In this newspaper article from 1934 Dr. Frederic H. Haynes reminisces about the early days of lawn tennis. Along with T.H. Gem, J.B.L.A. Perera and Dr. Arthur W. Tomkins, Haynes founded the world’s first lawn tennis club in the grounds of the Manor House Hotel, Leamington Spa, in 1874.
One or two points need to be made in reference to Dr. Haynes’ recollections:
In his letter to Field, published 21st November 1874, Gem gave the credit to Perera as the originator of their game. As Gem’s hand is evident in the correction of the proof copy of the Leamington game’s rules, held in the archives at the Library of Birmingham, it is safe to assume that this was a joint effort.
Gem stated also that Perera “introduced the game fifteen years ago”, so that puts the earliest date as 1859 rather than 1865 mentioned by Haynes.
The year of inauguration if the Leamington Club has now been established as 1874 rather than 1872. An article in the Leamington Spa Courier of 24th July 1875 reported on a garden party held at the club with the following key sentence: ‘The club, though so recently established, this being only the second year of its existence, is in a very flourishing condition…’
In addition Haynes states that many of Gem’s rules formed the basis of the modern game, as they were studied carefully by the MCC during the 1875 deliberations and revision of the game. Whilst it is not unreasonable to assume that the MCC would have looked at all the versions being played at the time there is no documentary evidence that Gem attended the meeting, nor that the committee reviewed his Leamington Club rules.
As neither Gem nor Perera nor, one assumes, the two doctors had any commercial interest in their game it went no further than Leamington. It was Wingfield’s Sphairistike which would form the basis of the MCC version devised in 1875. This in turn would undergo considerable revision by a committee of the All England Club at Wimbledon in preparation for the first Championships in 1877. Their version has stood the test of time, with a few minor revisions, to this very day.