BAILEY HILLS TENNIS CLUB – THE EARLY YEARS
BY MATTHEW BARNARD – Founder member and first Chairman
Whilst it is true to say I was the founder member of Bailey Hills Tennis Club, the inspiration for its formation was actually an unknown sports mistress of Bingley Grammar School. As a young man I had played football regularly and then spent 13 years as a referee. On reaching the age of 35 I needed to find a new sport believing my football days were over.
I started trying to play tennis with my wife Pat on the courts at Bingley Grammar School. There was never anyone using them until on one occasion a group of girls were on the nearby field indulging in after school activities. Before long the sports mistress came over to us and told us that we were trespassing and asked us to leave. On our walk home we passed the disused courts of the now defunct Airedale Tennis Club in the grounds of Bingley Cemetery. Not a ball had been hit there for many years. There were trees growing out of the courts, there was no perimeter wire or tennis nets. I recalled the once fine pavilion going up in smoke some years previously.
On passing I told Pat that this was where I would start my own tennis club so that we could play any time. She thought it was a splendid idea but then she has always been a supporter of any mad schemes I dream up. I also ran the idea past my neighbours Pam and Steve Brown and had their response been negative that might have been the end of the matter. However they were both very keen and I knew Pam would make a good secretary and Steve would have the know-how to restore the courts.
I approached Bradford council who soon let me know that the courts would be available on a lease. Another neighbour Brian Chippindale turned out to be a key player in the construction of the courts – as the proprietor of a plant hire company he was able to loan us much of the necessary equipment. Shortly afterwards I sent out a letter to all the residents of Bailey Hills and a few personal friends inviting them to attend a meeting at Church House on Old Main Street. There was a good response and, as it was reported shortly afterwards in the local paper, over 30 people – many of them children – turned up.
The club was formed on 12 September 1977 and I was elected the first Chairman – a post I held for four years. We soon started to restore the courts and to raise money to do the work. Among the activities were dances, safari suppers, sponsored walks, an annual bonfire and even Carol Singing at Christmas. All the tasks, even the laying of the tarmac, was done by the members themselves. After one year we had one court and a year later we had two courts and a club house.
Most of the tennis played on our courts in the early years was social tennis. The members were very keen and it was not uncommon in the summer months to have to wait your turn to play. Afternoons at the weekends were so popular with the adults that juniors were not allowed to play then. There were no indoor courts for hire in the locality then so the more hardy of the members continued to play outside all year round. We even shovelled the snow off and spread salt on the surface such was the enthusiasm of the members to keep playing.
The club went from strength to strength with a membership of about 70. An annual tournament was held with a well attended finals day in September. In 1979 we joined the Monday night Friendly League, but it was not until 1985 that we entered the Bradford Parks League because until then members had always voted to keep Saturdays for social tennis. Sometime later we joined the mid-week Wharfedale League (which was some reason was also open to teams in the Aire Valley).
After ten years I was honoured to be awarded life membership of the club by the members in recognition and appreciation of my work in forming the club.
It remains a great happiness to me that the club I formed over thirty years ago has been so successful. It has been a pleasure to have played with and known so many wonderful people over the years. It is rewarding to me that so many new and lasting friendships have been formed between the club members.
The present committee are doing a wonderful job in running the club following on the tradition of many previous committees. They have recently made a marvellous job of updating the courts. New members are always very welcome to join this friendly club which I can only describe as....
THE LATER YEARS
The courts were resurfaced in 2009 once again using the labour of the members and plant loaned to us by Chippindale Plant. The outdoor toilet has been replaced by one inside the club house which has been completely renovated by the members. Funds were raised by donations from some members and the early payment of up to 10 years membership fees by others. A number of the present day members joined as juniors in the early days spoken of by Matt in his account above.
Bailey Hills for those who do not know is an area between Bingley Parish Church and the cemetery. The club was named Bailey Hills Tennis Club because of its location. However the membership was dropping and recently members decided that in the days of the web renaming it Bingley Tennis Club would make it more accessible to those searching for a tennis club in the area. We have as a result gained many new members over the last few years and the club evening on a Wednesday where anyone can play has been re-established.
Over recent years the club enjoyed successes in many local leagues. However there were always problems in maintaining courts overlooked by many tall trees. The numbers of tennis players in Bingley and the surrounding area was not enough to support two clubs and in 2012 a merger of Bingley and Beckfoot tennis clubs was mooted. The composition of our membership complimented that of beckfoot and made us able to field a variety of teams and look forward to a long future as the only tennis club in Bingley.
Unfortunately unlike the large clubs with indoor facilities we do not have specialist coaches for the youngsters, but our members continue to be successful.
Our men’s first team has reached the second division of the Parks League for only the second time in its history. Our Wharfedale first team has reached the first division after back to back promotions and reached the final of the cup in 2010. Not to be outdone our friendly league first team continue to play in the first division of their league.
Our lower teams however are just as successful in their own right and provide a good evening or afternoon’s sport for those who want to play league tennis maybe at a less competitive standard.