We celebrated our Centenary in 2006 and are much indebted to the generous gift of time and expertise given by so many over the years - both RAF personnel and Club members.
The Tennis Centre has an intriging history - starting out life as a cricket pitch and pavilion in the early 1900s. The earliest images we have of the site date back to it's beginnings such as the wonderful team photo above.
The pavilion 1906
Early history and the Royal Air Force
The site was given to the RAF, around 1919, along with Halton House and all the surrounding land by the owners (the Rothschild family) for use as a training camp during World War I.
In 1929, the cricket pitch was replaced with grass tennis courts for use by the Officers of RAF Halton. As a self-sufficient base, the RAF had a large farm and numerous greenhouses located just behind our current stand and a large vegetable patch where our current air domes are located. The canal was also in use by boats trading goods, and a large turnaround area for them was once located in the area behind the air domes. It was later moved towards Weston Turville, due to the large number of mosquitoes that resulted, and the turnaround filled in.
Halton has been home to Royal Air Force Tennis since those early days. In addition to matches and training sessions throughout the year, each summer sees the RAF Championships held here, before the RAF team head to Wimbledon to take on the Army & Navy in the annual Inter-Service Championships.
RAF Championship 1977
Halton Village Lawn Tennis Club
In the 1950s, due to falling player numbers, all ranks were allowed to use the facilities and then, in 1983, local civilians were also welcomed to play; the Halton Village Lawn Tennis Club (HVLTC) was born with about 100 members. The first airdome was erected by the RAF in 1979, to provide year-round tennis, and was the first of its kind in the UK. Read a vintage magazine article from 1980.
Our outdoor courts have also had a few different lives – the 2 hard courts by the clubhouse were 'shale', the old fashioned messy red clay surface, until the mid-1980s when they changed to the tar macadam we have today. The other 2 hard courts suffered badly from moss, and in 2004 were changed to artificial grass. The 6 courts directly outside the clubhouse have been grass (1929 – 1985), artificial grass (1985 - 1995), acrylic (1995 - 2002) and currently are artificial grass once again.
Aerial view of Centre 1999
Halton Tennis Centre
Following a fall in use by the RAF in the late 1990s, and pressure on finances, in 2001 it was decided to create a partnership between the RAFLTA and HVLTC (previously just a tenant), to try and create a sustainable future. The Halton Tennis Centre (HTC) was created to encompass both sides of the Club, with a 99 year lease enabling us to have security of tenure for the first time in our history, and invest in a long term future.
Many of our members, both RAF and civilian have long associations with Halton, and over the years have given generously of their time and expertise. In 2007, a number also supported the Centre with loans to help us complete a major facilities project which included extra indoor courts, 3 court mini zone, 2 outdoor courts and a comprehensive Health & Fitness Club.
Centenary celebration 2006
1979 1st Indoor bubble or airdome in the UK (costing £80k)
1982 Club welcomes local civilians for the first time
1983 Halton Village Lawn Tennis Club (HVLTC) officially begins
2002 RAF Tennis & the Village Club created the HTC umbrella organisation
2003 Health & Fitness Club opened in old Ladies changing room!
2007 LTA High Performance Centre status achieved - one of only 2 clubs in the UK
2008 2nd Indoor bubble/dome built, including the only indoor Mini Zone in the UK
2009 Health & Fitness Club launches in its own bespoke building
Aerial view of Centre 2015