Every year, the world zooms in on one specific post code in London to watch one of the oldest and most treasured tennis tournaments in the world – The Championships, Wimbledon.
Known as one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, The Championships, Wimbledon are steeped in history, tradition, and all the very best of Britishness. The oldest of the four Grand Slams – and the only one still played on grass courts – The Championships have been held at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club in the London suburb of Wimbledon since 1877.
In 1868, a private club known as The All England Croquet Club was founded. In 1876, Lawn tennis, a game devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, was added to the activities of the club and, in 1877, the club was renamed The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.
The club signalled its change of name by introducing the first Lawn Tennis Championships. The code of laws for these are similar to today’s rules, except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.
The inaugural 1877 Championships held only one event, the Men’s Singles, which was won by Spencer Gore. The lawns were arranged so that the principal court was in the middle with the others arranged around it, hence the name “Centre Court”. 200 spectators paid a shilling each to be present at the final.
By the early 1900s the Club had outgrown its home on Worple Road and the grounds were no longer able to cope with the huge crowds who flocked to the event each year. In 1922, the construction of a new Centre Court began with architect, Captain Stanley Peach, and secretary of the Club, Commander George Hillyard, taking charge of the renovations. “Centre Court” retained its name, despite no longer being in the middle of the grounds.
Thankfully, to satisfy even more games (and the pedants out there), four new courts commissioned on the north side of the ground meant that Centre Court was once more correctly defined.
Ladies and Doubles
In 1884, the club added Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles competitions. Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles events were added later in 1913. Furthermore, until 1922, the reigning champion only had to play in the final against whomever had won through to challenge them. Furthermore, Wimbledon was contested by top-ranked amateur players, professional players were prohibited from participating. This changed with the advent of the Open era in 1968.
No British man won the singles event at Wimbledon between Fred Perry in 1936 and Andy Murray in 2013, while no British woman has won since Virginia Wade in 1977. Though there are too many brilliant moments at Wimbledon to count, we’ve broken it down to our favourite top ten moments for you.
From strawberries and cream, to a strict dress code for competitors, The Championships, Wimbledon has developed many unique traditions over the years. One of these traditions – the British weather stopping play with its refusal to move from spring showers to long summer days – was overcome in 2009 with the installation of a retractable roof on Centre Court.
Since 1887, the Men’s Singles champion is presented with a silver gilt cup, which bears the inscription “All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Single Handed Championship of the World”. The actual trophy remains in the property of the Club, however. The champion receives a ¾ size replica of the Cup with the names of all past champions.
The Ladies’ Singles champion is presented with a sterling silver salver, otherwise known as the Venus Rosewater Dish and is decorated with figures from mythology. The Ladies’ Champion will also receive a ¾ replica of the dish bearing the names of all past Champions.
Winners of the Gentlemen’s Doubles, Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles events all receive a silver cup and, unlike other Grand Slam tournaments, both members of the Doubles duo get a trophy.
the gatsby club
The award-winning Gatsby Club is one of the luxury hospitality facilities Keith Prowse offers at The Championships, Wimbledon. A spacious and sleek restaurant, with a menu designed and served by world-class chef Albert Roux OBE, who works alongside son Michel Roux Jr. and granddaughter Emily Roux, this is the ultimate way to entertain your guests.