I played tennis at my grammar school in 1960s Bermondsey and we travelled to matches at far posher schools against girls whose parents might have belonged to private clubs in Herne Hill, Dulwich or Blackheath. But it never occurred to me to imagine joining one, because I knew tennis clubs were to be despised, an attitude derived from a mixture of literary sources, chiefly Richmal Crompton’s Just William books. White, middle-class, suburban, dull, some of them excluded Jews (even as late as the 1960s), most were homophobic and all exercised their right to ensure membership was limited to people ‘like ourselves’.
David Berry acknowledges the truth of this while also arguing for a reconsideration. A People’s History of Tennis mounts a spirited, affectionate defence of club tennis, setting it in the larger context of the sport’s development since the invention of lawn tennis in the 1870s. The first court was an