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The Green on the Hill
Chapter One

In the Beginning

On Saturday 30th April 2016 the Hallam Grange Bowling Club will celebrate its 50th birthday. But its roots go much deeper than that. They can be traced back to a popular and friendly tennis club which had been formed at the top of Slayleigh Lane, Sheffield, in 1923. Lest we forget, it is worthwhile to briefly recount some of the main events leading up to the actual birth of the bowling club since we owe much to the vision and drive of those early tennis pioneers.

The tennis club was in fact the brainchild of an enterprising steeplejack and builder called Samuel Cadman Harrison. Samuel came from a well known family of Sheffield steeplejacks. The business had been founded in 1854 by his grandfather Mr w E Harrison, affectionately remembered as “Old Sam”. (The firm still operates from its premises in Regent Terrace just off the Glossop Road in the centre of Sheffield) There was no shortage of chimneys in Sheffield and by the turn of the nineteenth century the firm was prospering. Old Sam's son, William Edward Harrison, known as Teddy, had taken over the charge of the business and was widely recognised as an outstanding steeplejack, as well as being an “energetic young man, and moderate in his charges." His company worked on many of the chimneys and spires needing attention in Sheffield at that time, not least the fixing of numerous lightning conductors. It was often called upon to undertake highly dangerous tasks, such as fixing the light in Vulcan's hand at the very top of the Town Hall, and the challenging work required to the tower and spire of St Marie's Cathedral. News of the excellence of his company's work spread outside Sheffield, and in 1896 Teddy Harrison won national acclaim when he became the first man to scale Lord Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square to decorate it for its diamond jubilee celebration. His son, Samuel, followed the family tradition and he too was a very good steeple jack. His first feat at the age of five was to climb boldly up his father's ladders which had been fixed to Handsworth Church steeple and to sit astride the weathercock at the summit.

We know that, Teddy Harrison made a name for himself as a keen sportsman - he was an excellent billiard player - and his son Samuel was soon caught up in the surge of enthusiasm for the game of tennis that swept the country, especially among the middle classes, in the early 1900s. He was an ambitious and convivial young man, and set his heart on creating a successful tennis club which could be enjoyed by his family, friends and the numerous employees of the Harrison business.

The tennis courts which Samuel constructed in the early part of the twentieth century were situated on some open land owned by the Harrison family at the top end of Slayleigh Lane. Apart ·from its exposure to the elements, the location was a pleasant one, surrounded by fields, trees and blackberry bushes. By 1930 the club had six hard courts and three more under construction, and there were two men's teams and one women's team playing tennis in the Sheffield and Hallamshire League. Despite the fact that the nearby Fulwood Sports Club also offered good opportunities for playing the game, Samuel's courts plainly had no difficulty in attracting support, in particular from the young families within the local community. Socially, too, the club was thriving. For example, Its Annual Dance held at the Brincliffe Tennis Club pavilion in 1931was a glitzy and well-attended occasion and "among the many charming gowns to be seen was one of ivory satin, daintily trimmed with ivory fur. Another had a skirt of tiny frills in pink and petunia net."

By the mid-1950s, over 100 men, women and children were regularly enjoying the facility Samuel had created. It was obviously a going concern, and with Samuel's backing the senior members of the club decided that the time was ripe to form a limited company with a memorandum of association, rather on the lines of the Fulwood one down the road. Thus In January 1956, Hallam Grange Lawn Tennis Club Limited was duly legally incorporated, with the worthy objective of maintaining and carrying on a sports and social club for the encouragement, cultivation and practice of the game of tennis and other sports, including bowls and table tennis. With a handsome loan of £1500 from the Lawn Tennis Association, and donations from members, enough money was raised to purchase from Samuel Harrison the freehold of the land on which the courts were then situated.

Just how much the purchase cost the club is not clear but Samuel was not inclined to drive a hard bargain where tennis was concerned and it is unlikely to have exceeded £2000. The first Chairman of the new club was Mr Maurice Brewin, a solicitor by background. In fact most of the Board of the new company were made up of men from predominately professional backgrounds, although one director - Mr LM Drake - was listed as a knife handle maker by trade. His wife had the distinction of being the first woman to join the Board when she was elected soon after it was formed. The first Secretary to the Board was Mr Brian Gee, a devoted member, and he was to remain in that office until 1972 when he retired.

The Directors soon realised that if their ambitions were to be fulfilled, there would need to be big improvements since the courts and the pavilion were in poor condition and the site suffered badly in poor weather. They were to be incredibly fortunate. Samuel Harrison gave them an option to purchase a plot of land he also owned situated lower down Slayleigh Lane behind the houses Nos. 62-76, and with access between Nos. 70 and 72. It was wonderful opportunity for the club. The site measured some 10, 000 square metres which meant it was larger than the club's existing one, less exposed and offering much more scope for development. The directors wasted no time. By the end of 19S7 they had agreed with Samuel a price of just £225 for the purchase of the new site. The figure of £225 seems incredibly cheap even for those days (although the Directors rather curmudgeonly described it as “satisfactory”). We know that Samuel was a generous man and loved his tennis, but his business was suffering at the time (he had filed for bankruptcy in 1957) and he may well have badly needed the money. But it still amounted to an incredible bargain for the club. The issue now was just what would the Directors do with it.

 

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