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Tennis in the Archives

Tennis in the Archives

With Wimbledon underway we thought we would get into the swing of things and look back at some tennis photos from our predecessor colleges: Borough Road (BRC), Saffron Walden and Stockwell College, sister colleges to BRC.

Late 19th century


Photo: Stockwell College 1898

This photo is taken from the Stockwell College Archives and shows the 1898 staff and student year group.  Students in the front row are accessorised with tennis rackets!  Tennis games were an important social occasion for the students and played a large part in college life.



Photo: Borough Road College 1905

This photo shows the 1905-06 Tennis Team from BRC. The BRC student magazine, the B's Hum, gives a summary of the activity from the college’s various clubs and societies.  In 1903, a particularly competitive tennis match against the ‘Sinjuns’ [St John's College, Battersea], resulted in BRC winning ’9 rubbers to nil’, a term still used in Davis Cup competitions to describe a singles match.  In 1906, BRC held a staff v. students’ tennis competition.  The students won, even beating the Principal of the College!



Photo: Borough Road College 1913-14

This photo of the 1913-14 BRC tennis team features William Ewart Hopkinson (bottom left).  Hopkinson was a student at BRC in 1912 - 1914,who enlisted into the 9th Battalion Queen Victoria’s Rifles London Regiment on 1 November 2014 and travelled to France in Easter 1915. During his service he was gassed twice and wounded, before dying on 6 June 1915 aged 24.  Whilst at BRC he was known for his sharp wit and his exemplary sporting skill. He was vice-captain of the rugby team, scoring 21 tries, as well as being considered ‘the best tennis player of his year.’ (Taken from his Obituary in the Bs Hum, October 1915).

In the 1910s, the BRC Tennis courts were mostly gravel, although they did get a grass court in 1912.  The balls used were red rubber, very different from the fluffy yellow ones we all know today!



Photo: Stockwell College 1922

We turn our attention back to the Ladies College at Stockwell for this photo of their tennis team from 1922.  No longer in tight corsets with their hair pulled back like the 1898 photo, the 1920s represented a much more free and comfortable era for women’s dress! By the 1920s tennis was beginning to ‘really taking a hold’ of College life. (Bs Hum, May 1928)



Photo: Saffron Walden College 1939

This photo is from Saffron Walden College shows their 1939 Tennis team.  You can see the change in style from the ladies in the 1922 photo.  Fashion was back to being more tight fitting and cinching in the waist.



Photo: Borough Road College 1942

In the 1940s college life changed dramatically with WW2 and many students participating in the war effort.  In 1942 the Bs Hum described a great reduction in tennis fixtures due to the war.  This continued into the late 1940s because BRC no longer had their own tennis courts for the team to use.  However the tennis teams still managed to have some success, far more than would reasonably have been expected with their poor facilities. (Bs Hum, Spring 1942 and September 1948).  By the end of the decade, tennis at BRC was experiencing ‘its most successful season’, aided by 3 new courts and growing membership. (Bs Hum, October 1949).



In the 1950s tennis was still popular at all the colleges, the men and women’s colleges even began to come together.  BRC men’s team played competitions against various women’s colleges.



By the 1960s the colleges were joining together to play mixed doubles.  These matches were important to all in upholding ‘the strong social side of tennis’! (Bs Hum, 150th Anniversary Edition, 1960).


Today tennis is still very popular at Brunel University London.  See for more information. 

For more information on the Archives see