Previous find of the month - 6/2015 - Page 1

Previous find of the month

June 2015

Game, Set and Match

Canberra Tennis Courts 1928-1931

Braddon Tennis Club May 2015

Historians believe that the origins of tennis date back to 12th Century France. However, the modern game of 'lawn tennis' that we are familiar with was invented in England in the late 1860s. During the 1870s, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield popularised a version of the game by producing boxed lawn tennis sets that included a rulebook. Such was the success of Wingfield's version of the game that within ten years, lawn tennis had spread around the world.

As the game gained in popularity throughout Australia, most country towns in the region started their own competitive Tennis Clubs. By the late 1880s, many homesteads in the Canberra region had tennis courts and hosted "tennis parties". On the 17th September 1898, the Queanbeyan Age reported, "A tennis court has been made at the back of the blacksmith shop at Hall, and a club formed." This would be the first Tennis Club in what was to become the ACT.

By the early 1920's, Canberra's residents had established several Tennis Clubs in the fledgling City, often building their own courts with volunteer labour of club members. In early 1923, Committee Members of the Eastlake Tennis Club (formerly the Power House Club) established the Federal Territory Tennis Association with the aim of "inaugurating competition tennis" in Canberra. Over the years, the Association has had several name changes and is currently Tennis ACT who represents 30 affiliated Tennis Clubs.

In the late 1920s, under the name Canberra Tennis Association (CTA), they made regular requests for additional courts and pavilions to the Federal Capital Commission (FCC). The file '47/1924 - Tennis Courts - General File - Including Provision of Pavilions' documents these requests and is ArchivesACT's Find of the Month. It provides a snapshot of Canberra's tennis facilities and demographics in the period 1928-1931.

Braddon Tennis Club May 2015

Braddon Tennis Club May 2015

What's in a name?

As the number of public servants in Canberra increased during the 1920s, so too did the demands on existing tennis facilities. During this time, the CTA made several requests to the FCC for additional tennis courts as well as provision of pavilions for the storage of equipment and comfort of club members.

Letter from A.J. Arthur to Secretary for the Federal Capital Commission -12th September 1928

Letter from Secretary of Eastlake Tennis Club, A.J. Arthur, to Secretary for the Federal Capital Commission -12th September 1928

At the time, the FCC constructed clay courts using a base of "ant-bed" although the Acton Bachelor's Quarters Court had a concrete base. Ant-bed consists of termite (white ant) mounds that have been broken up and rolled out onto the ground. It is then soaked with water and rolled several more times, setting hard like concrete when it dries out.

In November 1927, FCC Social Service Officer, J.N. Honeysett produced a memorandum listing the construction status of several tennis courts within Canberra. He had applied general names to the court locations such as, "North Ainslie 1" and "North Ainslie 2", to which Assistant Chief Engineer, W.S. Brownless, complained:

"The number and locality of names given to the various projects by Mr Honeysett are very confusing. Could not the localities be further named by mentioning Streets and Sections."

Honeysett responded in October 1928, highlighting the flaw in Brownless's request:

"Perhaps the Assistant Chief Engineer has over-looked the fact that at the time my report was prepared there was no street nomenclature in existence, and therefore the allocations were described in detail to the best of my ability."

Ainslie Tennis Club May 2015

Ainslie Tennis Club May 2015

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A file of surprising finds

In late 1928, the FCC conducted a review of existing tennis facilities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in preparation of new leasing agreements. At the time, tennis clubs in Canberra were unincorporated bodies, so the FCC granted the leases to the clubs as trustees. The FCC charged rental of £1, £5 or £10 per court "according to circumstances" including pavilion facilities. You can download a copy of a draft 1928 Tennis Court lease here: (PDF Icon PDF 1.25Mb).

As part of the review, the FCC requested information on the number of courts and club membership from suburban tennis club secretaries. The following table shows the data collected that includes the population of all Canberra suburbs in 1928. We have also incorporated additional data found on this file for the tennis courts not included in the lease review.

Location No. of Courts 1928 Rent 1929 Rent Trustees Club Secretary No. of Members Suburbs Covered Pop. 1928
South Acton (Acton Park) 1 £1 £6 Acton Park Tennis Club F. Dorman 17 Acton 619
Canberra (Bachelors' Qtrs) 1 £10 £10 Canberra Tennis Club W. Little 25
North Acton (Hotel Acton) 2 £20 £20 North Acton Tennis Club J. Fenston 40
Hospital (Acton) 1 £10 £15 Acton Tennis Club - 8
Ainslie 2 £10 £10 Ainslie Tennis Club F. Grainger 84 Ainslie 598
Northbourne 3 £25 £30 Northbourne Tennis Club M. Pike 50
North Braddon 2 £20 £20 Braddon Tennis Club J. Copland 45 Braddon 510
Blandfordia (Forrest) 2 £20 £25 Blandfordia Tennis Club T. Lindley 72 Barton
Red Hill
Causeway 2 £2 £6 Causeway Tennis Club J. Gowring 40 Causeway
Eastlake (Kingston) 2 £10 £15 Eastlake Tennis Club A.J. Arthur 95 Kingston 710
Manuka 6 £50 £75 Canberra Tennis Association C.M. Murden - Barton
Molonglo 1 £1 £5 Molonglo Tennis Club - 20 Molonglo Camp -
Reid 2 £20 £20 Reid Tennis Club C.M. Murden 67 Reid 378
Russell Hill 1 £1 £1 Russell Hill Tennis Club - 30 Russell Hill Camp -
Westlake 1 £1 £5 Westlake Tennis Club - 40 Westlake Camp -
Westridge 1 £1 £1 Westridge Tennis Club - - Westridge

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The file also includes a 1927 colour map showing the location of all public tennis courts in Canberra in 1929. Presumably, this was to aid in identifying the location of these tennis clubs as the Commonwealth Government had only just Gazetted Canberra street names in September 1928: (PDF Icon PDF 641Kb). This map also shows the extent of Canberra's development in 1927 as well as the proposed town plan at that time. As can be seen from the map, many of these tennis courts remain in service today.

Map of Canberra showing location of tennis courts in 1929

Public Tennis Courts in Canberra 1929 (purple dots)

Another interesting aspect of this map is the unofficial names used for most of the Canberra's roads up to September 1928:

  • Canberra Avenue is now Limestone Avenue
  • Canberra Valley Avenue is now Northbourne Avenue
  • Capital Terrace is now Constitution Avenue
  • Capitol Circuit is now State Circle
  • City Circle is now London Circuit
  • Eastview Avenue is now Stuart Avenue
  • Federal Avenue is now Kings Avenue
  • Interlake Avenue is now Wentworth Avenue
  • Interrange Avenue is now Macarthur Avenue
  • Southbound Avenue is now Jerrabomberra Avenue
  • Terrace Avenue is now University Avenue
  • Uriarra Road is now Cotter Road
  • Wellington Avenue and Eastlake Avenue are now Canberra Avenue

However, this map overlooks several private tennis courts within Canberra as well as Community tennis courts outside the city limits:

Private Courts Community Courts
Government House Ginninderra
Hotel Canberra Hall
Parliament House Mulligan's Flat
Prime Minister's Lodge Tharwa

Ainslie Tennis Club May 2015

Ainslie Tennis Club May 2015

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