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History of Seacourt from The Hampshire Fencing Union Newsletter September 1989

The original Seacourt premises were built in 1911 for Mr. John Marshall and his family and consisted of the Royal Tennis court, a graceful music room with gallery, a billiards room and stables. Mr Marshall, a fine player of his time, had taken up Royal Tennis whilst at Cambridge. He became famous locally for his research work into mosquito control and his home and laboratory were close to Seacourt.

The game of Royal or Real Tennis was the forerunner of the more familiar modern game of lawn tennis. The origins are obscure, probably Persian or Arabic, but the game played on a covered court originated in French ecclesiastical circles in the 10th or 11th Century. The distinctive court was derived from the Cloisters courtyard where the game was originally played by the clergy before it became the “Sport of Kings”. The most ancient court in this country was built around 1530 by Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace and is still in play today.

After the death of Mr. Marshall in 1942, Seacourt was kept alive by a few devout players who used the music room as a social club. However, from 1959-66 the building was left empty and became vandalised, until a small group of local people decided that the courts must be preserved at all costs. This group who are now directors of Seacourt, set about restoring the building. A year later and one hundred new panes of glass, the new club was re-opened with facilities for Real Tennis and badminton. Over the years, the facilities have been so enhanced as to warrant an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the only club in Britain which can offer all five major racquet sports – Real Tennis, Badminton, Rackets, Squash and Lawn Tennis. The club also caters for Short Tennis, snooker, 5-a-side football, indoor cricket, volleyball, aerobics and most importantly, of course, FENCING.

The fencing section was established around 1969 and soon an enthusiastic group was fencing regularly in the music room. It soon became apparent however, after several clashes with the chandelier, that this area was not totally suitable and members looked forward to the completion of the Sports Hall which was to be their new venue. The programme from “A Festival of Sport”, held to celebrate the opening of the Sports Hall in September 1975, lists such names as Ken Pearson and Eva and Duey Joyce, amongst guest fencers appearing on that day. Over the next few years the fencing club went through a very lean period and struggled to survive financially, but with an influx of new blood and enthusiasm in the late seventies, Seacourt Fencing Club began a slow upward climb. Fencers were encouraged to participate in county competitions and more regular matches against other clubs were arranged.

In 1985 Seacourt was first used for a Hampshire competition and since then has fast established itself as a favourite venue with fencers due to its many facilities – mainly the BAR. This year the Hampshire Amateur Fencing Union’s mixed team competition and AGM was held at Seacourt. After an exciting and well supported competition, members enjoyed a lunch of chicken, burgers and sausages, cooked on the club’s purpose built gas fired barbeque. The meeting was held on the patio under sunny blue skies and the event was hailed as one of the most successful ever AGMs.

In 1988 Seacourt is now very much more than the Royal Tennis Club it began as in 1911 and the fencing section has gained the reputation of being one of the friendliest clubs around.

Val Bowden 1989