TABLE TENNIS IN CLACTON-ON-SEA AND DISTRICT
A BRIEF HISTORY
A NEW SPORT
Table tennis is a comparatively new sport. The first record of table tennis anywhere in the world was in the 1880s when the game was known as 'ping pong'.
It was not until after the First World War that table tennis became popular as a sport. In 1926, the International Table Tennis Association was formed and standard rules adopted worldwide. The English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) was formed a year later in 1927. In 2014, the ETTA became Table Tennis England..
THE BEGINNINGS IN CLACTON
The Clacton and District Table Tennis League was formed in 1938 with one Division. It ran for just two seasons, when the Second World War caused the League to suspend its operations.
The League resumed in 1947. In the next year (1948) a Second Division was added. Two years later (1950) a Third Division and a Ladies Division were added. However, the Ladies Division proved a short-lived experiment that lasted for only two seasons. Since 1952, the League has operated on a 'mixed' basis.
With the popularity of table tennis growing, a Fourth Division was added in 1967, a Fifth Division in 1968 and, in 1969 (for one season only), a Sixth Division. Since then, the League has had either three, four or five Divisions.
THE KNOCK-OUT CUP
In 1958/59, the League introduced a Knock-Out Cup competition for all League teams. To give teams a more even chance, whatever their standard, the Knock-Out Cup is played on a handicap basis. Originally, teams elected to play in the Cup Competition. From the late 1980s, all teams have been automatically entered.
The Windsor Club holds the record number of Knock-Out Cup wins - 14 in total. Teams from the Clacton Youth Centre (CYC) Club have won it 9 times and a Brotherhood Club team has won it on 8 occasions. In its 59-year existence, teams from 18 different Clubs have won the Cup.
The Knock-Out Cup Final was originally played on a neutral venue but, since 1985, the Knock-Out Cup Final has found a permanent home at the Brotherhood Hall in Clacton-on-Sea.
THE CLOSED CHAMPIONSHIPS
As well as running Divisional Leagues for teams, the League organises a Closed Championships for individual League players. In the early days, these were called the 'Individual Championships'. In its first two seasons, there were only two titles to be won - a Singles and a Doubles event, both of which were open to men and women.
When competitive table tennis resumed after the Second World War in 1947, a separate Ladies Singles event was added. In 1948, the Mixed Doubles event was added and, in 1950, the Ladies Doubles.
Thereafter, the Championships grew and more events have been added - the Junior Singles (1953), the Junior Doubles (1957), the Veterans Singles (1959), the Divisional Singles (1973), the Restricted Singles (1991) and the Super-Veterans Singles (1998).
Over the years, the Championships have become one of the most important events in Clacton’s sporting calendar. They have been held in a number of different venues - the Brotherhood Hall, St James’ Old Church Hall, Clacton Town Hall and Clacton Leisure Centre. Since 2001, the Championships have been held at the Clacton Coastal Academy. Since 1993, the Championships have been sponsored by Paul Newbould Planning and Building Design Services.
The League’s most prolific champion is Sheila Howe. Between 1957 and 1999, Sheila took a record 53 titles - the Ladies Singles (19 times), the Ladies Doubles (20) and the Mixed Doubles (14). In 2001, Sheila became the League's President, a post she held until June 2016. She is now an Honorary Life President of the League.
Ken Gladwell has recorded the most number of victories in the Mens Singles (9 times between 1953 and 1965). In addition, he took titles in the Mens Doubles (3), Mixed Doubles (3) and Veterans Singles (5), his last title coming in the 1973/74 season.
The League’s most prolific male player has been David Binns who has taken a total of 33 titles - Junior Singles (2), Mens Singles (4), Mens Doubles (13), Mixed Doubles (12), Veterans Singles (1) and Super-Veterans Singles (1).
David is the only player to have taken the 'Grand Slam' - the Junior Singles, Mens Singles, Mens Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Veterans Singles and Super-Veterans Singles titles. He took his first Junior Singles title in 1959/60 and completed the set by taking the Super-Veterans Singles title in 2006/07.
