The Royal St.Georges Tennis Club

It was in the area surrounding Courtrai that a number of Englishmen, highly impressed by our lush green pastures, the twists and turns of 'the Lys' but predominantly by the seductive fragrance our flax emitted that induced them to found Belgium's first Tennis Club there.

The St. Georges Tennis Club became a reality in the Spring of 1882 when 22 Englishmen pooled their enthusiasm and laid the club's foundations: more  accurately, let us say, 21 Englishmen and 1 Belgian, R.Buysschaert. The English, who were all in the textile-producing industry, had relocated with their families to the area around 'the Lys'. The general consensus of opinion was that nostalgia for their their country might, to some extent, be neutralized if they were to introduce this game that was a part of life back home.

The Club was called “The Courtrai Lawn Tennis Club” and became Belgium's first Tennis Club. Thirty enthusiasts enrolled when the club was still in its infancy, i.a. Henri Florin and J. Verwee. The club had two grass courts. Large flexible nets made it possible to test the ground to see how suitable the grass was for the purpose. Ladies were permitted to join in 1886.

Tennis was only one of the facilities the St. Georges Park offered its members. The latter, categorized as Courtrai's upper and upper middle class citizens, were known as descendants of St. Géris old medieval Guild.

Archers in Courtrai were presented with a Founders' Charter by Count Lodewijk van Nevers in the 14th century which entitled them to practice and organize shooting parties on the outskirts of the city's walls close to Groeninge Abbey.

The guild purchased land located to the east of Tournai in 1810. The site resembled an English-type park capable of accommodating a superintendent and a cottage. Additional features included a pond and a little bridge, a weeping willow together with two stately swans, 
a statue and a kiosk. A lodge, built on the basis of plans drawn up by Mr. Dewarlez, an architect from Lille, has been classified as a listed building since 1993.

In 1882, the annual subscription of the club was F25. A glass of beer cost F.0.15 while the price of a dozen balls was F15.
The Committee members were: A. du Vivier, H. du Vivier and F. Renshaw.

In 1886  the ladies first subscription took place.
The membership fee was F20 in 1889.

The inaugural meeting was held in 1890 in the course of which the officers were appointed: Messrs. Watson (Chairman), Darrell (Secretary) and Scott (Treasurer).
A decision was taken to the effect that every member should have his own racket. Balls would be provided by the Club.

In 1893, fees were structured along the following lines: F20 for men, F10 for women, F5 for children, F30 for a 4-member family and F40 for a family of more than four.

The first in-house tournament in 1899 was won by George Watson who beat Samuel Mateer while Miller defeated Godfrey in 1900. In 1901, Davidson beat William du Vivier.

In 1902, Robert Gillon, who later became President of the Senate, filed a petition on the Belgian players' behalf requesting that they be entitled to play on Sundays. His application was turned down.
The Club helped set up the Belgian Lawn Tennis League for which it charged F21.35. That was also the year that a subscription was taken out to “La Vie Sportive” (Sporting Life) at a cost of F2.50.
In 1902, the Club was known to have played a “friendly” with the Lille-based “Nouveau L.T.C.” , another with the “Beerschot Athletic Club”on 26 April of the same year and with the “Brussels L.T.C. on 3 August
In 1902, Adolophe du Vivier offered a cup for the annual tournament that is now played for the Club's Championship.

By 1903, income totaled F266, quite a commendable sum of money at the time. Initially, all reports and records were drafted in English.

By 1905, however, tennis playing on Sundays was permissible.

By contrast, from 22 April until 1913 French became the vehicle language under G. Buysschaert's chairmanship.
However, the Club reverted to written English when Mr. Kennedy took over the Chair in 1913.

1882-1997: 115 years playing tennis in “St. Georges Park”: Jubilee edition K.S.G.Tennis Club
Pictures : St. Georges Tennis Club
Private collection