The Avenue Lawn Tennis & Squash Club dates back to 1902 when a group of players leased 4 grass courts on Havant Recreation Ground from the council. It was recorded that the council were required to cut and mark them for the members use. In 1908 the subscription was recorded at 7/6 per member. The first American tournament was held in May 1908.
The first Open Tournament took place in 1910, although not a national tournament which is how it became. It continued every year with the exception of the years during both wars until 1947, when it became officially open.
In 1912 the club became affiliated to the Hampshire LTA at a cost of one guinea. In 1915 the war took the men to the front, and resignations were recorded as ‘leave had been granted to join the service’. No more minutes at meetings were recorded until 1919 after the Great War had finished.
In 1919 the decision was taken to move to the present site, and in order to finance this subscriptions were increased to 31/6 for gents and 21/- for ladies. In December that year the club became knows as the Avenue Lawn Tennis Club, and in 1920 the move to the present site was completed.
It took only 2 years for the club to be out of the red, having paid for the small pavilion and ground levelling.
1921 - 1946
In 1924 subscriptions were raised to 42/- for gents and 31/6 for ladies, leaving existing members at a lower fee. Five years later five new grass courts were laid, making nine in all. In 1939 a new pavilion was built, positioned where the car park and court 1 adjoin.
The Second World War posted major problems, not least the lack of petrol for the mower and no new tennis balls. There was also a lack of funds from a reduced level of subscriptions. A meeting was called in 1942 to discuss the various problems, but no mention was made of getting by without balls!
During the war one row of courts had not been used, the club was overdrawn and subscriptions had to be raised again, this time to £2.12/6. 1939 saw tennis balls again in supply. It was arranged that one member should graze his sheep on the unused grass courts.
1947 - 1967
1947 saw the reintroduction of the Open Tournament, although still limited to a ten mile radius. It made a handsome profit of £26.17.9. Also in 1947 a new lease was obtained from the owner, Miss Marter, of 21 years. The rent was £15 per year but the café was sub-let (where the One Stop shop is today) and the market garden (where Woodpecker Close is today) for £13. There was a private entrance into the café for afternoon teas. In the following year the Open Tournament became truly Open. Croquet was also played at the Avenue and in 1955 a croquet match was played on 2 courts. One of the club juniors who rose up to play in the 1st team at the age of 18 became the Hon. Secretary in 1954. This was Miss Pamela Parker who we all knew as Pamela Blowe, a stalwart club member who served on committees and was still playing into her early eighties!
In 1959 three shale hard courts were laid where courts 5, 6 and 7 are today. Also that year saw the President Tom Chignell become the first person to record 50 years membership, although not a playing member. Roy Clarke in 1980, Pamela Blowe in 1999 and Eric Udal in 2003 have all achieved 50 years playing membership.
In 1964 Miss Marter died and Havant Council purchased her land which included the Avenue Club, the market garden, the thatched cottage and most of the lane between Emsworth Road and the shore. The land surrounding Pook Lane was sold, Miss Marter’s house demolished and the current housing estate built.
A lease committee was formed and instructed to try to purchase the club grounds and thatched cottage. Initially the council refused to sell and it is a tribute to their determination and the four trustees (Ted Byerley, Cyril Davis, David Lock and Graham Morris) that the land was eventually purchased on September 25th 1967 for the sum of £5,000. This was financed by a £2,500 grant from the Department of Education and Science, a £1250 loan from the LTA and £1250 from club funds. The agreement included the council retaining a ransom strip around the club effectively making it impossible to re-sell to anyone other than the council. They also retained the row of courts adjacent to the Emsworth Road (now Nightingale Park) and most of the market garden (now Woodpecker Close). A new entrance was created in Southleigh Road replacing the entrance adjacent to the café on the Emsworth Road. This entrance was a track winding between an avenue of trees. Longstanding club member Eric Udal believes that is how the club originally got its name.
1968 - 1989
In 1969 the Open Tournament changed from a pre-Wimbledon date to one in August. About this time where hard courts 1-4 are now were converted from market garden land to grass courts for juniors. The only problem was for the first few years lupins kept popping up!
Early seventies saw discussions for building an extra hall for indoor badminton or squash. As squash was popular at the time it was decided to build two squash courts and these were completed in 1972. The Club then became The Avenue Lawn Tennis and Squash Club. In 1973 the present club house was completed for approximately £12,000.
In 1976 the first tennis club assistant was employed to work in the office and club members were permitted to wear track suits for the first time. Also that year the third squash court was built.
In 1977 the three shale courts were replaced with three Macadam courts. In 1980, just seven years after the pavilion was built, the state of the changing rooms was discussed at the AGM, and probably every AGM since.
In 1984 the junior grass courts were replaced with four hard courts. In 1985 tennis members were required to provide their own tennis balls. It seems incredible now that up until 1985 the club had always provided balls. In 1989 the subscriptions were £65 for tennis and £50 for squash.
1990 - present
In 1993 the multi-gym was introduced and in 1994 the Emerald hard courts were laid and floodlighting installed on two courts. In 1999 the subscriptions leapt to £184 for tennis and £67 for squash. This was an increase of 490% since 1908, and this was without the balls being provided! In 2001 the four Astroturf courts were laid and the other three hard courts renewed, with new high fencing all around, with floodlighting now on four courts.
The Avenue Open Tournament has been held over the previous 56 years. In its heyday in the seventies, when the event was held as a warm-up to Wimbledon, the tournament attracted players such as Virginia Wade, Roger Taylor and Geoff Masters (an Australian who won the Wimbledon Mens Doubles). On two occasions we had the complete Japanese and Egyptian Davis Cup squads competing in order to gain grass court experience before playing Great Britain. When the event went ‘Open’ we were unable to meet the prize money and expenses required by the professional players and moved our date to August to attract the players on the holiday circuit. In 1992 the event became part of the Reebok tour which allowed us to attract sponsorship and improve the prize money. Several club members were heavily involved in making this tournament a success for so many years, in particular Eric Udal who was referee for 28 years, and on the committee for even longer. In 2004 a new tournament format was introduced.