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Article for Forty Magazine

THE BUILDING OF CHOLSEY TENNIS COURTS 1974-6Cholsey Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club was formed at the end of the 1960s/early 1970s with a view to raising funds to build tennis courts in Cholsey recreation ground. Weekly badminton sessions were held in the Junior School hall and matches were played against other clubs in the area.Funds were raised by a lot of hard work from a very dedicated Committee. Weheld dances with delicious cold suppers and live bands, such as Wallingford’s “Gangbusters” with Club member John Jeskins on bass guitar. Perhaps even more popular were our cheese and wine parties. On one memorable evening only half the expected people turned up, but all the wine was drunk! The village was very quiet the following morning. Jumble Sales were organised and always attracted a large crowd. One year we decided to hold a ChristmasBazaar. Dorothy Spicer made Wombles, Richard Watts made wooden trains, and various supporters made other good quality toys and games. Sadly the customers expected Jumble Sale prices so it was not a huge success.We had stalls each year at Wallingford Carnival. For a Wild West themed event “Henry’s Saloon” awarded a prize to anyone who could slide a glass a certain distance along the bar, while Cowgirls in hot-pants circulated among the crowds selling tickets with instant cash prizes for the lucky winners. Events were also organised for younger people. We held garden parties with all sorts of games – not always at great profit but fun for the children. Our Junior Discos were popular too. We relied on the sale of drinks and crisps to make money, but some people brought their own which did not help our profits.Slowly and surely, penny by penny, pound by pound our tennis court fund grew.Cholsey Parish Council had agreed to lease to the Club for a peppercorn rent sufficient space in the recreation ground for three courts, with further space reserved for a fourth court should it be needed. They also provided a grant towards the costs so that, as a result of our fundraising, grants from the Lawn Tennis Association and the National Playing Fields Association, and other loans and donations, by 1974 the Club Committee, headed up by Jean Buck, and Henry and Dorothy Spicer, was able to consider seeking tenders for the courts’ construction.A very low tender was received from a contractor in Woodley to whom, after much discussion by the Committee, the contract was eventually let. The contractor started work by partly removing the topsoil and delivering a few loads of coarse clinker after which he left site and failed to return despite repeated requests to do so. He eventually went bankrupt. Unfortunately the terms of the contract had required payment of a third of the cost in advance and this money was never recovered.A significant proportion of the lost funds came from the Parish Council’s grant and consequently the Committee felt duty bound to make good the shortfall.1
A Courts Construction Sub-committee was set up headed by John Jeskins, Club Chairman, with the civil engineering and building input provided by Richard Watts. John J. used his contacts with local companies to obtain favourable prices for plant hire, materials and contracting work, while Richard W. made an accurate survey of the site, prepared design drawings and calculated the quantities. Volunteer labour was provided by Club members (these included Mike Chapman, Mike Rooke, Julian May, John Tyrer, and many others).Work to construct the courts restarted on Sunday, 1st June 1975 when John J.and Richard W. sprayed herbicide over the whole area of the courts which was by now overgrown with weeds. On Saturday, 14th June they set out the site levels and profile boards ready for finishing the topsoil excavation and laying the sub-base. These were completed by the following Wednesday using a traxcavator and driver and a diesel roller hired from Bushells of Wallingford. Coarse fuel ash for the sub-base was supplied from Didcot Power Station by ARC at a rock bottom price through the good offices of Mr. Budden of Cholsey, an ARC director. Richard W. took a week off work to drivethe roller and acted as banksman for the traxcavator driver to make sure the finished levels were correct. The surplus topsoil was stacked on the west side of the recreation ground at the request of the Parish Council “for future use”. The mound is still there!During July and August Club members spent the weekends hand raking the sub-base to make the levels as accurate as possible to avoid wasting expensive macadam surfacing material, and they also dug out the trenches round the perimeter ready for the edging kerbs. These were laid by Don Sadler (Jenny Robson’s father), who was a building contractor in Cholsey. Owing to a downturn in the construction industry at this time, Mr. Budden was able to arrange for ARC to surface the courts at cost price using plant and labour which would otherwise have been standing idle at their Sutton Courtenay depot. Accordingly a paving machine, road roller and paving gang arrived on Monday, 13th October and by the following Friday morning the new open-texture macadam surface was complete, leaving only the fencing, nets and court markings outstanding.By this time cash flow was beginning to cause concern as the Club was not yet in a position to draw on funds from playing membership subscriptions. Fencing was the remaining major item of expenditure and the Committee therefore decided to offer Life Memberships of the Club - at the then not inconsiderable sum of £80 each! – in order to purchase the materials. This proved to be a success and the fence posts, gates, straining wire and netting were duly ordered and delivered for safe keeping to Brett’s Garage in Honey Lane before Christmas.On Sunday, 28th December John J. and Richard W. held a site meeting with a Mr. Collins, a contractor who had agreed to erect the fencing at cost price, and with Ian Bosley from Wallingford Road who had offered to lend the Club his tractor-mounted post hole boring machine. The post holes were excavated2
the following day – all 60 in less than 4 hours – and the fencing erected in early January, 1976.At around this time the Club received a financial windfall. An application for a Local Authority grant had been turned down earlier in favour of other projects judged to be of greater merit. However the Club Secretary, Eileen Watts, discovered that, as a consequence of inflation and the resulting problems in the building industry, many of those projects had not come to fruition. If the Club were to reapply, funds might after all be available. A further application secured a grant of one third of the construction costs up to a maximum of £1,500. Richard W’s final cost estimate came conveniently to £4,495.00 resulting in a grant of £1,498.33! This enabled a large part of the Club’s outstanding loans to be paid off.The rest of the work was completed by Club members. The nets, posts and grit for the surface were delivered and the nets erected on Sunday, 8th February. As soon as weather permitted the court markings were hand painted using traffic line paint and home-made line stencils and, finally, the grit was spread on the surface.The date that the courts were first played on is not certain but “fine spring weather all week” is noted in the diary for Sunday, 29th February – yes, it was a Leap Year – so the unofficial inauguration of the courts probably took place that weekend.A Committee Meeting was held on Monday, 29th March to review the construction of the courts, to receive a final financial report, and to confirm arrangements for the Opening Day. However the minutes of this meeting do not appear to have survived.The Formal Opening of the three new courts took place on Saturday, 10th April, 1976. (Photo?)Since then Cholsey Tennis Club has grown and thrived. Floodlights were installed, a Winter League started, the fourth court added and a Club House built. Perhaps a more recent member of the Club will write about all these achievements and the latest developments in a future edition of the Forty Magazine. Eileen Watts & Richard Watts.3

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