Today saw the fulfilment of a great expectation. Since I discovered many years ago, our family’s direct connection to the famous Renshaw twins, Ernest and William, I have wanted to see for myself the memorabilia surrounding them at The All England Tennis club in Wimbledon. Today was the culmination of that dream.
We set off early this morning, a Bank Holiday Monday on surprisingly calm roads, and soon enough were drawing into the huge carpark in front of the Centre Court. The balconies of the Centre Court stadium contain planter boxes full to overflowing with purple and white petunias (purple, green and white being the colours of Wimbledon). We were somewhat early since the traffic had proved light so we strolled through the shop which stocks a huge variety of children and adult’s clothing, towels, tea towels, place mats, mugs, key rings, tennis balls – virtually anything you can brand with the Wimbledon insignia can be found there.
At the appointed time, we gathered at the meeting spot with about 20 others, for the one and a half hour tour. Our guide was the very delightful Heather, a sprightly and knowledgeable elderly woman with an obvious devotion to both the physical place and its long history. Having advised us what she intended to show us, we set off after her, stopping at appointed spots along the way so she could provide the background to each particular spot.
A highlight was being taken to the rooftop of the media centre where, with the midday sun blazing down, we were given the opportunity to snap pictures of the famous “hill” and the Court 18 where in 2010, the longest match ever seen at Wimbledon was played between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut.
Heather then took us to the BBC Sport broadcasting studio and across to the new Millennium Building. Here we ventured though the outdoor Players’ Lawn (past the Prize Money room much to Phil’s delight), up to the top floor to look out over more courts and a very stylish outdoor cafe area.
Next we went into the media room, where we were all invited to have our photos taken on the podium just as the players would do post match.
The final part of the tour took us past all the results boards and I was thrilled to see William Renshaw’s name appearing 7 times as the winner of the Men’s singles, plus winning the doubles along with his brother Ernest.
Included in this final stage of the tour was a visit to the Centre Court arena – it was rather moving being on such hallowed ground…
Heather encouraged us all to view the Museum which is really quite spectacular – a place you could spend hours in if you are a tennis or sport’s history buff. For me, it was very exciting to see the cups won by William and Ernest, and to see the snapshots of information the Museum has seen fit to include in the magnificent glass display cases – two of William’s racquets are included, small and rather flimsy-looking.
We finished our time at Wimbledon with a light lunch on the Centre Court deck cafe – a dream come true day for me, but there was more to see and off we drove intending to walk along the Thames near Hampton Court.
The best laid plans are often foiled however, and parking was at a premium as a food show was being held. Walton-on-the-Thames was a much better choice, peopled only with locals and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the river bank, watching the locks opening and closing for the many different craft enjoying the water, before returning to our hotel for a final review of our Italy plans…..
Tomorrow we leave for Rome after a couple of productive and interesting days in London.