Club History

hunters hill lawn tennis club history

We are one of the oldest tennis clubs in Sydney, with records dating back to the 1800's.

It is only relatively recently however that we have tried to bring more of this information together to ensure that this history is passed on. We hope to continually add to this section of our website. In the meantime we hope you enjoy our first efforts. If you do happen to have any Club memorabilia, or know someone else who does, or have any information relating to the Club that you think we would be interested in, then please do contact us. We would love to hear from you.
hunters hill lawn tennis club Club-History

Currently the oldest record that we have sourced that refers to the Club dates to November 1888.  It comes from a rather unusual situation as it relates to two newly formed running clubs that are going to play a tennis match against one another at the Hunters Hill Lawn Tennis Club.  The following link provides the background to the running clubs, that leads to the challenge tennis match, and the first documented reference to the Club - November 1888 reference.

Our next record of the Club is from the List of Clubs published in The Illustrated Sydney News (June 6, 1889)It describes the club as follows: 'Hunter's Hill, Sydney - Hon Sec. W.Leigh. This club is mainly of  private character. Games are played on the lawns of residents. For so small a club it boasts exceptionally good members, having no less than five intercolonial players on the list.' The article includes a picture of the The NSW team from 1889, including club member RD Fitzgerald.

Interestingly, AB 'Banjo' Patterson played at our Club in the same year his famous 'The Man From Snowy River and other versus' poetry collection was published, and also that year he penned 'Waltzing Matilda' which was to become Australia's best known folk song. Patterson's parents lived locally at Gladesville and the results of one of his matches is linked here. Other notable members included the Australian poet, Robert D Fitzgerald; and Alan S Watt, who competed at Wimbledon in 1924.

The following is a summary of an address made by a past Club President, Mr John Austin to the Hunters Hill Historical Society on the 23rd April, 1975.

  • The early history of the Club is very obscure and no records are available showing the actual origin of the Club however the Club existed in the 1860’s.
  • The courts used were situated in Passy Avenue, Hunters Hill.
  • We have a copy of the Club Rules dating from 1894. President  C.J. Manning;  Committee  Messrs. Blaxland, Leigh, Lithbridge and Spier; Joint Secretaries  Messrs. Fitzgerald and Metcalfe.  Please click here for the rules.
  • Preference was given to residents of Hunter’s Hill.
  • A set of Handicap Tournament Rules thought to date from 1888 are also available. Please click here for the rules.
  • At this point there were 16 Club members.
  • In 1907 the Club became affiliated and commenced playing on the grounds of the Hunter’s Hill Recreation Club.
  • The first available Annual Report dates from 1911 and the first available minutes from 1917.
  • Membership of the Club has now increased to 41.
  • The Committee in 1907 included such famous Hunter’s Hill names as R.D. Fitzgerald, H.M. Shelley, H.S. Lloyd, E.R. Tidswell, E.S. Jeanneret and E.R. Barker.
  • As early as 1919 there was some difficulty in promoting tennis within the Hunter’s Hill Recreation Club.
  • Minutes dated 17/9/1919 showed the tennis club to be in a very precarious position in relationship to its tenure of the courts for any considerable period of time.
  • In a letter dated 15/11/1921 the Recreation Club gave notice of its intention to resume the courts for bowling greens and asked the tennis club to vacate.
  • The Club at this point was in grave financial difficulties with insufficient funds to purchase a site.
  • In February 1922 Mr. H.M. Shelley offered to purchase 200 feet of land in Church Street, Hunters Hill and rent to the Club at 1/- per annum for the space of his life and a year after (this land being part of the Salter Estate.)
  • The Club decided to form a company to raise funds by issue of debentures / shares.
  • The Hunter’s Hill Lawn Tennis Co. Ltd. was incorporated on 23/5/1922.

At this point it was realised that it would be very expensive to lay courts on the proposed Church Street site and the Recreation Club had declined an offer to purchase land from them.  It was then noticed that land was available at “Wybalena” and in May 1922 the purchase of the present site on Woolwich Road commenced.

  • In July 1922 construction commenced on four courts.
  • Mr. Shelley personally purchased an additional parcel of land for his own court – a fifth court for the exclusive use of lady members.
  • The courts were basically as they are today and were officially opened on 23/6/1923 by Mayor Ald. W.A. Windeyer.
  • Eventually the Hunter’s Hill Lawn Tennis Co. Ltd. acquired full ownership of all five courts, Mr. Shelley personally bearing the initial major financial burden and then selling to the Club at cost.
  • All five courts are now used for general play.
  • It was largely due to the efforts of Mr. Roy Barker and the assistance of Mr. Harry Shelley that the project was successfully concluded.
  • Each year the club organises a “Shelley Memorial Doubles” handicap tournament for both ladies and men in honour of this benefactor.
  • The Club continued to operate as the Hunter’s Hill Lawn Tennis Company Limited until 1960.
  • In 1960 the Hunter’s Hill Tennis Club Ltd. was formed to enable the Club to borrow money for the construction of a clubhouse, that presently existing; and to resolve problems associated with the shareholdings of the previous company.
  • The ongoing efforts and generosity of numerous members over a number of decades has meant that we now have the wonderful club that still operates today.


Copy of the original speech as presented by John Austin - Click here to download PDF