The Fairseat Tennis Tournament
2010 was the last year that the annual village tennis tournament was held after having run successfully for almost 40 years. It started in the early 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 & Fairseat Tennis Tournament began in the very early 1970s. Pam Sheldon of Court House, Fairseat, who was a keen tennis player, had arranged a small, informal tournament for mothers and their offspring. This first tournament was won by Pam and her son Tom.
Inspired by this, next-door neighbour, Grisel Pasteur of Fairseat House together with Jeanie Cockerill of Church Cottage, Stansted, decided to take it a step further and organise a larger-scale tournament in aid of local charities. So on a few courts in the two villages, the Stansted & Fairseat Tennis Tournament was born.
Jean Rogers, then living in the Old Post Office in Fairseat, joined the organisers in 1976, as the appeal of the tournament was growing fast. When Jean moved away in 1982, Virginia Phillips of Goodmans Barn, Stansted took over, having shadowed Jean the year before. By this time the tournament had established itself as a popular feature of the Kent tennis calendar with players coming from far and wide to take part. Anyone could participate from the very young to the quite elderly, whatever their ability.
The headquarters was first Fairseat House and then Court House next door. Registration took place here with coffee and a bacon roll, while the players searched the extensive boards for their names and which court they would be playing on. After a hard morning’s tennis, all would then return to Fairseat for a well-earned ploughman’s lunch laid on by the catering committee. Later, having returned to their courts to complete their matches, everyone would reassemble at HQ for tea and the Finals.
In the first years, 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.
Pam and Rodney Sheldon moved from Court House to Court House Farm in 1988 and Nevill Phillips from Goodmans Barn took over the organisation. The tournament expanded and at its peak, there were 240 people playing on 20 courts. In addition to the original handful of courts in Stansted and Fairseat, people from the surrounding area were kind enough to offer their courts for the day; including in Meopham, Trottiscliffe and Wrotham.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 35 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.
In its time the Stansted & Fairseat Tennis Tournament raised thousands of pounds for its chosen charities. The hard work of all the organisers brought great joy to all who participated and much-needed funds to those who benefited.
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, Jean Rogers, Virginia Phillips
Last Updated: 07 July 2023