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The original name for the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club) was the ‘All England Croquet Club’ which was founded in July 1868. The Club was founded by John Walsh, Capt Dalton, J Hinde Hale, the Reverend Law, S.H. Clarke Maddock and Walter Jones Whitmore. On its formation, the AECC did not have any grounds to speak of and so the first Club Croquet Championships took place at Crystal Palace in 1869. Later that year, a four acre site was rented just off Worple Road, Wimbledon, which became the home of the Club until 1922 when it moved to its present location.

Major Walter Clopton Wingfield began to play tennis, or ‘lawn tennis’ as it was commonly known in those days, in 1874. This game of tennis which had been originally named ‘Sphairistike’ was brought to the Club in 1875. People of both sexes enjoyed lawn tennis equally for both social and health benefits. During 1877 the club was renamed, ‘The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club’ and the Club launched the first tennis tournament on Monday 9th July of the same year which was open solely to male competitors. Twenty-two men entered the competition, answering to an advertisement in ‘The Field’, a leisure magazine of the time, and each paying the £1 1s entrance charge. In this opening year of the Wimbledon Championships it was recorded that approximately 200 people came to watch the final and each paid one shilling for the privilege. In 1899 the name of the Club was amended to ‘The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’ to signify the evolution at the club.

The Wimbledon crown has been contended each year from 1877 until the present day apart from between 1915 and 1918 and later between 1940 and 1945 because of the onset of World War I and World War II respectively. Rules and regulations were created and put in place in 1877 in accordance with the Marylebone Cricket Club most of which are similar to those adhered to today, with some minor exceptions such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net. The only major change being the introduction of the tiebreak rule in 1971.

Generally ‘Lawn Tennis’ was played by both genders but originally it was only men that competed up until 1884 when ladies began to compete regularly, albeit clearly with a lower status than the men as the ladies’ competition could only start once the men’s had finished. The first ladies’ singles champion had an entry of 13 players with Maud Watson victorious.

When London hosted the Olympics in 1908 the tennis tournament was held at Wimbledon for the outdoor matches and at Queen’s Club for the indoor games. However, when the Olympics came to London again in 1948 tennis did not feature, and had not been seen since the Paris Games in 1924. Tennis was later reinstated as an Olympic event in 1988 at the Seoul Games in Korea.

In 1922 the AELTC moved to a new site on Church Road. It had been clear for many years that more substantial grounds were needed to meet the ever growing popularity of the event. The Worple Road site had been just 4 acres and as such paled into comparison against the 13 acre site that was then purchased. It was the job of architect, Capt Stanley Peach to create the design for the new Centre Court which was to include offices and other facilities. The construction was completed on time and on 26th June 1922 the splendid facility was opened by King George V and Queen Mary. Despite the now unbelievable sentiment of the day, Centre Court has certainly not become the White Elephant that was pessimistically predicted! That same year the Gentleman’s doubles was introduced.

Just two years later, the second show court, which had built to the west side of Centre, was unveiled as No. 1 Court. The original plan for No. 1 Court was for a hard surface court but as it could not be completed in time for the Championships in 1922 the plans were shelved and instead it opened in 1924 as the second main grass court of the Club. When first constructed, No. 1 Court could hold 3,250 visitors. The original structure was replaced in 1996 and now accommodates just over 3.5 times the original numbers, with a current capacity of 11,500.

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