THE LEAGUE’S OLDEST CLUBS
Brotherhood was one of the League’s original Clubs and is the only one to have existed during the whole of the League’s history. Their home venue is the Brotherhood Hall in Clacton’s St Osyth Road.
Brotherhood were the champions in the League’s first two seasons and have won the Division One title a record 22 times (including an unprecedented 13 consecutive seasons between 1998/99 and 2010/11).
The League’s second oldest Club is Walton, formed shortly after the Second World War, whose home has been the Red Triangle premises in Walton.
YOUTH CLUBS AND SCHOOLS
In the early years, teams from youth associations and youth clubs were one of the main sources of League teams.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Clacton Youth Centre (CYC) Club, based at the old St Osyth Road School, Clacton, was the League’s most successful Club. Teams from CYC won the Division One title on 11 occasions. The Club, which later moved to Green Lodge, Old Road, Clacton (and re-named Green Lodge) ceased to exist in 1994.
Over the years, League teams have also included Walton YM, Frinton CYC, Brightlingsea YMCA, as well as schools and colleges - St Osyth College, CCHS, Colbayns, Chafford and Priory Meadow
WORK-PLACE TABLE TENNIS
An even more important source of League table tennis players has been the work-place.
The history of the League has seen numerous teams based on the work-place, such as GPO, Electric, Gas, Barclays Bank, Taxes, NFA (DSS), Eastern National, Police, NHS, NALGO, Halifax, and Telecoms. Most of the teams actually played at their work-place.
As a result, League table tennis has been played in several unusual places – including the banking hall of Barclays Bank and the cells of the old Clacton police station!
The League’s most successful work-place Club was Nico, based in Oxford Road, Clacton. Their 'A' side won the Division One title 5 times in a row in the mid-1970s. During that period, they twice won the Knock-Out Cup.
With the gradual pressure on businesses for space, work-place table tennis venues have been squeezed out. Sadly, the League now has no work-based table tennis clubs.
CHURCHES AND CHURCH HALLS
Many table tennis Clubs have used church halls as their playing venues. For example, over the years the Jaywick Club has made use of several of the church halls in the Jaywick area - the Methodist Church, St Christopher's and the Roman Catholic Church.
Of the five clubs currently in the League, three play in church halls in Clacton - Brotherhood (Brotherhood Hall, St Osyth Road), Windsor (St James Church Hall, Tower Road) and Nomads (Christ Church URC Church Hall, Carnarvon Road).
The League has also had several Clubs which not only played in church halls but which were 'church-based'. These included St Paul's (who played in the old church hall in Clacton High Street), the Salvation Army and Frinton Catholic Church.
TABLE TENNIS OUTSIDE THE TOWN
The Clacton and District Table Tennis League’s rules state that 'affiliation to the League shall be open to Clubs whose headquarters lie within 10 miles of the Town Hall, Clacton-on-Sea'. However, there is also provision that this rule can be waived in exceptional circumstances.
Whilst the majority of teams who have competed in the League have come from Clacton, several have come from outside the town.
Over the years, there have been teams representing Wivenhoe, Brightlingsea, Alresford, Great Holland, Harwich, St Osyth, Point Clear and Mistley. Occasionally, Colchester-based teams like Tech College Staff and Pegasus, have played table tennis in the Clacton League. The League currently has teams based in Walton and Lawford.
Since 1980, a Walton team has won the Division One title on 8 occasions, whilst a Great Holland side has won it 6 times.
Table tennis teams are traditionally formed from Clubs. Some Clubs have just one team whereas others have several. Traditionally, both nationally and locally, teams are named 'A', 'B', 'C' etc, according to the standard of the team.
The Clacton Youth Centre Club was a notable exception to this. Their teams of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s had more romantic names - the Romans, Spartans, Grecians, Iceni, Vikings, Nomads, Unpredictables and Optimists.
