ORIGINS OF LAWN TENNIS
This was only eighteen months after Major Wingfield had brought out a game called "sphairistrike", originally thought to be the first game of tennis. However, it is now known that the first game, then known as "Pelota" had been played by Major Gem, Clerk to the Birmingham Magistrates, and Mr. J.B.A. Perera, a merchant of Great Charles Street, Birmingham, in 1865. The game had been played in the garden of a house known as "Fairlawn" in Ampton Road, Edgbaston, and there is a plaque to commemorate this event on the front of the house.
About 1870 Major Gem and Mr. Perera moved to Leamington and in 1872, in conjunction with two local practitioners formed the world's first Tennis Club in the grounds of the Manor House Hotel. This Club did not survive for very long, although there is today, of course, a Leamington Club.
After Leamington, the first Club to take up the game of Lawn Tennis appears to have been Edgbaston Archery and Croquet Society, although it must be admitted that the Edgbaston Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club and Solihull Lawn Tennis Club must run it fairly close. However, the evidence supports that, with the demise of the original Leamington Club, the Society is the oldest surviving tennis playing club in the country and, therefore, by implication in the world.
How early the Society was in fostering the development of the game can be gathered from a study of the 1875 Fixture Card, a gilt printed circular which shows that Lawn Tennis Meetings were fixed for Saturday afternoons in May, June, July, August and September, with the statement:
"Prizes for Lawn Tennis for ladies and gentlemen. Prizes for double-handed games for May and June. NB Further prizes will be offered if sufficient interest is shown".