as it was felt that, as the LTA Handbook listed clubs in alphabetical order, anyone coming to Ryde would not find the “Mead” as it was listed under “M” whereas Ryde Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club was listed under “R”.
Since the 1960s the courts have been re-surfaced several times. Before the last re-surfacing the Lawn Tennis Association insisted on a longer “run back” behind the courts in order to obtain a loan/grant. This meant the two sloping banks needed to be cut back and a retaining wall built to comply with LTA Regulations. The courts, with the addition of floodlighting on numbers 2, 3 and 4 were officially opened by Pat Cash, Wimbledon Champion in 1987, on Saturday 10th May 2003.
Sources: RSHG Archive
Images: Derek Warman & RSHG
Article: Derek Warman