In 1990, the Windsor Club changed their team-names to birds of prey - such as the Eagles, Falcons, Condors and Kestrels. And from 2000, the Nomads Club named its teams after 'big cats' - such as the Tigers, Jaguars, Pumas and Leopards.
THE ESSEX OPEN TABLE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS (BUTLINS : 1960)
On 10th and 11th September 1960, the Essex County Table Tennis Association held its Open Table Tennis Tournament at the Embassy Hall in Clacton’s Butlin’s Holiday Camp.
Among the competitors were Johnny Leach, the World Mens Singles champion in 1949 and 1951, and Diane Rowe, one of the famous Rowe twins who took the World Ladies Doubles title in 1954. Diane, in her own right, was four times English National Ladies Singles champion. Also among the entrants was a young Chester Barnes, later to win the National Singles title five times.
In 1988, the League celebrated its Golden Jubilee. Among the celebrations, the League held a Jubilee Dinner, for players past and present, at Highfields, Clacton on 22nd April 1988. Guest of Honour was John Prean, Chairman of the English Table Tennis Association.
When the League celebrated its Diamond Jubilee ten years later, the Jubilee Dinner was held at Giorgio’s in Holland on Sea on 15th May 1998. On that occasion, the Guest of Honour was Doreen Stannard, the only woman to have been made a Life Member of the English Table Tennis Association.
At these Diamond Jubilee celebrations, a special presentation was made to Brian and Shirley Rowlen for their services to the League. Shirley had, among other things, been the League’s Secretary for over 20 years (and is currently the League's President), whilst Brian had been involved in running the League since the early 1950s, most notably as Press and Records Secretary, and latterly as Chairman, a post he held until his death in 2014.
And to celebrate 70 years, the League organised a 70th Anniversary Dinner on 10th May 2008 at Giorgio’s in Holland-on-Sea with Doreen Stannard again the Guest of Honour.
NATIONAL TOP 12 TABLE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS : 1988/89 & 1989/90
The 1988/89 Stiga National Top 12 Table Tennis Championships - one of the most prestigious national tournaments organised by the English Table Tennis Association - were held in Clacton. It was the first major national sporting tournament to take place at the newly-opened Clacton Leisure Centre. The date was 2nd January 1989.
All of England’s top table tennis players took part. Alan Cooke won the Mens Title and Fiona Elliot took the Ladies Title. Local players, Tony Hooper and Peter White, were Tournament Organiser and Assistant Tournament Organiser respectively.
This proved so successful that the 1989/90 Tournament was also held at Clacton. Alan Cooke again took the title, this time beating the legendary Desmond Douglas, whilst Andrea Holt took the Ladies Title.
Umpires for the Tournament included local officials Brian Rowlen and Graham Parkes, both qualified International Umpires.
In the 2016/17 season, the League had 37 teams from five Clubs playing in three Divisions. Over 150 players play in the League regularly, their ages ranging from eleven to nearly ninety! The League season runs from September each year to the following April.
Times may have changed but the League’s objectives are as they as they have been for most of its history:
- to promote the organisation of competitive table tennis within the area of Clacton-on-Sea;
- to provide opportunities for members to participate in tournaments and competitions within the County and at national level; and
- to encourage young players to participate in the sport and improve their standard of play.
The Clubs who played in the League in the 2016/17 season (with the number of individual teams noted in brackets) were : Brotherhood (9), Lawford (1), Nomads (11),
Walton (4) and Windsor (12).
As well as the League Championship, the Knock-Out Cup and the Closed Championships (played over a week-end towards the end of the season), the League also organises two 'minor' Tournaments - the Handicapped Singles and the Junior Combination Tournament. These minor Tournaments are held on two separate days during the second half of the season.
The League also takes part in the Essex Junior Inter-League, playing against other representative Junior League sides in Essex.
Regular coaching for junior players (under 17 years of age) takes place every Monday evening during school term time at the Clacton Coastal Academy.
TABLE TENNIS – A SPORT FOR ALL!
Further information about the League and its history can be found on the League's website