From W4 to SW19

The crowds may have gone at the Poly but it’s business as usual at the tennis club

The turnstiles are overgrown with weeds. Few clues remain that this was once a major venue in London.

Crowds packed Chiswick Polytechnic Stadium in Hartington Road to cheer on British Olympic hopefuls. It’s still there in black and white on the old Pathe News footage.

Legendary athlete Jim Peters ended the first sub 2.20 marathon at the Poly exactly half a century ago, followed by a succession of further world records in W4.

But the grandstand’s glory was fading by the time Fulham Rugby League Club – now the London Broncos – became tenants in 1985. They left five years later and those turnstiles fell silent. The stadium is just one part of The Quintin Hogg Memorial Ground, a large multi-sports site run by the University of Westminster. Until 1992 it was a Polytechnic, hence the historical Poly name.

Now, after many years of decline, the full potential of the site is finally being realised. New sports facilities have been opened, and more are on the way.

Two years ago the University invested £1 million into the development of the Chiswick grounds and created two world-class artificial pitches, used for both hockey and football.

The site has been home over the years to many local community clubs, including my own – Chiswick Poly Tennis. The next phase of the development is set to include new tennis courts, just a lob away from the old stadium finishing line.

The closure last summer of the four grass courts along Hartington Road was linked to the, subsequently delayed, next phase of the development. A further six grass courts on the railway side of the site have not re-opened this year.

For the next 12 months at least we play on, using the remaining six hard courts. Current membership rates reflect the reduced facilities.

There’s a wide choice of tennis in W4 and the surrounding area, including Esporta Riverside, Chiswick Tennis Club and Will To Win. All local players will also be delighted that a new operator is finally being allowed to rejuvenate the Chiswick Back Common courts.

Many of us play all year round. But June is the month more casual players seek out a racket, as the Stella Artois Tournament down the road at Queen’s Club is followed by the start of a certain fortnight in SW19.

The crowds may have gone at the Poly but it’s business as usual at the tennis club, as we look forward to facilities fit for the 21st century. If you’re inspired by the stars on court this month, do more than just watch. Serve up a tennis centre near you.

Ian Wylie

Ian Wylie is Secretary of Chiswick Poly Tennis Club.

June 5, 2003

British Pathe films of the Chiswick Poly site

Stella Artois Championships (June 9 – 15)

Wimbledon 2003 (June 23 – July 6)

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