With Wimbledon in full swing it is good to remember that the first ever lawn tennis matches were played in Leamington.
The game was originally called ‘Pelota’ and was played in the grounds of the Manor House Hotel in Avenue Road.
The courts were where the Manor Court apartment block is at the back of the old hotel building.
The history of the Manor House Hotel is featured in the recently published book ‘Pubs of Royal Leamington Spa: Two Centuries of History’.
The book records that the hotel was first opened as a hotel by Isaac Curtis in 1847 after he refurbished the old manor house. He was made bankrupt in 1850 and the building became a school for 20 years.
But in 1871 Thomas Radclyffe secured a new licence for the hotel, having spent £7,000 on improvements, including a large banqueting room.
In 1932 the hotel was bought by a syndicate of local businessmen. They transformed it into “one of the most modern hotels in the country.”
Sporting facilities then included tennis court, putting course, clock golf, bowling green and a billiard table inside. But by 1939 the hotel was closed and the building requisitioned for the duration of the Second World War.
After the war the hotel was bought by Messrs Flower & Sons of Stratford and reopened in 1946. It was owned by the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne from 1959 and, according to the Morning News, they spent close on £100,000 modernising the hotel. They did sell off two acres of the grounds in 1960 for the development of luxury flats, now known as Manor Court.
The pubs book concludes: “It is understood that the Manor closed its doors in January 2004; it was later converted into apartments.”
For the full story about the Manor House Hotel and other Leamington licensed houses see ‘Pubs of Royal Leamington Spa’ by Leamington historians Allan Jennings, Martin Ellis and Tom Lewin, published by Brewin Books, £24.99.