The club’s first victory was against Yapton; and one significant player in this match was Mr. Randall, who was a member of the club for many years. Mr. Randall was injured during World War One, and as result had to continue to play tennis with the use of only one arm. This did not however appear to hinder him as he continued to play for the club for many years to come, and had a very good winning record. In November 1920 a fire broke out at the Sportsfield’s football stand, destroying the club’s clubhouse as well as all of the nets, balls and other equipment. As a result of this disaster various tournaments and fundraising activities were organised to raise money for replacing equipment and to rebuild the clubhouse, which was completed in 1925 and remains in use to this day.
The Second World War saw the club ‘make do and mend’ along with the rest of the country, using recovered balls and second hand nets and equipment. The minutes from April 1943 show ’The question of tennis balls were then discussed and it was agreed that we should try to collect as many old balls as we could and send them for re-inflation and re-covering’. The minutes from this time also make reference to the tennis pavilion being used as a refuge for those made homeless by air raids. Servicemen stationed in the town played at the club, making use of the special reduced rates they were given. The club minutes from April 1942 state ‘in view of rationing that it would be too difficult to provide teas as we have done, and that each person should take what food is required. Cups of tea would be provided at a charge of 3d each person for as many cups as they required’.
Today Littlehampton Tennis incorporates two tennis venues that are just a few short minutes walk apart – Howard Lawn Tennis Club (part of the Lawn Tennis Association) and, Littlehampton Community Tennis, which is a non-profit organisation providing tennis coaching to all ages and abilities in the local community. Howard Lawn Tennis club is one of the last remaining Grass only Tennis clubs in Sussex.
Littlehampton Tennis Club Minutes book
The minutes of the Tennis club are bound in a now rather tatty cloth binding but inside is filled with beautiful copperplate handwriting detailing the minutes of each meeting. The minutes date from 1911 - 1949 with the first typewritten minutes appearing in 1938.
1970s White Tennis balls loaned to the Museum by Littlehampton Tennis: It may surprise many people to learn that Tennis balls have not always been the bright yellow colour we see today. Originally Tennis balls were either black or white. However when colour television became mainstream viewers had trouble spotting the white ball when tennis matches were broadcast. In 1972 many tennis players switched to using the "Optic Yellow" balls. It was not until 1986 that Wimbledon finally stopped using white balls.