When Charles Tuller Garland (1875-1921) decided to feature a real tennis court at Moreton Hall, he commissioned the World’s finest-ever court builder: Warwickshire-born Joseph Bickley.
The Tuller Garlands could trace their lineage back to the Garlands of Essex. The Garland coat-of-arms, “…or, three pallets gules, on a chief per pale azure and of the second a garland and a demi-lion rampant of the field”, features above Moreton Hall’s main entrance. Co-founder of New York’s First National Bank (now Citigroup) and author of a detailed treatise on equine management: “The Private Stable; its establishment, management and appointments” (Little, Brown & Co. 1903), Charles’s father James Albert Garland ensured that his offspring observed correct form. Thus, Charles attended Eton and, following a brief foray into commerce, repaired to England to enjoy the gracious pursuits of a country squire.
Tuller Garland engaged society architect William Henry Romaine-Walker to construct a substantial Palladian-style home with views over South Warwickshire’s River Avon valley. Inspired by Wilton House near Salisbury, and completed in 1906-1907, Moreton Hall boasted sumptuous plasterwork – particularly in the barrel-vaulted great hall, library and dining room. The landscaped grounds featured a Wellingtonia-lined drive, manicured blue garden, polo school and extensive equestrian facilities. Pevsner describes Moreton Hall as “good neo-William and Mary”; No expense was spared – internally or externally. In 1913, “The Field” described Moreton’s luxurious appointments as ahead of any other in the country.
The Real tennis court
The Real tennis court too, benefited from Garland’s largesse. From without, sash windows and generous overhanging eaves, and on entry a fine mosaic floor bearing Garland’s cipher – above, a bas-relief atop an ornate plasterwork arch. No mere moulding this, but rather, “Mercury and Pandora” by English neo-classical sculptor John Flaxman R.A. (1755-1826) – originally designed for a silver vase commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar.
In addition to devising a unique means of preventing court ‘sweat’, Joseph Bickley was also a master at decorative plasterwork: the dedans features elaborate cornices and pilasters, and the court itself is tastefully embellished by a ‘garlanded’ egg-and-dart frieze.
Moreton’s court has Bickley’s preferred terracotta-coloured floor and is beautifully lit from above by a magnificent glass lantern roof. It boasts the novel feature of underfloor heating and, in the function rooms, grand, fossil-free marble fireplaces. “The Field” in 1913 noted how light the interior is by comparison with some other courts and comments on the speed of the floor and penthouse.
Writing in the 1960s, Major Thomas Bouch of Ashorne said of Garland:
Our new neighbour hunted hard. He played polo; he took a grouse moor and deer forest on the Atholl Estate; he entertained sumptuously; he married an English wife; he persuaded Walter Buckmaster – who may be termed the W.G. Grace of polo history – to come and live in the old Manor House with its monastic fishponds; he made his own polo ground where the best players of America and England and India competed in his tournaments; he provided a lordly village cricket ground with pitches smoothly rolled and a suitable rustic pavilion; he erected a Real Tennis court, which is probably the most modern in existence – and many think the best in the world.