History of the Association
Originally researched and written by John Freeman
Updated July 2022 by Nick Lean
Select your area of interest & click on one of the following:
* Establishment of the League & Divisions
* Closed Championships
* Other Competitions
* Junior Achievements
* Management Committee
It has not been possible to trace the existence of early records. This history has been compiled from Minutes of General and Committee Meetings back to 1950, although some years are missing, and personal records held by the President John Freeman including handbooks from 1956-57. There are some photocopies of printed pages which appear to have come from a 1947-48 handbook but it seems that the next handbook was then produced in 1955-56 following some years of discussion by the Committee. Club Secretaries who were not registered players received a free copy. All others were charged 1/- (5p) per copy.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE LEAGUE AND DIVISIONS
It is known that the Association was founded in 1924 and from 1924-25 to 1928-29 there was only one division. There were two divisions from 1929-30 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939 when league play was suspended from 1939-40. League play resumed in 1942-43 but with only one division. The second division was reinstated in 1944-45 and a third division was established in 1945-46.
Divisions 4 and 5 were added in 1946-47, Division 6 in 1949-50, Divisions 7 and 8 in 1953-54 and Division 9 in 1963-64.
There was a Ladies Division in 1938-39 and from 1946-47 to 1959-60, and a Ladies B Division from 1953-54 to 1955-56. Henley Division for teams in the Henley area existed from 1952-53 to 1954-55 and there was a Junior Division from 1959-60 to 1971-72.
The 1956-57 handbook shows that the main divisions consisted of only ten teams but the ladies divisions contained twelve teams, all the divisions being full. The affiliation fee was 7/6d (37½p) per team and the registration fee was 1/6d (7½p) per player. There is an advert in the handbook for a top of the range Jaques Tournament Table cost £45.10s (£45.50).
From 1959-60 the main divisions have contained twelve teams.
Prior to 1960-61 only nine singles sets were played. From 1960-61 a team for a league match in a main division has consisted of not more than five and not less than three players. Each of three players play each of three opposing players one set making a total of nine singles sets. In addition two players play two opposing players one doubles set. Two points are awarded for a win and one point for a draw.
Until 1963-64 it was only necessary for club secretaries to forward a list of names of players to be registered. There was no mention of a team. A player could play for any of the club's teams and remained eligible for a lower division until such time as he had played in a total of more than two matches in a higher division. In effect as soon as he had played three times in a higher division he was automatically only able to play in that higher division or an even higher division. In 1966-67 two was changed to four. There was nothing to stop a player playing for his own club in another team in the same division. The 'playing up' system was subject to considerable abuse and the rules were changed a number of times in an attempt to combat this abuse. Eventually the current rules were adopted. A player must be registered for a particular team at the time of registration. At least three players must be registered for a particular team. A player may not play for a lower ranked team or for a team in the same division. A player can still 'play up' four times but is not allowed to play more than four times in a higher division unless specific consent for re-registration has been given by the Management Committee.
During the years 1964-65 to 1992-93 a pyramid system was operated. Under this system there was one Division 1, one Division 2, one Division 3, two Divisions 4 (A and B), four Divisions 5 (A, B, C and D) and various numbers of Division 6 as appropriate. The pyramid system was discontinued from 1993-94 owing to falling numbers of divisions.
In 1993-94, after the pyramid system was discontinued there were nine divisions. Division 9 was dropped in 1994-95, Division 8 was dropped in 1998-99, Division 7 was dropped in 2000-01 and Division 6 was dropped in 2013-14.
At the Association's peak in 1973-74 there were sixty-two clubs with one hundred and fifty eight (158) teams in fourteen main divisions of twelve teams. The Youth Division which has its own special playing format started in 1976-77.
By the 2017-18 season there were just twelve clubs with fifty teams in five main divisions of twelve teams and also a youth division with eleven teams.
The Covid pandemic prevented full completion of the 2019-20 season and meant there was no competitive play at all in 2020-21. The league re-started for the 2021-22 season but with just 11 Clubs and forty teams across 4 senior divisions. There was no Youth Division that season, due to the absence of a volunteer to run it.
