The Fairseat Tennis Tournament
2010 was the last year that the annual village tennis tournament was held after having run successfully for some 30 years. It started in the mid-1970s as a mothers and sons competition before expanding to become an adult tournament with a significant number of participants. Qualifying matches were hosted by residents with suitable courts and the winning pair from each court then went forward to play-off finals to determine the overall tournament champions. A list of the winners and runner-ups is available by selecting the following link.
The Stansted and Fairseat Tennis Tournament origins were from the mid 1970s and a competition for sons and their mothers in the Fairseat area. As a keen tennis player Pam Sheldon organised the event which she and Tom Sheldon won in the first year.
Grisell Pasteur who lived at Fairseat House got to hear about this event and saw the opportunity of using it as a fundraiser for the local Conservative Party. Pam Sheldon agreed and from then on it became known as the Stansted and Fairseat Tennis Tournament. Over the years it raised a considerable sum for the local Conservative Party (about one third to a half of what the local branch had to raise each year) and, in later years, the funds were split with a local nominated charity and in the later years all the monies raised went to charity.
In the first year the final was held at Fairseat House and it continued there until Grisell Pasteur sold the property in 1985. The following year the final moved next door to Court House.
Generally it involved 6 -10 local courts. In 1988 Pam and Rodney Sheldon moved from Court House to Court House Farm and Nevill Phillips from Goodmans Barn took over the organisation. The tournament expanded and involved several local private courts together with matches at Trottiscliffe Tennis Club and Meopham Tennis Club. At that point it was very popular and had started attracting club players who were all rather good for our little local friendly competition. It was felt to have lost its distinctive local flavour and consequently reverted to the local court formula.
Some of the regular venues where the qualifying rounds took place were as follows:
- Court House, Vigo Road
- Fairseat Manor, Vigo Road (which also hosted the finals)
- Haven Manor, Haven Hill
- Pilgrim House, Vigo Hill
- Platt House, Wrotham Hill Road
- Staples Cottage, Vigo Road
- Trottiscliffe House, Green Lane
The format from this time on was a mixed doubles round robin (everyone on each court playing everyone else) with the winning man and woman from each court going forward as a pair to the final.
From 1982 a trophy was presented to the winners, the Pasteur Porringer and from 1986 a trophy for the runners-up, the Jean Rodgers Rose Bowl.
For a number of years the two courts at Trottiscliffe Tennis Club ran a qualifying tournament for juniors and in 1999 sent Amanda Goodworth and Nick Carter forward to the finals. The two juniors progressed through the knockout rounds before losing the overall final – the only time that two juniors had reached that stage.
The tournament lasted for about 30 years and for the last 5 or 6 years was organised by George Fowler from Woodbine Farm. He said that it finished mainly because some of the private tennis courts were no longer available and partly because there weren’t enough of the younger generation keen to take it on.
A strange coincidence occurred in 2023 when Philip Hall, a member of the History Society Committee, was on holiday at the Nambiti private game reserve, in South Africa. In Philip’s words he “was in the middle of absolutely nowhere (4 hours drive from Durban) when a lady next to him (Katherine Hedges) heard him talking about Kent and asked him if he had ever heard of a little village called Fairseat! She mentioned it as she used to play in the tennis tournament with the daughters of Tom Sheldon and Polly Falconer.“
A small world indeed!
Author: Dick Hogbin
Editor: Tony Piper
Contributors: George Fowler, Audrey Goodworth, Tom Sheldon
Last Updated: 01 March 2023