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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Wimbledon's Welsh roots
Wimbledon court
The Wimbledon tournament began in 1877
A knockabout ball game on the lawn of a north Wales' country house sowed the seeds for the modern game of tennis.

With Wimbledon fever rife, many people may be unaware of the links between the hallowed grass in south west London and Nantclwyd Hall in Ruthin.

It was there, in 1873, that Major Walter Wingfield devised the rules that led to the modern game of tennis.

He had played a game with the recently invented rubber balls and enjoyed it so much, he decided to standardise the game.

Following his visit to Nantclwyd Hall, he published the first book of tennis rules later that year.

In 1874, he registered a patent for the game, which he called sphairistike - Greek for ball game.

In order to promote the game, he launched a tennis package kit, which included a net, rackets and rubber balls.

Within a short time, he had sold 1,000 kits.


The first ever Wimbledon tournament was held a few years later in 1877 and the British Lawn Tennis Association formed in 1888.

Nantclwyd Hall, the home of Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, is a private residence.

It recently took part in the National Gardens Scheme to allow people for a day to visit the three acre gardens surrounding the house - where the fateful game of tennis would have taken place.

The gardens are adorned with temples and follies designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, best known for his Italianate village of Portmeirion.

As the grounds are not public, knowledge of the link with tennis history is probably confined to those with an interest in the sport.

But estate secretary Maureen Shakesby said from time to time they did get enquiries about the estate's tennis history.

"The local tennis club came and did a project on it," she said.

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