Anyone for Tennis?

Eileen Bowlt

A new planning application seeks to demolish Fanuc House in Station Approach and replace it with a higher block containing 41 flats with an underground car park for 24 cars and a few bicycles. This started me wondering about the history of the site.

The land between West End Road and the 2013 London Square development that replaced Lyon Court (low-rise flats built in the 1930s), became the station yard when Ruislip Station was built 1902-04. At that time, the southern part of the High Street, from Ickenham Road, was called West End Road and before the railway line cut across it, continued in a flat straight line past Sherleys Farm (Old Barn Hotel). The road was diverted up an embankment over the station bridge.

An aerial photograph dated May 1920 shows a wooden hut beside the roadway to the station which housed the Metro Tennis and Social Club. The 1939 OS 6-inch map shows a larger Club House, overlooking an open space with tennis courts on the other side, where Fanuc House was erected in 2004. Ian Tait (1909-97), who came to Ruislip in 1922 with his parents to live in King Edward’s Road, told how he and a friend, having missed the last train to Ruislip one night, ‘walked the line’ from Harrow, arriving at Ruislip footsore and weary. Passing the Clubhouse, they spotted two glasses of beer on the handrail. Unable to resist the temptation they downed the pints, only to see the local policeman and his sergeant arriving to quaff their nightly treat!

Lawn Tennis was a popular game among the newcomers who settled in Ruislip as the Garden Suburb developed in the early years of the 20th century. The game had only been established as separate from Real Tennis in the 1870s, with the setting up of the Lawn Tennis Association. It is slightly surprising to find that the Ewers who lived at Manor Farm had a court, created in 1888-9, by ploughing out the north bank of the moat that surrounded the bailey to make a sufficiently large flat area to accommodate it. The net was slung between two pear trees.

The Ruislip Manor Cottage Society, founded 1911, was building attractive cottages in Manor Way in 1912, intended to provide well-planned homes for working people who would be unable to afford to buy or rent decent houses on the open market. Aiming to promote a healthy lifestyle for their tenants, the Society took up land on the side of the railway, midway between Ruislip Manor Halt and Ruislip Station in 1913 to provide space for sporting facilities. Ruislip Manor Ltd, the company that was handling land sales for King’s College, Cambridge, let about one third of the space between the two stations to the Society, at a peppercorn rent, ‘until required by the local authority’ . By the following spring, there was a bowling green and tennis courts and a Tennis Club was being formed by Dr Ashton Davies. Preparations were in hand for a cricket pitch and there was a stand pipe and hose on hand to keep it fresh and green. The facilities proved popular and in 1919, it was noted (with disapproval) that tennis was being played all day on Sundays, keeping people from church.

Ruislip Lawn Tennis Club had four grass courts ‘in King’s End’ according to the 1939 The Ruislip Where is it? The courts were in Little King’s End beside the footpath leading from the bend in Sharps Lane to King’s Gardens. They were close to a house called Neats Acre (demolished 1976). Barrenger’s Court is now on the site. Members approached Ruislip Manor Cottage Society in 1930 to ask them to provide two hard courts on their ground, but the Society was cautious, having only a yearly agreement, and wished to know the addresses of the Club’s members to see how many of their own tenants would benefit. Nothing came of this, as Ruislip Manor Ltd wanted the land back for development at the end of 1933 and flats, bungalows and houses were built along that side of Pembroke Road, prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The church of The Most Sacred Heart moved from the High Street to Pembroke Road in 1939 and the Bec Club, the church’s social club, laid out two courts beside the church, on what is now a car-park after the war.

One or two of the houses built on large plots on the Park Estate had their own courts, but most devotees joined clubs or played on public courts provided in parks like Churchfield Gardens. There were two tennis courts near the railway bridge in Wood Lane, right beside the public footpath that runs through to Kingsend. They backed onto the gardens of 17-25 Kingsend and may have been associated with Ruislip Bowls Club which, in 1939, had a bowling green in front of them along the Wood Lane frontage. The Medical Centre and part of the public car park now occupy the site.

It is a little sad to reflect how so many of the areas that provided exercise and recreation for the early suburbanites have either been built upon or are now filled during the daytime with serried ranks of parked cars.*

Comments are closed.