Club History

Wicklow Tennis Club was founded on the 14th May 1913 and not in 1886 as was once thought.

An article in McPhail’s Guide to Wicklow 1913 confirms this fact and also identifies the people sitting on the first ever Committee of the Club.

There were many articles in McPhail’s 1913 Guide, two of which referred to the two Tennis Clubs in Wicklow Town.  Wording from the two articles, with headings, read as follows:

Wicklow Tennis Club

‘The grounds of the Wicklow Tennis Club are prettily situated at the end of Abbey Street, on the Main Road from the town to Railway Station. There are two tennis courts, and two croquet greens. These are extremely well kept, and as the situation is an ideal one, the Club is largely patronised, especially on Wednesdays, when tea is served by one or other of the lady members. The annual subscription is 10s. 6d., and application for membership by visitors should be made to the Hon. Sec. Mr F. R. St. Lawrence Tyrell, D.I. 5 Wentworth Place, Wicklow. The Hon. Officers are as follows: – President: Earl Fitzwilliam, Vice-Presidents: Mr. Arnold P. Carden, CI,; Dr, J, H. Halpin. Committee: Captain R. R. Growse, R.N.; Mr Thomas Lyndon, M.D,; Mr T. W. S. Martin, Captain J. Shekleton, Mr. T. A. Tombe, Mr. H. R. Bradshaw. The Club opened on the 14 May.’

YMCA Tennis Club

Under the auspices of the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., a joint Committee of the members run a tennis club in the grounds of the Grand Hotel. The site is an admirable one. During the past winter a second court has been laid, but will only be available for croquet play this summer. Clock golf also occupies a corner. Teas, at a very moderate charge, are served in the grounds by the Hotel people. Members can introduce a limited number of friends, as temporary members. The annual subscription is 5s.

Hon. Officers.- President: Rev. P. B. Johnson, M.A. Treasurer: Mr. F. A. Rooke, Abbeyville, Wicklow. Secretary: Mr. H. C. Northing, Chemical Works, Wicklow. Committee: Messrs. W.J. Haskins, John Shaw, G.B. Hopkins, R.M. lees, with the officers.’


The Trustees of the club at the time were :  Laurence Joseph Conway (Medical Doctor),Salem, Wicklow; Norman James McEachern (Company Director), Wentworth Grove, Wicklow; Rev. Stanley Pettigrew (The Rectory Wicklow Clerk in Holy Orders); Harold William Hopkins (Company Director), Church Hill, Wicklow; Thomas Anthony Delahunt (Company Director), Villa Nita, Wicklow; Bruce Vincent Pippet (Medical Doctor), Salem, Wicklow.

In the 1966 Indenture the Club Trustees are TO HOLD UPON TRUST to sell, mortgage or otherwise deal with the same or any part thereof as the Committee for the time being of Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club by resolution direct and to hold the proceeds of any such sale, mortgage or other disposition at the disposal for such Committee for the time being.

In the 1966 Indenture the Club Trustees are TO HOLD UPON TRUST to sell, mortgage or otherwise deal with the same or any part thereof as the Committee for the time being of Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club by resolution direct and to hold the proceeds of any such sale, mortgage or other disposition at the disposal for such Committee for the time being.

This formal transfer of the original Glebe Tennis Club site was the first time the Trustees of the Club became the formal owners of the grounds based on the Will (and an ‘agreement in writing’ on or prior to the 5th May 1933) of the Right Honourable William Thomas Spencer Earl Fitzwilliam KG (known as the 6th Earl), dated 2nd October 1895 which was probated in London and re-sealed in the Probate Registry Office, Dublin on 16thAugust 1902.

On the death of the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam the grounds then passed to his grandson William Charles de Meuron Earl Fitzwilliam (known as the 7th Earl). 

On the death of Ralph Pawsey an Indenture dated 12th September 1958 states that Baron Willoughby resigned as a trustee and vested the Estate in new Trustees/Vendors (identified as in the 1966 indenture as Olive Fitzwilliam, Wallace Brown and Francis Mervyn Doyne) who in 1966 formally sold the Glebe site (pursuant to the 1933 agreement) for the sum of £30 (thirty pounds) to the Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club Trustees to hold in trust for the Club Committee and members.

In 1929 the first winner recorded on the Greville Cup for the Ladies Single Handicap Champion was Mrs C.A. Hopkins. In 1952 Belle Halpin, of the notable sea-faring Halpin family, donated a beautiful Cup for the Men’s Handicap Championship and the first winner recorded on it was A.N. (Norman) McEachern.

Formerly called the Wicklow Lawn Tennis Club it was, like other clubs around the town, supported by members of families such as the Halpin’s, Shekleton’s, Tottenham’s, Tighe’s, Tyner’s, Kent’s, Hopkins and others who were leaders of the Church of Ireland and of the local business community in the town.

