The Early Days of the Empire Bay Tennis Club

It is appropriate to look back at the early days of the local tennis courts as we welcome to the Bay the new pump track and climbing wall Playspace adjacent to the tennis courts. Our forebears would have wide eyes of amazement and joy if they were to come back today. Let’s have a quick look at the beginning of the Empire Bay Tennis Club.

In 1923 a few enthusiasts cleared the ground on Shelly Beach Road and made a tennis court from a mixture of loam and possibly ants nest material. By May 1924, the Empire Bay Tennis Club was formed, with  the election of Mrs Bell as President and Mr Swinbourne as Vice President. Initially there were 13 adult members and 6 junior members.

The Gosford Times reported “On Saturday 10th May, 1924 the official opening of Empire Bay Tennis Club court was attended by about 40 people many of whom participated in the opening games. Play commence at 1pm and at 4 o’clock a halt was called to partake of refreshments provided by the ladies. Members of the club and those interested in the popular game I deeply indebted to Mr Walker.”

During the 1924 – 1926 period, the Club had 35 members, including Beattie, Walker, Adams, Gillespie, Davis and McLoughry. Many of these names you will see inscribed on our local War Memorial.

The Gosford Times continued, “Never a day passes without the court being occupied.”

Ken Bergin of Bensville, who has a lifelong association with the Bay, recalls in the 1950s, “I think then there was only one tennis court which was much closer to Shelly Beach Road than the present courts.  It was in the vicinity of the present Fire Brigade building….I don't know who looked after the marking of lines and other court maintenance matters. I guess it was a case of," If you want to use it, you prepare it."  I think the courts were loam or probably a mixture of loam and ants' nest, of which there were many back then.”

David Thomas (Tomo), of Shelly Beach Road (pictured), recalls himself and his sister rolling the clay tennis court when they were six or seven years old. David’s father was a keen member of the tennis club.

So, as your children and grandchildren enjoy the new play area at the tennis courts, please remember our forebears who built the first courts here 97 years ago.

Sources: Gosford Times: December 1923, May 1924, October 1925, Aug 1926; Ken Bergin’s recollections; David Thomas’s recollections.


By Robert Thompson