Westcliff Hardcourt Lawn Tennis Club is affiliated to the Essex County LTA and through them to the Lawn Tennis Association and is a Member of Southend & District and Leigh & Westcliff Lawn Tennis Leagues.
The club was first formed in the winter of 1928/1929, with some 20 members, initially with 2 grass courts, on the current site. Four years later this was expanded to 4 grass courts and 3 shale courts and the club was named “The Ridgeway Lawn Tennis Club”. The club then had some 120 members.
It was closed during war but re-opened in 1947: all the courts were converted to shale and the name changed to “Westcliff Hardcourt Lawn Tennis Club”. The club was fortunate in that the site was owned by a trust with the stipulation that the grounds be used for sports purposes. Membership was then about 140.
In 1959 the club instigated the founding of the Essex Senior League. This started with 6 clubs in one division, and has since been copied by other counties; now 50 years later there are 419 teams in 58 divisions in Essex competitions, winter and summer, singles and doubles.
As a thriving club, with both a strong membership and a record of successful competition, the club wished to invest in better facilities, and in 1975 the club was able to purchase the freehold from the trustees, with the aid of loans from members.
Due to the cost and difficulty in maintaining shale courts they were replaced in the 1970s with artificial grass courts. Membership then averaged about 400.
In 1991 a major development occurred: all 7 courts were arranged in a straight line, and all courts were floodlit. A loan was obtained from the LTA and with their support courts 1-3 were relaid with an acrylic surface. Membership then peaked at about 650.
In 1997 the existing pavilion was completely refurbished and extended, with loans from the LTA and from David Lloyd (both repaid). The bar (which had been a separate building) was incorporated into the pavilion, and the space utilised for a larger carpark, plus the installation of 2 new mini tennis courts, using a largish grant from a charitable foundation.
The club has changed little over the last 10 years but court surfaces have been relaid or maintained. Membership has stabilised at about 550 and of these the junior section in particular thrives with about 200 players. Some families have remained members for over 60 years but the integration of old and new memberships provides a successful blend of tradition and innovation.
The club continues as a non profit-making organisation ploughing back its revenues to improve facilities for the good of its members.
In 2008 the club applied for the prestigious Clubmark status and in 2009 was awarded this standard, confirming its position as an organisation of high quality.
The history of the club would be incomplete without mention of two of the families who have contributed significantly to its growth and prestige.
These two families are the Carter family and the Lloyd family.
The Carter Family
Westcliff Hard was reconstructed after the war in 1947 and the management of the club was in the hands of Wilf Cox and Tony Carter in this critical period of growth.
Tony Carter was club captain and ran all the tennis and social life of the club into the early sixties.
His son Terry became one of the strongest players, his daughter Peggy was a stalwart of the ladies team, and their family maid May, who cooked meals in the canteen on Friday and Sunday evenings. Most of the cleaning and odd jobs in the club were undertaken by the family
The bar was then thriving, with a large social (ie drinking) membership which part subsidised he tennis section. The bar was run in those days entirely by volunteers, the most prominent being Tony’s son-in-law Maurice Nye, who acted as Treasurer for both club and bar, and did all the re-ordering. After hours drinking was not unknown and the club slid round this problem, several policeman being members no doubt helping; and on rare occasions the chief constable popped in. Those were the days: table tennis in the greenhouse with the stove fired up, Sunday evening card night round the fire in the pavilion, summer days on the beach, returning in the evening for a doubles with Andre – those halcyon days are over.
Daughter-in-law Jacqui Carter is still a playing member and carries on the traditions, Lance Owen is a great-grandson and another great-granddaughter has just joined.
It is doubtful if any other family has contributed as much voluntary time and effort to the well being of the club than the Carter/Nye family.
The Lloyd Family
Below is reprinted an appreciation of Denis & Doris Lloyd, written on the occasion of a special award presented to them in 2009.
Denis & Doris Lloyd: An Appreciation
The number of tennis players influenced by Dennis and Doris over the last 60-70 years is countless.