Woodland Table Tennis Club existed from 1950 to 1989 and in one spell entered a record sixteen teams in the Reading League. During that period a team won Division 1 on ten occasions including a record spell of eight consecutive wins from 1959-60 to 1966-67. Reading YMCA is the oldest existing club. It is not known when YM entered the League but a team first won Division 1 in 1936-37. The club has won the Division 1 title a record total of nineteen times.
The Closed Championships started in 1930-31 with only a Men's Singles event. The Ladies Singles started in 1938-39. The Championships were suspended during the war from 1939-40 to 1942-43. The Men's Singles resumed in 1943-44 but the Ladies Singles did not resume until 1944-45. Men's Doubles and Mixed Doubles were introduced in 1945-46 and Ladies Doubles in 1948-49. More and more events have been added over the years, including the Divisional Championships in 1968-69.
In 1974-75, 127 men entered the Men's Singles and there were a total of 505 entries in 21 events.
By 2017-18, 32 men entered the Men's Singles and there were a total of 157 entries in 14 senior events, plus a further 95 entries for 16 junior events. The Championships were not held in 2020-21 due to Covid, but resumed the following season.
Simon Heaps became the youngest winner of the Men's Singles title at the age of 13 in 1968-69. Jimmy Stokes however took over this record when he won the title at the age of 12 years 8 months in 1980-81. Lisa Calcutt won the Ladies Singles title at the age of 13 years 5 months in 1999-00, Maria Tsaptsinos won the title at the age of 13 years 6 months in 2009-10 but the youngest winner was Alison Gordon (Now Broe) at the age of 13 years 1 month in 1975-76.
For a very long time Derek Barley was the most prolific winner of men's titles. Derek won a total of seventeen big three titles, eight Men's Singles, five Men's Doubles and four Mixed Doubles during the years 1948-49 to 1964-65.
Hari Gehlot, who now has twenty-nine big three titles, has overtaken that record. Hari has won the Men's Singles twelve times, the Mens Doubles ten times and the Mixed Doubles eight times and has also won the Veterans Singles seven times during the years 1994-95 to date.
On the distaff side for a very long time Merril Massey (nee Upton) was out in front having won a total of twenty big three titles, five Ladies Singles, seven Ladies Doubles and eight Mixed Doubles during the years 1959-60 to 1974-75. Mary Allan has overtaken that record and now has thirty-one big three titles, eight Ladies Singles, eleven Ladies Doubles and twelve Mixed Doubles. Mary now has a total of forty-two Closed Championships titles including two youth and nine junior events during the years 1980-81 to date.
The following players have been triple champions (winner of Men's or Ladies Singles, Men's or Ladies Doubles and Mixed Doubles in same year):
David Jenkin in 1967-68; Michael Childs in 1982-83;
Hari Gehlot in 1997-98, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2013-14 and 2016-17;
Michael Auchterlonie in 1999-00; Daniel Moses in 2010-11, 2012-13, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18;
Mary Stafford (nee Judges) in 1953-54; Margaret Butler in 1958-59;
Merril Massey (nee Upton) in 1961-62, 1969-70 and 1971-72); Eva Foster in 1966-67;
Vera Harmsworth in 1967-68; Alison Gordon (now Broe) in 1975-76;
Taryn Napier-Vallis in 1983-84; Jane Cohen in 1984-85; Gemma Schwartz in 1990-91;
Mary Allan in 1998-99, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.
The Team Handicap Competition was introduced in 1956-57 and the Individual Handicap Competition in 1957-58. A Lower Divisions Knock Out Competition was introduced in 1966-67.
The Reading Masters tournament was introduced in 1984-85. Entry is by invitation only to the ten most successful players in the Reading League competition during the recently completed season with specific qualifications being laid down. David Reeves won the title four times during the years 1985-86 to 1989-90. Gemma Schwartz is the only woman player to have won the title in 1995-96.
The Reading Junior Masters tournament started in 1989-90. Entry is by invitation only at the discretion of the Management Committee.
