Wimbledon — an Unusual ClubCategory: Sport
The Centre of Lawn Tennis. The All-England Croquet Club. The First. World Lawn Tennis Championship. The First Women’s Singles Championship. On the Monday Nearest to June 22
People all over the world know Wimbledon as the centre of lawn tennis. But most people do not know that it was famous for another game before tennis was invented. Wimbledon is now a part of Greater London. In 1874 it was a country village, but it had a railway station and it was the home of the All-England Croquet Club. The Club had been there since 1864. A lot of people played croquet in England at that time and enjoyed it, but the national championships did not attract many spectators. So the Club had very little money, and the members were looking for ways of getting some. “This new game of lawn tennis seems to have plenty of action, and people like watching it,” they thought. “Shall we allow people to play lawn tennis on some of our beautiful croquet lawns?”
In 1875 they changed the name of the Club to the “All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club”, and that is the name that you will still find in the telephone book. Two years later, in 1877, Wimbledon held the first world lawn tennis championship (men’s singles). The winner was S. W. Gore, a Londoner. There were 22 players, and 200 spectators, each paid one shilling. Those who watched were dressed in the very latest fashion — the men in hard top hats and long coats, and the ladies in dresses that reached to the ground! The Club gained £ 10. It was saved.
Wimbledon grew. There was some surprise and doubt, of course, when the Club allowed women to play in the first women’s singles championship in 1884. But the ladies played well —even in long skirts that hid their legs and feet.
The Wimbledon championships begin on the Monday nearest to June 22, at a time when England often has its finest weather. It is not only because of the tennis that people like to go there. When the weather is good, it is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon. The grass is fresh and green, the players wear beautiful white clothes, the spectators are dressed in the latest fashion, there may be members of the Royal Family among them, and there are cool drinks in the open-air cafes next to the tennis courts.
Millions of people watch the championships on television.