In the years immediately prior to 1966 it is almost certain that the club was run by members of the Kent, Hopkins, Kilfeather, McEachern and Tyner families.

In 1987 new Trustees Michael Butler (Chemist), Friars Hill; Gerard Kean (Garda), Dunbur Rd and Maureen Gelletlie (Hotelier), Hunter’s Hotel, Rathnew replaced Norman James McEachern, Rev. Stanley Pettigrew and Harold William (Billy) Hopkins who stepped down as Trustees.

For many years there were two grass courts and two croquet courts late and the four grass courts only.  In later years the court 4 nearest the roadside was converted into a hard cinder court in the 1960’s.  Some existing members can recall the maintenance of courts required regular manual lawn mowing and white line marking. An old photograph of the club grounds, circa 1940-50’s, show two structures – one a Club House and the other that seems to be a viewing Pavilion – at the back of the grounds on the Wentworth side. What happened to the Pavilion is not known but the Club House would appear to be the one that prevailed in the 1970’s.  This Clubhouse was built with walls from slices off spruce trees with bark on.  It was some 14ft x 10ft only and acted as a changing room shared by ladies and gents, a meeting room and general function facility with no water, toilets or mod cons.

Over the years the various serving Officers and Committee were active in enhancing the club facilities with additions recorded as follows:

  • In 1970 a new solid structure toilet facility was built separately at a cost of approx. £411.
  • In 1975, to save the hard court next to the roadside from being sold off to raise funds, Mrs Maureen Gelletlie (Hunters Hotel) spearheaded a major fund raising campaign to replace the grass court with hard courts. This action, and subsequent development investment over the years, has brought the club into one of the leading tennis facilities in the South Leinster region.
  • In the May & June of 1975 the three grass courts were converted into hard courts and were formally opened in the first week of July 1975.  In 1986 these were replaced with new Cool Top Play Tar Macadam Hard Courts with chain link fencing all around the four courts and ducting put in for future flood lighting. Both of these events led to a major surge in new membership.
  • In 1982/83 the new modern clubhouse was built with modern changing rooms, showers/toilets and kitchen/function room facilities and it was formally opened in April 1983 by Liam Kavanagh T.D.
  • In 1987 the club purchased the land behind the old Shell Garage for use as a practice area.
  • In 1994 extra ground was purchased behind Cullen’s Solicitor’s offices and two new synthetic courts were built turning the club into a full six synthetic court facility. Once again this led to a major surge of new members joining.
  • On the 30th October 2011 – after a complete refurbishment of all courts, floodlights, fencing and landscaping and with some renovation to the Club House – the Club re-opened for play following an eight week shut down to complete this work.  Our Club now proudly claims to be one of the most modern of tennis court facilities with Tiger Turf Advantage surface along with new state of the art Philips 1kw court lights

The club was and is to this day, though much has changed, still run and managed by volunteer officers and committee members.

The oldest record of accounts available for the club are for the 1965/66 season showing total annual income to be £111.17.4 (pounds.shilling.pence) and total annual expenditure to be £90.15.10 leaving a cash in hand balance of £20.11.6 which reflected a well run club even then.

The club is open on application to all living in the town and immediate surrounding districts. The club membership consists of Family, Senior, Student, Junior or Associate members. At least 100 new memberships of all types are being taken up annually and all are enjoying the first class tennis and club house facilities. There are over 800 members currently in the club under the different member categories.

We are affiliated to Tennis Ireland which is the National Governing Body for the sport of tennis in Ireland. TI was founded in 1923 with over 200 affiliated clubs with 50,000+ members. They stage events such as Irish Open Chamionships, The Federation Cup and The Davis Cup. It also operates a variety of development programmes on both a national and provincial level, for both senior and junior elite players.

The ladies and men’s teams have been involved in the DLTC league and Leinster Provincial Towns since 1990 with many successes and achievements in the different levels over the years. The club enjoys a lot of provincial and national success with individual performances at both men/ladies and boy/girl junior events indicating the high playing standards reached at all levels. We can also boast of club members playing for Ireland at International level.We can also boast of club members playing for Ireland at International level.

We are also members of the Dublin Lawn Tennis Council who run interclub tennis leagues in the greater Dublin area for over 70 clubs.

Wicklow Tennis Club is well respected as one that is run very professionally to their club rules and is still one of the few that maintain the ‘all white’ tennis clothing tradition. The officers and committee meet once a month on the management of the club, and due to ongoing success and increasing membership Club Administrator, Sinead Nolan, was appointed to look after clerical, website, and other activities. There is also an active Junior Committee looking after the junior affairs in the club.

The club conforms to Health & Safety regulations regarding sporting clb activities and has recently introduced a CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) medical facility to cater for sporting cardiac arrests. So the ‘old folks’ still playing and indeed younger players can be comfortable in the knowledge of medical assistance being available ‘on hand’ at the club.

Prepared by Joe Kavanagh