Britain's biggest
Tennis Tournament
established 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 16 passionate tennis players/fans run the event each year and it is supported by a range of sponsors and trade exhibitors. 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, handicrafts 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 when you are not competing. 

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, Website, Organiser
Ashley Martin, Richard Smith, Andy Clamp, Tom Tyler, Phil Peters, David Cheer Front Desk
Kevin Folger Referee
Alison Finch Corporate, Trade and Sponsorship
Lorna Holden Safeguarding Officer
Kate Rosier, Claire Smith Administration

 

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 their own little “Wimbledon”. So the Tournament began. Genteel days 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 Mynard. 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 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, though small, 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 backroom staff. 

Peter stayed with us until his retirement in 2013 and was one of the major forces behind our success. Sadly, Peter passed away peacefully in November 2017. 

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. Everything 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 28 courts on the cricket outfield, (a total of 38 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, on site catering and licensed bar courtesy of Stamford Deli, have raised the profile of the tournament. 

Recent Council cutbacks have resulted in less time and money being spent on maintaining the courts, especially the cricket outfield. The net effect of this was to purchase our own sit on three bladed mower, at some expense, to overcome this problem. In conjunction with Glebe House School, we share the mower, they house it undercover, they use it for their sports field and their groundsman cuts our field in return. Grants from the LTA have also helped to subsidise the purchase of seed, weed and feed and general maintenance. 

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 with Kevin in the refereeing department, John Barrell, our very hands on President and Chairman, front desk team of Ashley, Richard, Phil, Tom Andy, and David, Treasurer and “Round Robin” organiser Janice and myself  as Secretary, soldier on. None are getting any younger so if any of you would like to offer help do not be afraid to come forward and offer your services. It will be gratefully accepted. 

2019 See’s four new faces to the committee. We welcome Alison Finch, responsible for sponsorship and trade, Lorna Holden as our Safeguarding Officer, Kate Rosier and Claire Smith to help with administration during the tournament. 

2020 turned out to be a year of Highs and Lows. This was to be our Centenary Year and we were looking forward to it with great anticipation, but, due to circumstances beyond our control, it resulted in the cancellation of the Tournament for the first time in its history before even a ball was served, as the dreaded Coronavirus arrived. We had only just been awarded the Competition of the Year by the Norfolk LTA and were in the running for the Eastern Regional Award and were looking forward to further celebrations in August when everything went into lockdown In March. 

Just prior to lockdown I was hospitalised for 3 weeks following a collapse at home and was in the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Kings Lynn when full lockdown started, and COVID-19 cases started to rise. (Not a good time to be in hospital!). Now thankfully, back in circulation and looking forward to 2021, keeping fingers crossed and being allowed to drive again! 

It is with sadness that we have had news of the retirement of two of the Tournament’s most hardworking and loyal supporters in the Refereeing department. Ann Rowen and Gilly English have been overseeing the running of the Junior section for many years and will be greatly missed by all. We wish them well in their retirement. Not forgetting “Chippy”, Gilly’s dachshund, who oversaw our nightmare Under 18 Mixed events. Now seeking a new Referee to take on this position. 

In the Summer of 2020, we were the proud winners of the national “Tournament of the Year”.at the annual LTA presentations. A great tribute to the hard-working committee and all of you, the players, and supporters, that made this possible 

Now with the advent of an anti-virus, we hope that we will be able to have our 100year celebration this year COVID-19 and social distances allowing. 

Chris Holt 

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