Many local payers progressed to a high level. Reading juniors who became full England Internationals were: Jimmy Stokes, Andrew Syed, Matthew Syed (English National Mens Singles champion four times 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001. Commonwealth Mens Singles champion three times 1997, 2000, 2001. Commonwealth Mens Singles Bronze 1994), Alison Broe (nee Gordon) (over 100 appearances for England. English National Womens Singles champion four times 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996. Commonwealth Womens Doubles bronze 1982 and 1991. Commonwealth Mixed Doubles gold 1985), Judith Heaps, Gemma Schwartz, Karen Witt (English Junior Open, Girls Singles champion 1977. Commonwealth Womens Doubles gold 1977. English National Womens Singles champion 1982-83. Commonwealth Womens Singles champion and Womens Doubles bronze 1985. Commonwealth Womens Singles bronze 1989 and 1991).
In 1993-94 Reading won the 'Leach Cup' for winning the English National Team Championship for Cadet Boys.
In 2004-05 Reading won the 'Hammersley Cup' for winning the English National Team Championship for Cadet Girls.
In 2007-08 and 2010-11 Reading won the 'Carter Cup' for winning the English National Team Championship for Junior Boys.
The 'Peisley Cup' - a large solid silver cup - is awarded annually by the Royal County of Berkshire Table Tennis Association to the Local League scoring the most points in its inter town competition for teams at all levels. It has been won by Reading nineteen times since 1978-79, i.e. since the competition has been run in its present form. In addition one year the cup was shared with Maidenhead and one year with Newbury.
Over all the years a very large number of members have served on the Management Committee and it would not be practicable to name them all. However mention has to be made of those who have given special service.
Ken Stanley, a County Umpire, who died in 1975 was made a Life Member in 1963. Ken had been joint General Secretary for many years and then a member of the Executive Committee for four years.
Rosemary Powell who died in 1999 was made a Life Member in 1963. Rosemary had been joint General Secretary for many years then Treasurer for two years.
Harold Larcombe, a County Umpire, who was made a Life Member in 1965, was the President for nineteen years from 1965 until he died in 1983. There are no records prior to 1950 but Harold was Chairman from 1950 until being elected President.
Leslie Bridges who died in 2003 was made a Life Member in 1971. Les held nine posts from 1962 to 1971.
Brian Latham who died in 2005 was made a Life Member in 1972. Brian served on the Committee for a total of twenty-three years during the period 1961 to 1993 and held twenty-nine posts including three as General Secretary and nine as Treasurer.
Alan Dines, a qualified coach, who died in 2012 was made a Life Member in 1978. Alan served on the Committee for a total of seventeen years during the period 1970 to 2012 and held twenty-six posts. He was also the Principal of IMPACT (Institute of Match Play and Coaching Technics) an organisation he set up in 1971, fully supported by the Committee. A very large number of young local players were introduced into the Game and coached, many of them to a high standard. Some of these have become full Internationals.
Robin Lockwood, a County Umpire, rendered very exceptional service to the Association. He was made a Life Member in 1979 and a Life Vice President (the first and only) in 1995. He served on the Committee for a total of thirty years during the period 1968 to 2001 and held forty-two posts including twenty-five as Chairman, nine as General Secretary and one as Treasurer.
John Freeman, an International Umpire and a National Referee, who was made a Life Member in 1979, served on the Committee for a total of fifty-one years during the period 1962 to until his death in 2018 and held a total of eighty-one posts including five as Chairman and thirty-four as President.
Tom Williams who died in 2002 was made a Life Member in 1979. Tom served on the Committee for a total of sixteen years during the period 1964 to 1984 and held sixteen posts including three as Chairman and two as General Secretary.
Derek Harrison who was made a Life Member in 1987 has served on the Committee for a total of fifty-four years during the period 1967 to date and has held a total of sixty-three posts.
Edward Stagg who died in 1999 was made a Life Member in 1988. Ted served on the Committee for thirty-one years from 1968 to 1999 and held forty-one posts.
Martin Maddock who was made a Life Member in 1991 served on the Committee for twenty-five years from 1978 to 2003 and held twenty-six posts including twenty as Treasurer.
Charles Goddard who was made a Life member in 2000 served on the Committee for a total of fourteen years during the period 1975 to 2003 and held twenty-five posts.
