(Article by Tennis Threads)
Although not a widely-known club, Craven Lawn Tennis Club has been established in Gargrave since 1879 when a group of keen local players got together and bought some land alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal where they then built a lovely colonial-style pavilion, hand-rolled the grass and marked out five grass tennis courts!
Craven Lawn Tennis Club is one of the very oldest clubs in Yorkshire having been established in 1879 and play was originally on the village Cricket Ground until the present site was purchased in 1880 when iron fencing and a hut were purchased. In 1882 an Annual Tournament, to be held in the first week of August, was established followed by a Croquet Section, still part of the Club today, in 1892. These events were given great prominence in the local press and the Annual Tournament attracted large numbers of both players and visitors to the Club and, as is the case today, Afternoon Tea was part of the occasion.
In 1914 it was proposed that two new courts should be made at the South Side of the Club at a cost of £80. These two courts were then converted to Hard Courts in the late 1950’s and remained Tarmac Courts until spring 2017! The five Grass Courts also all remained in place until October 2016 when one of them was converted into a brand new all-weather GrandPlay surface made by Playrite which was laid by Fosse Contractors, they have also converted the two Hard Courts with an identical surface this year for the Club.
Since its inception, the Club has always changed and moved with the times, but kept its traditional rural, local flavour and family friendly atmosphere. During the early hours of February 4th 1995 the original wooden Clubhouse was destroyed by fire but with the huge support of members and the local community a new one was built very much in the same style and opened the following year. The most recent changes to the types and configuration of the courts is the latest stage in the Club’s long term development plan.
Applications were made in 2016 to Sport England, Craven District Council, The Coulthurst Trust and The Craven Trust and, along with the generous donation of both considerable amounts of time and funds from the membership, the three courts have now been completed and are in full use.
As well as a social and family friendly atmosphere, the Club does pride itself in competitive play too with 4 Mixed Doubles Teams in the three divisions of the local Wharfedale League and both Men’s and Ladies Doubles Teams in the Bradford Parks League. Unlike some clubs, Craven actively encourages its Juniors & Students to play in the various adult teams to give them the greatest opportunity to fully participate in club life.
There are active and popular coaching programmes for both adults and juniors and these are expanding to meet increased demand with each year both during the week and at weekends. The 3 new courts from Fosse have greatly increased the capacity for these to take place year round with a much improved playing surface throughout the winter in particular. The courts give a much safer surface for players of all standards, particularly in slightly damp conditions (not unknown in the Yorkshire Dales!) and so overall levels of useage are already rapidly increasing.
The Club has approximately 150 members, of all ages, made up of families and individuals who play both tennis and croquet with an increasing number of visitors as word spreads about the fantastic new facilities available from the surrounding area and other local clubs. The start of the 2017 season has seen an upsurge in enquiries about playing, coaching and joining. Due to the increased capacity provided by the new courts, extremely good links are now able to be forged with Gargrave Primary School (and other small village schools) with an “After School Tennis Club” one afternoon a week to enable local children who may not wish, or be able, to actually join to play the game and receive expert coaching.
The Colonial Style Clubhouse which was rebuilt in the traditional style after fire destroyed the original building.