Their enthusiasm for the game at club level in their home near Southend at the Westcliff Hardcourts tennis club has influenced generations of players who have gone on to represent with distinction their club, their county, Essex, and Great Britain.
Dennis had met Doris during the war and introduced her to tennis when they moved to Southend in the 1940s. He had always been a good player, an unorthodox baseliner with a fine return of serve and a superb lob, and in possession of a fine winning temperament.
He played the London springtime tournament circuit (Roehampton, Beckenham, Hurlingham) most years and represented Essex on occasions in the winter county championships, as a shale court singles player. Although not as strong on grass he played one year in the Wimbledon qualifying event. He was Westcliff Hard club champion for many years and won the Southend & District championship 6 times in 9 years from 1946-54, plus 16 doubles titles (none with Doris, their one venture into mixed doubles being apparently their only known hiccup).
Doris also became a strong club player, representing Westcliff Hard for over 20 years with distinction, having first achieved the difficult feat of learning tennis from scratch in her twenties, between producing 4 children.
The eldest, a daughter, Anne became a good club player; the next 3 were boys, and all played at Wimbledon.
Thus the famous Lloyd brothers, David, John and Tony were born.
In those days professional coaching at club level was almost invisible; the only way was to coach your own children. Here the boys were lucky. Their father’s focus on the game, his enthusiasm, his will to win set the example; and Doris’s patience, her after-school knocks and her understanding of simple techniques which had worked for herself not long before combined to achieve a winning coaching formula. To succeed at tennis you need one dedicated parent. The Lloyd brothers had two.
When the children were still too young to play tournaments, weekends were spent playing matches or competitive friendlies. Dennis never played a set without trying to win; but off-court he was happy, outgoing and courteous and always willing to advise players of all standards.
They encouraged their children to be self-supporting. David as a junior, and entering the senior ranks, was encouraged to go abroad; he toured Africa on his own, searching for tennis experience and the prize money necessary to support himself. Afterwards as a journeyman pro he played in the early professional team-tennis leagues in the USA and then coached in Canada and Israel, experience and self-reliance which would enable him later to become a successful business tycoon. John, of course, built on David’s success and became a world ranking player: in Grand Slams he reached a singles final and won 3 mixed doubles titles, and together they were part of the successful team that took GB to the Davis Cup final. And Tony, although handicapped by a chronic back injury, showed his class when he beat, with brother John, the No 2 seeds in the doubles at Wimbledon.
Dennis in business moved from running his own company in the rag trade to setting up and managing a sports shop, a venture with his friend and doubles partner. Afterwards he became the full time tennis coach at the club and thus formalized what he had been doing for many years, teaching players of all standards how to improve and transmitting his dedication to the game. Dennis was hurt by two things: firstly as a pro he was at that time ineligible to play for Westcliff Hard in county cup & league matches and he missed the competition; and secondly the LTA failed him in his coaching exam. This was deeply ironic, since although no doubt Dennis’s approach to coaching was individual if not unorthodox, the need to promote good coaches with a proven success rate was obvious.
Doris also became a most effective part-time coach and of course as an “amateur” could play for the team, and continue to bake delicious biscuits for mens and ladies match teas.
Although Doris and Dennis are extremely modest they are justifiably proud of all their childrens’ achievements. Attending the successful opening of a series of large indoor clubs and chatting to the Evert family were moments they savoured. Although Dennis continued to play in long white trousers, he was never backward looking and fully supported the opening up of the professional game.
In 1995 Dennis’s reputation and achievements were recognized by the county who made him their President.
Sadly Doris died in 2010. Dennis passed away four years later in 2014. Both Dennis and Doris were remarkable people who always talked fondly of their days of the club and what it gave to them. Dennis only stopped playing aged 88 due to a chronic back injury. He was the oldest playing member the club has ever had. Well, as Dennis would often say: “Tennis is a game for life”.