WLTC history

A news item published in the “Wynberg Times & Advertiser” No.87 Vol. II dated 25th March 1882, reads as follows:
“A Lawn Tennis Club has been formed at Wynberg, so we may soon hear of some spirited tournaments taking place against the other Suburban Clubs.”

It is popularly accepted that the game of tennis as we know it today had its beginnings sometime in the early 1870’s, apparently in Wales, while it was only incorporated into the Wimbledon Club in 1875.

It is therefore interesting to realise that the beginnings of the game in South Africa was not far behind these early days, and that the original tennis clubs here can claim to have really been in at the “grass roots” stage of tennis.

We are proud that the Wynberg Lawn Tennis Club is one of these “grass roots” clubs and that not only is it still in existence but also still in the forefront of tennis in the Western Province.

The Richmond Tennis Club in Natal (1876) claims to be the oldest in South Africa, with Port Elizabeth Tennis Club (1879) the next. Wynberg is one of the four oldest tennis clubs, if not the oldest, still in existence in the Western Province. The other three are Sea Point, Claremont and Gardens, all of which it is definitely known existed in 1883; but no records are available of the dates of their establishment.

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick – famous both as author of “Jock of the Bushveld” and a South African politician – was instrumental in the forming of the WLTC. He leased a piece of ground from Mortimer Maynard Farmer sometime between 1880 and 1882 (forming part of Maynardville Estate). Sir Percy and friends laid out two tennis court on the site, doing all the work themselves, including the removal of trees! A plan in the possession of the Club dated 1893 shows that the site was situated on the mountainside of the Main Road, Wynberg (the Barclays Bank building now stands on the club’s original site).

In 1903 on the death of Mr Farmer the courts at the original site had to be vacated, and the Club moved to a site at the corner of Oak Avenue and Rowan Avenue (formerly Upper Stellenberg Avenue) Kenilworth, opposite the historic Homestead “Stellenberg”. Sufficient ground for two courts was made available by the owner, Mr W. Buissinne, a member of the club, at a nominal rental of One Shilling per annum, subject to the condition “that no Sunday play would be allowed”.

At the end of February 1920, the club was again forced to seek new grounds, as the property had been sold. A site was purchased by the club in the Main Road, Kenilworth, between Summerley Road and Cumnor Avenue for the sum of £750. Today this land is used as public off-street parking and the “Uxbury” block of flats. Three courts were laid out and a small wooden clubhouse was erected. To meet development costs funds were raised by means of donations and the holding of tournaments and dances. A fourth court was added in 1933.

In September 1955, under the provisions of the Town Planning Scheme for the widening of the Main Road, Kenilworth, the club was under threat of losing important sections of it’s grounds. Faced with the need to move again, and after thorough investigations of properties in the area, the club sold its property for £14,000 and purchased the present premises “Lidcote” in Harfield Road, Kenilworth (7,908 sq.m) for £11,000.

The property first belonged to Sir John Charles Molteno, first Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, who sold in 1896 to Mr. Richard Stuttaford during the time he was a member of General Smuts’ Cabinet. In 1937 it was sold to Mr. G.R. Starck.

The clubhouse, as shown on the home page, was altered to make it suitable for use as a Clubhouse, and six gravel courts were laid down, subsequently converted into all-weather courts. The new courts and clubhouse were officially opened in September 1956.

Wynberg is one of the few Tennis Clubs in the Western Province which owns its property. The Clubhouse with its two Cape-Dutch gables, set in sylvan surroundings, forms one of the most attractive (and wind-sheltered) Tennis Club properties in the Western Province, an opinion which has been endorsed by many visitors.

The Club’s Badge is of a simple design and comprises two oak leaves and an acorn in silver on a navy-blue background with the letters “W.L.T.C.” underneath. The “motif” is appropriate due to the abundance of oak trees on the club’s premises.

E-mail: tennis@wltc.co.za