Nigel Maltby, a Local Umpire, who was made a Life member in 2000 has served on the Committee for thirty-seven years from 1985 to date and has held seventy-six posts including eleven as Chairman and twenty as General Secretary.
Peter Bradley who was made a Life Member in 2003 has served on the Committee for a total of twenty-four years during the period 1972 to date and held thirty-one posts including eight as General Secretary and three as President.
Linda Davis who was made a Life Member in 2003 served on the Committee for a total of fifteen years during the period 1975 to 2014 and held twenty posts.
John Harland who was made a Life Member in 2003 served on the Committee for a total of nineteen years during the period 1966 to 2003 and held twenty posts.
Graham Kendall who was made a Life Member in 2003 served on the Committee for a total of fifteen years during the period 1973 to 1994 and held twenty-six posts including two as Treasurer.
John Cunningham who died in 2009 served on the Committee for a total of twenty-two years from 1984 to 2008 and held forty-nine posts.
Barry Carter who was made a Life Member in 2011 has served on the Committee for twenty-two years from 2000 to date and has held fifty-one posts including twenty as Treasurer.
Nick Lean who was made a Life Member in 2012 has served on the Committee for twenty-eight years during the period 1994 to date and has held fifty posts.
On 25 September 1951 a packed Town Hall saw an exhibition by Jack Carrington, Johnny Leach (reigning World Champion) and the Rowe twins (reigning World Doubles Champions).
The Association publishes a 'Newsletter' at intervals throughout the playing season. The first issue was dated October 1969.
On 10 October 1973, as part of the Association's Golden Jubilee celebrations, the Association staged a European League match (Men and Women Mixed) England v Hungary before a crowd of several hundred at the Meadway Sports Centre in Reading. John Freeman, a local player and a fully qualified umpire and referee, was appointed Match Referee for the match by the English Table Tennis Association. Local players, Andy Blake a National Umpire Ron Eglin a County Umpire and Harold Larcombe a County Umpire, were three of the Umpires appointed by the English Table Tennis Association. Another large gathering in the Golden Jubilee Year saw a Festival of Table Tennis at Southlands School in Reading. England Internationals Trevor Taylor and Chester Barnes played exhibition matches and then played challenge matches against two of Reading's top players of the day.
The Association has staged a number of other International Matches at different levels. For all these matches John Freeman was appointed Match Referee by the English Table Tennis Association. On 3 October 1975 two Friendly Junior Matches (one for Boys and one for Girls) England v Wales were played side by side at Maiden Erlegh School. Karen Witt a Reading girl was in the girls team. Local players Ron Eglin, Robin Lockwood and Harold Larcombe all County Umpires, were among the appointed Umpires. On 11 February 1980 a European League Match (Men and Women Mixed) England v Sweden was played at Bulmershe College. On 5 May 1980 two Friendly Cadet Matches (one for Boys and one for Girls) England v Norway were played together at Bulmershe College. A Friendly Cadet Boys Match England v Norway was played on a date and at a place not known. Three Reading boys were in the team of four, Andrew Syed, Jimmy Stokes and Matthew Syed. Local player Brian Halliday a County Umpire was one of the appointed Umpires.
During the eight years from 1973-74 to 1980-81 Alan Dines on behalf of the Association organised a Reading Junior Open Tournament. John Freeman was the Tournament Referee. For the years 1973-74 and 1974-75 the tournament was held at Bulmershe Centre but moved to the Meadway Sports Centre from 1975-76. The tournament was awarded Two Star Select status, the highest status for a junior tournament, from 1975-76 to 1980-01.
From 1975 to 1978 the Association staged the English Under 13/Under 14 Championships at the Meadway Sports Centre on behalf of the English Table Tennis Association. John Freeman was appointed Championships Referee by the English Table Tennis Association. Alan Dines was the Organiser.
On 11 and 12 December 1976 the Association staged The English Junior Championships at the Meadway Sports Centre on behalf of the English Table Tennis Association. John Freeman was appointed Championships Referee by the English Table Tennis Association. Alan Dines was Organiser and Brian Halliday was Assistant Organiser.