Rare Victorian tennis pavilion in Scarborough is on Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2024

The former Bramcote Tennis Pavilion, Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Grade II, John Hall, 1885

Rare Victorian tennis pavilion in Scarborough

Photo credit: Robert Walton

The Bramcote Tennis Pavilion is on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2024 that has been launched by Griff Rhys Jones, the Society’s President. The building needs urgent restoration to preserve this historic structure that dates from the earliest days of the modern sport.

Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society President, said “I am reeling. How can we not find a proper new use for this elegant testament to the history of tennis? Like all good old buildings, it is an education in itself. It has a story. It teaches continuity. Local achievement. And fun history. And the very act of caring about its preservation should be an exemplary teaching tool. Neglect and indifference set a hugely bad example to young people.’

This Arts and Crafts veranda-style bungalow was once a lawn tennis pavilion, among the earliest structures for the modern sport internationally. Dating back to the sport’s inception in the 1860s-1870s, it holds significance in Scarborough’s tennis history which included championship-level competitions. It was commissioned for the North of England Lawn Tennis Club from local architect John Hall. The building boasts changing rooms for both sexes, a significant social aspect of the sport demonstrating that women were playing early in the game’s history. Scarborough was an important place for tennis into the C20.

Following a failed application to demolish the pavilion for housing, the owner, Scarborough College Company, a school, invested heavily in a state-of-the-art athletics track immediately beside the pavilion. However, the pavilion, now fenced off, dilapidates, and awaits restoration, leaving its rich sporting legacy degrading despite the school’s assertion when applying for permission for the athletics track that the pavilion would be better appreciated by increased visitors to the grounds. The Scarborough & District Civic Society has been vocal in its concern for the building and is keen to see it restored, having succeeded in getting the building listed at Grade II.

The College seems to be missing a wonderful educational opportunity for its pupils. It has in its grounds and under its care an extraordinary piece of local, national and international sporting history. For all the opportunities the building represents, the bottom line is that the badly deteriorating fabric of the pavilion needs as a matter of urgency to be addressed. The College must act now.
James Hughes, Director of the Victorian Society, said: ‘Many endangered buildings present issues that are more or less intractable. Often the scale of a building – and, correspondingly, of the investment required to save it – is such as to represent an insurmountable challenge. Yet in the case of the Bramcote Tennis Pavilion we have a building that is by its very nature diminutive. While this does not mean that rescuing the structure should be a simple matter, it should nonetheless make it rather easier. And given its enormous importance it is the very least it deserves.’

The full Top Ten list can be read here and includes a requisitioned school where author Vera Brittain nursed during WWI, the last of one of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks, a banqueting hall for the workers, one of the first tennis pavilions in the world, and a building where the first £1m cheque was signed. The listed buildings include a Scheduled Monument and two Grade II*- listed buildings.

The list is based on public nominations from across England and Wales, and the buildings selected represent industrial, religious, domestic, and civic architecture from across the nation with unique historical and community significance and value. Nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914. The Victorian Society has announced its list of Top Ten of Endangered buildings fourteen times.

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