Presented by: Rob Lake

Unlike the sports of football, rugby and cricket, tennis as it emerged and developed in the late nineteenth century was not clearly divided by a north vs. south rivalry, expressed in different attitudes toward competition or the amateur ethos. This is partly because tennis was not a team game and nor was it widely played in the public schools until the inter-war period, so was not imbued with the same emphases and cultural significance. Moreover, rather than comprehensively across Britain, the sport developed strongly in certain pockets, one of which was the North West. In these areas of the country, distinct regional differences were apparent, and can be seen to reflect wider class relations alongside broader economic and political situations of the time. In providing an overall account of the social historical development of tennis in Britain, this presentation aims to highlight interesting nuances from the North West, a region responsible among other things for championing parks tennis and playing an important role in fostering early children’s talent development programmes. The cultural hegemony of the South East (Home Counties) in tennis development is used as a revealing comparison, to show how the sport played a not insignificant role within broader social, political and economic developments in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century British history.​

Article © Robert J Lake