Club History

Written by Robert McGowan

In the year that President Kennedy was inaugurated,Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space and the Berlin Wall was built, Beaconsfield School of Lawn Tennis opened for business. The founder, Sue Livingston, was a tennis pioneer of her day, and sought to introduce new ideas into UK tennis coaching that she had learned while on her travels, in particular to Australia, which throughout the 1950's and 1960's was the global powerhouse of World tennis. Apart from matters of tennis technique and matchplay, these ideas also included complementary fitness coaching. 

So what was tennis like in 1961. For a start, everyone used wooden racquets, tennis balls were white, backhands were single handed, tennis was an amateur sport, many British tennis clubs still had grass and shale (similar to clay) courts, a good house in Beaconsfield cost around £5,000, and television was black and white. British tennis, though at that time some would say a very elitist sport, did at least have some decent players, with four men through to the last 16 at Wimbledon, and an all British ladies final. British players knocked out the top seed in both the men's and ladies singles – I wonder if that has ever happened since? I was aged 10 at the time, already mad keen on tennis, and I do remember watching Bobby Wilson of Britain beating the men's number 1 and defending champion, Neale Fraser. After losing the opening set 6-1, I really could not believe my eyes when Wilson won the next set 6-0, and then two much longer sets to win the match – he lost in the next round. I did not watch the ladies final, being on a Sunday School outing to the Hell Fire Caves at West Wycombe, but I do recall hearing the end of it on somebody's transistor radio as we played in the fields above. 

Sue Livingston built up BSLT over the next twenty years introducing tennis coaching for the children and townsfolk of Beaconsfield, while many county and some national players learnt their trade with her. Godwin Johnson himself attended the School in 1979, sponsored by the Nigerian tennis association, on his way to a tennis scholarship at university in the USA. Having completed his degree course and playing Davis Cup for Nigeria, Godwin gained a number of coaching qualifications before returning to help run BSLT in 1989, taking over ownership in 1992. 

Since that time, BSLT has continued to flourish with courses developed for the absolute beginner through to top quality juniors and adults. Godwin has helped a number of young players achieve sports scholarships, the most recent being Andrew Johnson who is rapidly approaching the end of his first degree course in Florida. Andrew says: 

“BSLT and Godwin Johnson's influence as my tennis coach have undoubtedly had a positive impact on my life. Rather than studying in the UK, I sought a tennis scholarship in the USA in addition to furthering my education. Four years on, I have no regrets and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience involved in obtaining a degree and playing tennis at Rollins College in Florida. It is an experience that would have been unattainable without Godwin and BSLT and one which I would encourage to any prospective juniors.” 

Now in 2018, the Club is finally getting it's new Clubhouse, the Courts have been renovated and Godwin's vision to improve the overall tennis experience at the Oval, which will be to the benefit of the whole tennis playing community is finally nearly there!