History of the Parnell Lawn Tennis Club 1872 - 2022

​​​​​​​The Parnell Lawn Tennis Club is the oldest tennis club in New Zealand, and one of the oldest clubs in the world still in existence.  Indeed, like the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, the Parnell Lawn Tennis Club has the interesting distinction of tracing its origins back to a date prior to the date of the first formulation of the rules of lawn tennis.

On the 12 August 1872, it was proposed that a club, to be called the “Parnell Croquet Club”, be formed.  A provisional committee of eight was set up, and over the next four months 114 people became members at a subscription cost of half a guinea. The first AGM was held on 18 January 1873 and only 3 rules applied:

  1.  Visitors were to be admitted only once

  2.  Children under 15 were not allowed

  3.  All dogs would be hunted off the field or the owner fined one guinea.

​​​​​​​The game of lawn tennis emerged on the paddock at the top of Parnell Road at Cathedral Place, and In 1877, the name of the club was changed to the “Parnell Lawn Tennis Club and Croquet Club”.  The game of croquet disappeared early in the twentieth century.  At the 43rd AGM held in 1915, rules were amended by the deletion of the word “croquet” and the club became the Parnell Lawn Tennis Club.  During this period the club flourished and the First World War only slightly restricted the club’s activity. 

At the end of the war, the question of increasing the playing area was again raised and a deputation visited the Reserves Committee of the Auckland City Council about the possibility of gaining a lease of the Titoki site (the present site of the courts).  Unfortunately, the expense of the move precluded consideration of new courts in the Domain at this stage.  The move was finally to be made 38 years later.

The first fifty years produced a number of tennis personalities; two stand out above all the rest - Miss J. Mowbray and Colonel J.P. Stevenson.  Miss Mowbray was secretary and lady champion from 1892 to 1905, and in 1932, at the age of 80, served the first ball in the club’s 50th jubilee season.  Colonel Stevenson was club champion from 1892 to 1902, was made a life member in 1900, and served as club president from 1917 to 1928.

Following a special general meeting on 5 November 1927, the club took action to become incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908.  At this time also, moves were afoot to choose a club blazer and badge. At the 57th AGM, a blazer with a maroon stripe, a narrow fold strip and a wide blue strip was selected.  A badge became available soon after and the club installed a telephone in February 1930, although this was taken out again over the winter months.​​​​​​​

Depression times had left the club short of funds, but at the 61st AGM, the membership was boosted by the admission of 31 members of the United Tennis Club that was closing down.

The club survived the war years even when the ball ration was 7 pairs a fortnight, and at the war's end, membership was full and finances sound.  A limited number of United Services personnel had been welcomed as honorary members, recalling an earlier custom when visiting officers of the Royal Navy were accorded the same privilege. Again in 1950, officers of H.M.A.S. “Sydney” were similarly welcomed.  In 1944/45, the club, for the first time, won the Caro Bowl given in memory of a Parnell player, Maurice Caro, who was killed in the war.  

With a return to peace, there began a period of playing strength not seen before, with the move to the new courts in Titoki Street, which were opened in November 1956 by Mr Luxford, the Mayor.  In the 1972 Benson & Hedges Open Tournament, eight of the 15 New Zealand entrants in the men’s singles were Parnell members.

One hundred and fifty years later, the Parnell Lawn Tennis Club goes from strength to strength.  With eight astro turf courts, it is fortunate to be in an idyllic location on the border of the Auckland Domain among the pohutukawa trees, and the chorus of many native birds can be heard in the trees.  With a strong social and tennis focus, the club has grown in membership and achieves outstanding results in the Auckland Tennis Interclub competitions.  It also hosts a number of social and competitive tournaments throughout the year, including Caro Bowl and the Club Championships which attracts an average of 350 entries and is played over two months.

Parnell Lawn Tennis Club also boasts the distinction of having held a Davis Cup tie, when New Zealand played the Philippines in 2008.  Unfortunately New Zealand was beaten on this occasion, but the successful hosting of this event was a major “feather in the cap” for PLTC.

Last year, 2022, we celebrated our 150th anniversary!  For some stories and photos from the celebrations, take a look at our 150th Anniversary page.