Seen on the Green
Famous Faces From Chingford
by Councillor Thom Goddard, Chingford Historical Society member
This Month: Tennis World Champions at the Connaught Club
Nestled in the forest at the eastern end of Chingford, opposite Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, is a tennis club. Driving along Rangers Road it is easily missed, hiding amongst the trees. But for the most famous tennis stars, Chingford’s Connaught Club was one of the most important places to play in the world.
The Connaught Club was created in 1885, only seven years after the ‘All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club’ at Wimbledon. The earliest details come from ‘Pastime’ magazine in June 1888 proving it was well established with 9 tennis courts, a full-size bowling green and an indoor tennis court under construction*. One of the Club’s first ‘world beater’ members was G.P. ‘Pat’ Hughes who trained on the courts. Pat is the only Englishman to ever win the Italian Open, and in Grand Slams he won the Doubles title at the French Open in 1933 and Australian Open in 1934 with Fred Perry. Later Pat Hughes teamed up with C.R.D. Tuckey and they won the Wimbledon Men’s Doubles in 1936.
In 1951, Harold Storer created a ‘Tennis Open Tournament’ at the Connaught Club. Many of the winners of this tournament went on to much greater things. One of the most prominent Women’s Champions was Virginia Wade OBE in 1967. Virginia would go on to win the French and Australian Singles titles, the US, French and Australian Doubles titles, and Ladies Wimbledon Singles title in 1977.
One of the world’s greatest tennis players came to Chingford and lifted the men’s title. Rod Laver MBE played many times at the Connaught but only won the Club Championship once in 1962. Globally, Rod is remembered for over 200 championships won in the professional game. The same year as winning at the Connaught Club Rod became the first winner of the tennis ‘Grand Slam’, winning the Australian, French and US Open Championships, and Wimbledon in one year. Rod Laver remains the only person to ever achieve this twice as he won the ‘Grand Slam’ again in 1969.
The Connaught Club’s Open Tournament continued to draw the world’s top players to Chingford. Miss Angela Mortimer won the Connaught Championship 6 times between 1955 and 1962. She also had time to become the World’s Number One female tennis player in 1961 and won the Australian, French and Wimbledon Championships.
Other world stars to win the Connaught Club title in Chingford include Denmark’s Torben Ulrich, who won at the age of just 16 in 1954. Although he did not win any Grand Slam events, he became the World’s Number One tennis player and his son is Lars Ulrich from the band ‘Metallica’. Not forgetting Englishman R.K. ‘Bobby’ Wilson who beat Rod Laver in Chingford, and won the Connaught title 5 times, but could only get to the Finals of the French Open and Wimbledon, finishing runner-up each time. So do keep a look out for any champions, from tennis or any other sport, you meet in the Mount or have seen on the Green!
If you spot anyone contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastime Magazine, 1888
Thanks to Atholl McDonald, Dr. Andrew Pringle and Dr. Jean Pringle.
Thanks to G.A. Davis and his book ‘The Connaught Club History’.
Thanks to The Connaught Club, Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH.
© Copyright 2017 Thom Goddard. All rights reserved.
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