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Club History

History of Moreton Morrell Tennis Court

The court was built in 1905 by Joseph Bickley for wealthy American Charles Garland. In 1963 the land and buildings were donated by James Dance MP to a group of enthusiasts who formed the current club.

The Moreton Morrell Tennis Court was built in 1904-5 by Charles Tuller Garland, an American citizen, who later served with the British Army in the Great War and was owner of Moreton Hall (now part of Mid-Warwickshire College), whose entrance gates face those of the Court. The family traced their descent from the Garlands of Essex, whose coat-of-arms, "or three pallets gules, on a chief per pale azure and of the second a garland and a demi-lion rampant of the field", is to be seen over the main door of the Hall.

The architecture of the Hall is described by Nicholas Pevsner as "good neo-William and Mary" and the court, with its sash windows and generous overhanging eaves, follows the same style. No expense was spared, internally or externally, and "The Field" in 1913 described the building as being ahead of any other in the country in luxury of appointment.

On entering the front door, the eye is met by the mosaic floor incorporating C.T.Garland's initials, while over the moulded archway leading to the playing areas, changing rooms and professional's flat is the bas-relief of "Mercury and Pandora" by the great English neo-classical sculptor John Flaxman R.A. (1755-1826), originally designed for a silver vase to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. In harmony with this, are the elaborate cornices and pilasters of the dedans. Charles Garland did a great deal for tennis and the many outstanding events at Moreton Morrell included the inaugural match between his resident professional,Ted Johnson, and the celebrated Peter Latham, five times World Champion between 1895 and 1907.

Garland died in 1921 and the Moreton Hall estate was bought by Colonel R.J.L.Ogilby, DSO who placed his owncoat-of-arms in the court itself, over the net. During the 1930's, the Court was kept going by a small group of enthusiasts including Col.E.J.L.Speed, MC. who leased it from Colonel Ogilby and saved it from being requisitioned during the 2nd World War. After Major James Dance, MP, acquired the Court in 1949, a programme of matches with other clubs was introduced. In 1963, with the generous help of many supporters of tennis, including Mr. Garland's three daughters, the Moreton Morrell Tennis Court Company was formed to acquire the building and grounds, and the Court owes a further debt to the late Lord Willoughby de Broke, MC, AFC, Chairman of Directors until 1971.

The Court itself conforms to the centuries old pattern of which the oldest surviving example is the Royal Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace, originally built in 1530. The floor and walls are by Joseph Bickley, a specialist builder whose death in 1910 carried away his secret of a fast, true floor and a plastered wall which does not sweat in humid weather. "The Field" in 1913 noted how light the interior is by comparison with some other courts and comments on the speed of the floor and penthouse.

Among the features of the Court which deserves attention is the American squash court. Floored and panelled in pine, it was designed for a game now unfamiliar, the present day Moreton Morrell version of which is played with a cut-down lawn tennis racket. Here the carved wooden balusters of the spectators' gallery provide a final touch of that Edwardian elegance enjoyed by the first owner of the Court and his guests.

 From "The Royal Game of Tennis", by Sir Richard Hamilton Bt.