Britain's biggest
Tennis Tournament
established in 1920

About

Hunstanton Lawn Tennis Tournament started in 1920 and quickly became a popular event attracting entrants from Norfolk and beyond. Today it remains the UK’s largest tennis tournament and arguably the most popular grass tennis tournament in the world.

The tournament takes place in August on 38 grass courts located on the southern edge of the famous Norfolk seaside town of Hunstanton. It is an open tournament catering for the most experienced players down to enthusiastic beginners. It covers all ages from the senior veterans down to ‘under twelves’ and if time permits there is also a ‘round robin’ for even younger players.

A committee of 9 passionate tennis fans runs the event each year and it is supported by a range of sponsors and trade exhibitors. The main tournament sponsor is Scott Dunn a London based travel agency which runs a pop-up shop on site. There is a café / deli on site and in recent years a licensed bar has added to the range of refreshments.

The trade stands offer a wide variety of products and services including specialist foods, artisan jewellery, health and massage, and a wide range of clothing to suit all tastes. There are also a host of local attractions including bird reserves, galleries, Sandringham House and Norfolk’s lovely coastline. For more ideas please see http://www.kettcountrycottages.co.uk/your-norfolk-holiday/kett-guide-to-norfolk/.

THE COMMITTEE

Hunstanton Lawn Tennis Tournament is organised and run by a loyal committee which  vigorously strives to make each tournament better than the last.

Name Role
John Barrell Chairman
Chris Holt Secretary
Janice Campbell Treasurer
Stephen Holt Health and Safety
Ashley Martin, Richard Smith Front Desk
Ann Rowen and Kevin Folger Referees
Gilly English Assistant Referees

A PERSONAL HISTORY by Chris Holt

There has been a tennis tournament in Hunstanton for as long as I can remember. Looking back through some of the old records and dates and names on trophies the earliest date we can pinpoint with accuracy is 1920 when the Ladies Open Singles Trophy was presented for the first time. One famous name on that trophy is Ann Haydon nee Jones, who went on to be the Wimbledon Ladies singles Champion in 1969. Other major trophies arrived very quickly afterwards. During the Second World War no tournament took place.

From my early times on the Committee and talking to those who were involved, it appears that although there was a small tennis club in Hunstanton, it was a local group of dignitaries in the town and surrounding area who thought it would be good for the Town to have there own little “Wimbledon”. So the Tournament began. Genteel days followed with low entries and a lot of socialising and much drinking of G & T’s and not a lot of tennis.

My connection with the Tournament commenced in 1975, a year after starting teaching at the Hunstanton Secondary Modern School, several of whose staff were already involved on the Tournament Committee. The President at the time was local solicitor Ken Bush and the Referee was a Reg Mynod. I can remember Reg in a partitioned part of a Scout marquee. Nobody could go and disturb him…not even the Committee! At the time there were around 250 entries, we started on the Monday and played each day from 10am until 5.00 pm on 10 courts with a break for lunch! My job on the committee was to check out and check in the tennis balls. The players had to sign out and sign in 4 balls before and after every match…or else!

At the time the income from entries was very low and to make sure the Tournament kept in the black the ladies of the Committee members would prepare and sell light refreshments and salad lunches, the profit of which kept the Tournament going.

In future year’s numbers started to increase, sponsorship was sort and the use of a few extra courts on the cricket outfield appeared. This was achieved each year by me hiring a 7.5 ton lorry, driving to Slazenger’s in Croydon and collecting all the court hardware and returning it the Tuesday after the Tournament back to London.

The introduction of our famed Under 10 and Under 12 tournament and the growing popularity of tennis in schools soon saw our numbers rise to a peak of over 1300 individual competitors in the early part of this decade. With it came the problem of time and logistics and of course the manpower to run the Tournament efficiently.

In 1979 we acquired the services of Peter Mornard, an up and coming young Referee from Ipswich who took over the mantle when Reg Mynard retired. Peter, at the time, was involved in the Wimbledon back room staff.

Peter stayed with us until his retirement in 2013 and was one of the major forces behind our success.

Computerisation and the dawn of the World Wide Web saw drastic changes in the way we ran the tournament. Gone went the hours filling envelopes with entry forms, sticking on stamps and replying to all entries by post. Every thing is now done via the internet!

The tournament rolls on, numbers have reached a plateau at around the 1100 entries, we now own all the hardware for a further 30 courts on the cricket outfield,( a total of 40 in all) all looked after by the two grounds men Jeff and John, no more hazardous trips to London. Sponsors and trade stalls along with extra toilet facilities have raised the profile of the tournament. We now run the bar ourselves and the acquisition of Stamford Deli last year was the icing on the cake.

Throughout my time involved, only once has the weather intervened and caused the Tournament to cancel all events and close early. I think this was in 2007 when continuous heavy rain on the first three days turned the grass into a swamp and the car park into a mud bath, and then dangerous gale force winds made the possibility of any play impossible on the grounds of safety. Other years we have been lucky with only the odd wet, windy or cold day but generally it has lived up to its name of “Sunny Hunny”

The committee has grown smaller but the select few of Ann, Gilly and Kevin in the refereeing department, John Barrell our very hands on President and Chairman, front desk team of Ashley, Stephen, Richard, our new Treasurer and “Round Robin” organiser Janice and myself responsible for sponsorship and trade and as Secretary soldier on. None are getting any younger so if any of you would like to offer help in court supervising and on the front table don’t be afraid to come forward and offer your services. It will be gratefully accepted.

This is my 41st year. I hope to go on to see our centenary in 2020 before I gracefully bow out. If space and time allows, I may display material and photographs of tournaments long past at this years tournament for you regulars to look back on.

Chris Holt

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