HALSTEAD & DISTRICT TENNIS LEAGUE
It is often thought that there is not much tennis played in the North of Essex. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Halstead & District Tennis League was formed in 1927 by 6 clubs as follows: -
Halstead Factory Sports Club
Halstead tortoise Works Club
Castle Hedingham Tennis Club
Courtaulds United Sports Club (Bocking)
Crittalls Athletic Club (Braintree)
The Wyndham tennis Club (Braintree)
The League had a very impressive list of Vice-presidents including R A Butler, Lord Braintree, Francis Crittall, Claudine Courtauld, Lady Shuttleworth and Sir Rueben Hunt. This list emphasises the commitment of large local companies in providing sports facilities for their employees. Sadly almost all of these company sports grounds have disappeared although two (Courtaulds and Crittalls) transferred ownership to the District Council and still exist. Rab Butler’s son, Sir Richard, remains the President of the League today.
Only one of the original clubs (Castle Hedingham) remains under the same name today. Many clubs have come and gone since the League was formed 78 years ago. All activity stopped at the beginning of the war in 1939 and the records suggest that it did not begin again until 1955. Most play was on grass courts in 1927 but these have progressively changed to all weather courts; there is now only one club (Braintree) still playing some of their matches on natural grass. Several Clubs from Suffolk joined the League at different times and many clubs have gone through a number of name changes. For example “Gainsbrough” became “Northfields” and then Sudbury. Crittalls became Braintree, Tortoise Works and Halstead Factory became Halstead, now sadly defunct. Lake & Elliots and Nine Pins disappeared. Currently there are 15 clubs – 3 from Suffolk and 12 from Essex.
During the summer of 2005, 71 teams, including 12 junior teams, played in 13 divisions. They played 824 matches or 6264 sets of tennis. In the following winter there will be 17 teams playing 160 matches or 640 sets. Almost 7000 sets of competitive tennis per year! The junior section of the League has become more firmly established in recent years. Consideration is now being given to creating an elite performance squad, which will enter a team into the Junior National League in 2006.
All this shows how healthy our sport is in this area. Some clubs have had assistance from the National Lottery in rebuilding facilities. It now seems that the Lottery has little interest in the capital projects necessary for this purpose. Two small clubs, Marks Tey and Halstead, were forced to close because their courts were no longer playable and one more, Silver End, withdrew for the same reason.