Grass courts reopen as club take aim at tourist market

At the reopening of Cromer Tennis Club's grass courts

At the reopening of Cromer Tennis Club's grass courts were, from left, club chairman Kelvin van Hasselt, head groundsman Matthew Jordan, Cromer mayor Richard Leeds and assistant groundsman Perter Cooper. - Credit: Adam Spruce / Supplied by the club

It's a town popular with visitors from across the country for its inviting beaches, buzzing cafes and world-famous pier. 

And now there is a fresh push to bring another of Cromer's attractions into the tourism spotlight - its tennis courts. 

Kelvin van Hasselt, Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Club's chairman, said the club's 10 grass courts were laid down in 1907 when the town was a resort for the rich and famous. 

Mr van Hasselt said: "This club was originally built for the aristocrats really and they're now a valuable asset for Cromer and north Norfolk.

Vicar Rev'd Will Warren read a prayer and a blessing at the reopening of Cromer Tennis Club's grass courts.

Vicar Rev'd Will Warren read a prayer and a blessing at the reopening of Cromer Tennis Club's grass courts. - Credit: Adam Spruce / Supplied by the club

"The courts are still among the third or forth best in the country and we feel it isn't used as much as it could be. It's a huge asset and a massive tourist draw.

"Either we serve the community or we're nothing."

He said the club was partnering with the north Norfolk country house Wolterton Hall to promote tennis holidays, where guests at the hall would be sent there to play tennis. 

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Mr van Hasselt said: "That is a really big development and it really highlights the importance of tourism to the club."

Keith Day and Peter Sheppard, the hall's owners, were guests of honour at an event to celebrate the opening of the club's grass courts - its four hard courts reopened at the end of March.

Cromer Tennis Club's head groundsman Matthew Jordan,

Cromer Tennis Club's head groundsman Matthew Jordan, left, and assistant groundsman Peter Cooper with their John Deere tractor. - Credit: Adam Spruce / Supplied by the club

Cromer's mayor, Richard Leeds, cut a ribbon to mark the reopening. The club is now open seven days a week from 9am until 9pm. 

The club has two Lawn Tennis Association Level 4 coaches, head coach Andy Margarson and the newly recruited Gavin Haggart, who was the former head coach at London's Coolhust Club. 

Mr van Hasselt said they also had a special promotion running whereby the first 25 members of the public who came to the club for the first time would get a free tin of tennis balls. 

Cromer Tennis Club - a potted history

-In October 1885: the Norfolk Chronicle reported that “A meeting was held at Dr Fenner’s on Monday night to arrange for the formation of a cricket and lawn tennis club.”

-12 grass courts were laid down on land adjacent to Norwich Road, Cromer in 1907.

An early aerial image of Cromer Tennis Courts, as viewed from above. 

An early aerial image of Cromer Tennis Courts, as viewed from above. - Credit: Supplied by Cromer Tennis Club

-The following year the Cromer Post reported: “The Cromer Lawn Tennis Club brought their first annual tournament to a successful conclusion on Saturday. There was a large attendance at the finals, affording evidence of the popularity of the gathering. Though the courts were only completed by the end of April, they were in excellent condition, both as regards surface and appointments.
"For this the committee and the groundsman deserved full share of praise. The total number of events received during the week for the various events was 167.” Local dentist Mr. A West Walker was the first winner.

-The club's Men’s Open singles became the Open Singles Championship of Norfolk in in August 1919.

-In August 1923: Clementine Churchill - Winston's wife - played in the Open Mixed Doubles and in the following year the 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley became the first Norfolk player to win the men’s Open Championship.

-In 1926 two days of heavy rain forced a number of events to be transferred to the indoor courts which were opened at nearby Newhaven Court the previous year.  

-The following year seven times former Wimbledon ladies champion Mrs Dorothea Lambert Chambers won both the ladies and mixed doubles.

-In January 1935 the Norfolk Chronicle reported: “Cromer Lawn Tennis Club grounds, situated on the Norwich Road, are to be bought for the town by Cromer Urban Council. The price is £1,250".

-In 1953 the tournament was won by Tony Pickard of Derbyshire (who went on to achieve success as coach of Stefan Edberg) while in 1955 the ladies champion was a young Ann Haydon who, as Ann Jones, went on to become Wimbledon ladies champion in 1969.

-A new body, the Cromer Lawn Tennis Courts Association was formed in 1956.

-In 1975 15 male members of the Iranian national team monopolised the tournament.

-Bob Cox, groundsman for 40 years retired in 1978 and was succeeded by Mike Thompson who went on to give 29 years service.

- Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association was formed in 1979.

-North Norfolk District Council granted the club a 31-year lease in 2005, at an annual rent of £1, with an option to renew for a further 14 years.

-The club celebrates its centenary in 2008 with a grand ball attended by 320 members and guests.