FIFTEEN years after Wimbledon was founded a fledgling club began introducing tennis within the local community.

In distance they are more than 200 miles apart, but their similarities are in the sport they have been promoting ever since they began.

Established in 1877, Wimbledon is the platform for the world's best players, who have possibly honed their skills through grass-roots clubs and organisations to showcase their prowess.

While Cleckheaton Lawn Tennis Club may not have spawned a Wimbledon player so far - there are plenty of talented players many of whom are raising the club's profile through their presence in some of the high profile local matches.

Simon Newton, the club's coach, was inspired to become a professional coach after nurturing his daughter, Natasha's tennis talents.

Natasha played alongside elite tennis players for Loughborough University, where she achieved a degree in sports science, and 10 years ago, when she was at the top of her game, she was number four in Yorkshire.

Now Simon is passing on his expertise to the next generation of tennis players who are carrying on the legacy of the club's previous members, the likes of families such as the Mowats, a familiar name in this former industrial town.

The Mowat family were mill owners at a time when the textile industry was thriving within the Spen Valley. They were among a number of business people in Cleckheaton who became connected to the club.

Robert Clayton, the club's chairman who joined more than 60 years ago, recalls initially the club membership consisted of 'the local gentry.'

Barons, Knights and local business people were among the high profile members. In those days, and long before then, the kit and equipment was quite different too. During the pre-war years men would wear white flannels and women would don dresses as opposed to today's more appropriate sporting attire, shorts and skorts.

Rackets were wood and kept in presses in between play to prevent them from warping - in contrast to the lighter weight steel and carbon fibre materials used to create today's rackets giving players greater ability to achieve that top spin.

Another significant change the club has experienced is its membership. Back in the day junior members weren't allowed - now membership is fully inclusive with young players currently accounting for around half the club's 120 or so members.

Testimony to their talents, some play in the under 15s Bradford Tennis League against some of the high profile clubs in the county including Tranmere, Ilkley and Heaton. The club's under 18s are currently second in the league with two more games to play.

Recalling the time when young people couldn't play at the club, he says: "You played in the park or hit a ball against the wall. You would be 15 or 16 by the time you went down. It has changed dramatically."

The club has been part of his life for more than 60 years and the introduction of junior members has been one of the most significant changes.

Although they haven't had a Wimbledon star so far, they have the ability to spot the potential. "We would spot that very early," says Robert.

"We are a grass roots club and our job is to identify talent."

Robert believes the welcoming environment for families and also the coaching and facilities they offer are the reason why the club has continued to thrive and survive during a time when many traditional clubs and organisations have floundered.

This year the club, in Kirklands, an oasis of tranquility, marks a very special milestone - its 125th anniversary.

Members commemorated the occasion with a summer party on Saturday (July 8) and another celebratory get together is due to take place in September.

This grass roots club whose appropriate motto is to "serve" the community, boasts two hard (shale) courts created in 1924 and 1938 and a macadam court laid in 1960.

Member, Christine Horner, used to play there with her husband in the 60s and early 70s. Like many members, the club was an integral part of their social lives.

"We used to spend the weekend there. We used to go on a Saturday afternoon and play. Everybody took something to eat.

"The social life was unbelievable. It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Everybody had such a laugh," adds Christine.

Audrey Firth, whose late husband David played at the club for many years after being introduced to tennis by his parents, recalled he enjoyed many happy times at the club.

Keeping it in the family, generations of families have played there - and still do.

In 2010 two new porous macadam courts were laid. The club, which is able to provide all year round coaching with the provision of indoor courts at Batley Sports and Tennis Centre, is a member of the Lawn Tennis Association and is run by a committee of members with the primary intention of providing opportunity for players of all standards to play tennis.

"It is fantastic, it keeps you fit - there is something therapeutic about hitting a ball. It is a good feeling inside," says Simon, referring to the reactionary side of the sport.

For Robert, the club has brought great enjoyment over the years. "It has been there all my life. It has been that stable element."

His hope now is that more volunteers will come forward to continue its legacy into the future.

For more information about the club, or to find out more about the coaching sessions or the programme of activities, including holiday tennis camps, or to get involved, visit; call 01274 873659 or email