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History

 

 

In 1935 when the landowner, Mr Herbert Walker Charles Weatherdon, built the houses in Downs Wood, he allowed the corner plot to remain undeveloped provided it was used as a recreation facility for local residents.  Three tennis courts were built on the site and it was leased to Downs Wood Lawn Tennis Club.  Thus, the Club was founded. Over the years, the name has become corrupted to Downswood Lawn Tennis Club. The Club was run by its members, for its members, a situation that continues to this day.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, the functioning of the Club became increasingly difficult.  At the AGM on 7.3.41 it was noted ‘since air attacks commenced in mid-August, 1940 the Club’s activities had practically ceased’. It was, therefore, decided the Club should ‘ remain in abeyance for the duration of hostilities’.

A £20 ex gratia payment was made to the landowner to guarantee the site would be retained over the war years and if the Club took up the option within 6 months of hostilities ceasing, the lease would be renewed for 3 yrs afterwards. During the war the site was used by the Home Guard who erected a hut and a searchlight on the property.

In September, 1945 when the re-opening of the Club was considered, the site had fallen into a state of disrepair. It was estimated approx £300 would be required to relay the 3 courts and refurbish the site.  The landowner agreed to cover 50% of the cost if the Club members could raise the balance.  If this was not possible the owner planned to put the land up for sale.  Pledges from members and an appeal to all local residents were successful in raising the money and the Club was saved.

After the death of Mr Weatherdon, the site was held in Trust by Mrs Gillian Alice de Cent who continued to lease the land to the Club.  However, in 1969 planning permission was sought to build 4 detached houses on the site.  The Club lodged a comprehensive objection and planning permission was refused. The case went to appeal and after a Public Enquiry the verdict was upheld. The Club was saved once again. With its future relatively safe, in 1972 the Club applied for planning permission to erect a clubhouse on site.  Approval was given and the project was financed by grants from the Sports Council and Banstead UDC, interest free loans from Club members and a loan from the LTA.  Costs were kept to a minimum as members of the Club completed the majority of the construction work.

In 1980 the Trust was dissolved and the land became the property of Mrs de Cent. The Club was now able to approach her regarding the purchase of the freehold. Initially Mrs de Cent indicated the site was worth approx £25,000, advising ‘I must tell you that I shall require a fairly large sum as I do have plans for the property when the present lease expires’.  However, although the Council could not guarantee that planning permission for houses would be refused, it did confirm that any application would be opposed at local level.  At a meeting held on 4th June, 1980 Mrs de Cent agreed in principle to sell the freehold to the Club.  After further negotiation, on 19th June, 1980 a price of £10,000 was agreed provided the sale could be completed by the end of August.  This date was extended later.  Once again Club members swung into action to raise the necessary funds to finally secure the Club’s future.  A grant of £3,000 was received from the Sports Council and the LTA agreed to a loan of £1,000.  Club members promised loans and advanced subs of approx £4,500.  On 18th February, 1981 the land was officially transferred to Downswood Lawn Tennis Club.

Over the years the Club’s facilities have been well maintained and upgraded.  The Clubhouse roof was re-felted in 1991, members installed a new kitchen in 1998 and all the windows have been replaced with double glazed units.  The hard standing car park was completed in 1995.  In 2000, 2 of the courts were floodlit and in 2007, all the courts were resurfaced and the surrounding fence renewed.

Past Presidents and committees have devoted their time and energy to making Downswood Lawn Tennis Club a success.  It is hoped this will continue into the future.