Mary Whitehouse

Word Service | Copywriter for reports, websites and case studies

Tennis historians Bob Holland (left) and Chris Elks re-enact the first game of Lawn Tennis in Edgbaston, Birmingham.
This was the first time in living memory that the first-ever lawn tennis games have been recreated at the address where the game was pioneered.

Harry Gem and his friend Jean Batista Augurio Perera developed what we now know as lawn tennis at 8 Ampton Road, the home of Perera, in 1859. Their aim was to create a game that could be enjoyed with ease and little fuss in the garden of the average suburban home. Gem and Perera went on to form the world’s first tennis club – the now defunct Leamington Lawn Tennis Club.

Wednesday’s event helped launch the two exhibitions Court on Canvas: Tennis in Art and A Gem of a Game: The Roots of Lawn Tennis in the West Midlands at the University of Birmingham-based Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham (see attached press release).

Gem and Perera’s roles were taken by tennis historians Bob Holland and Chris Elks, who were dressed suitably in Victorian costume and used vintage rackets. The court, complete with a Victorian net, was marked out. Refreshments were, of course, made available for the players – also Victorian style!

For more information and interviews, please contact Andrew Davies, Press and Marketing Officer at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts on 0121 414 2946, 07969 563296 or

Attached image: Historical sketch (unknown artist) of Major Harry Gem and Jean Batista Augurio Perera playing tennis. Private collection.

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