Great British Menu 2017 Celebrates Lawn Tennis

L to R: Ryan Simpson, Orwells, Oxfrodshire; Pip Lacey, Murano, London; Nick Deverell-Smith, The Churchill Arms, Gloucestershire.

The current series of the Great British Menu competition on BBC TV celebrates the 140th anniversary of the Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. The competition culminates in a banquet at the AELTCC, Wimbledon, London  to be broadcast on Friday 230th June.

Nick Deverell-Smith, one of the central region competitors, was a Warwickshire county player as a young man. He paid a visit to Ampton Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham to look over and play on the oldest  tennis lawn in the world.

Here’s GBM 2017 Central Fish Ep32 in which Nick Deverill-Smith visits Ampton Road and hears about the earlt days of lawn tennis from Bob Holland (piece commences around 9:52).  Also the grand finale, a banquet GMB Ep45 at the All England Club, Wimbledon.  Click here.

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Maud comes into the garden

On Monday 19th June we set up the court, in line with Gem and Perera’s 1874 rules, in the garden at Ampton Road, Edgbaston, ready for a promotion event by the wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and LTA. This coincided with the Aegon Classic tournament at Edgbaston Priory.

See what happened when Lucie Safarova met Maud Watson (Izzy Nelson) on the oldest tennis lawn in the world – click here.

Following five photographs © Getty Images

(Click photos to enlarge)



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Grays Real Tennis Racquets

We are indebted to Grays for their generosity in donating six real tennis racquet frames. Once they are strung they’ll be put to use on demonstration days and events related to the history of lawn tennis.

Before lawn tennis specific equipment was manufactured players would use whatever they had to hand. Hence real tennis and rackets racquets would have been used to play the early/new game of lawn tennis.

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‘Court on Canvas’ – a book for all lovers of lawn tennis

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BBC Antiques Road Trip

Back in March we filmed, in the garden at Ampton Road and in the Birmingham Library,  a piece with Philip Serrell for the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip series. This will be broadcast in the programme at 4:30pm on Monday 19th September. Find the programme by clicking here, It’s about 11.30 minutes in.


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World of Tennis

Last year we filmed a piece for World of Tennis which was broadcast on BT Sport. Filming took place at the Edgbaston Archery & Lawn Tennis Society, the oldest lawn tennis club in the world, and the Ampton Road house, former home of Augurio Perera.

See the video here on our Facebook page.

Chris Elks 02.04.15_01

Chris Elks explains the finer points of early racquets to the film crew at Edgbaston Archery & lawn Tennis Society.

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Renovation of Warstone Lane Cemetery

The announcement, in the Birmingham Post 28.05.15, of plans for the restoration and transformation of the Key Hill and Warstone Lane Cemeteries.

In due course we will start fund-raising for the restoration of Harry’s grave.

BPost 28.05.15

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Gem’s Grave

Gem’s grave and temporary plaque in the March sunlight.



This area of Warstone Lane Cemetery is looking so much tidier than when I first found Harry’s grave. Click link below for a short video:


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Who was Perera?

Much has been written about Harry Gem but of his friend and co-pioneer in lawn tennis not much is known.

He was described thus in a newspaper report entitled ‘THE OLD RACQUET CLUB, BATH STREET – A BIT OF BIRMINGHAM HISTORY’

“…..then an older supporter of the house came forward. He remembered the starting of a racquet club.

The game was expensive and consequently exclusive. The leading spirit of the club was Harry Gem, the Magistrates’ Clerk of Birmingham, and a famous player named Young, who, he believed, had been champion of England, was engaged. For a time the club prospered. Young was nearly equalled as a player by Periera, the merchant, of Great Charles Street, a very fine all-round athlete, and the real inventor of lawn tennis.”

So who was this ‘fine all-round athlete? Dr. Kirsty Hooper, Associate Professor & Reader in Hispanic Studies, University of Warwick became interested in the subject recently and undertook research and published a fully sourced working paper. She has very kindly given us permission to reproduce her introduction from her blog with links to her paper:

An Anglo-Spanish Victorian in the Midlands: Augurio Perera, co-founder of lawn tennis

August 12, 2013 · by Kirsty · in Anglo-Spaniards, Ephemera, Midlands

Those of you who have been following our adventures on Twitter will know that this summer, the Booksonspain family moved from Merseyside to the Midlands.  Being used to the multicultural port-city history of Hispanic Liverpool,* I wasn’t sure how much Hispanic history I’d find in the landlocked Midlands, but thanks to last week’s Kenilworth Weekly News and a nostalgia story about lawn tennis in Leamington, I’ve discovered one very prominent Anglo-Spanish connection, and so rather excitingly, this blog now has its very own ‘Midlands’ category.

The line that caught my eye was the statement that ‘Major Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Batista Pereira, a Spanish merchant, invented lawn tennis in the 19th century, playing on a lawn in Edgbaston.’ A bit of judicious googling, and I discovered that the Major and his Spanish friend, real name Juan Bautista Luis Augurio Perera,** are now widely credited with inventing lawn tennis in around 1859 on the lawn at Perera’s villa Fairlight, on Ampton Rd in Edgbaston (left), which even has a blue plaque commemorating the event. In the last couple of years, a Birmingham-based charity called The Harry Gem Project has been set up, with objectives including: (1) To celebrate and publicise the life of Thomas Henry Gem (1819 – 1881) through publications, exhibitions, community events and a dedicated web site, and (2) To publicise his role as the originator, with his friend JBA Perera, of lawn tennis here in Birmingham and the creator of the world’s first lawn tennis club in Leamington Spa. Continue reading

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See Greg Rusedski playing under Harry Gem’s rules…

Our day with Greg Rusedski in the garden at the house in Ampton Road, Edgbaston finally saw the light of day in Episode 4 of ITV’s Britain’s Secret Homes, which aired on Friday 28th June 2013.

Watch the video here on our Facebook page


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