Edward James ‘Ted’ Johnson (b. 1879), Moreton Morrell’s first professional, served the club for 65 years. The court’s inaugural match saw a contest between Ted and Peter Latham, five times World Champion between 1895 and 1907. Ted played the finest exponents of the game: Cecil “Punch” Fairs, G.F. ‘Fred’ Covey, Lord Aberdare, and Edgar Baerlein. His early posts were at Prince’s Club and Tuxedo, but at the age of 25 he was installed as Professional at Moreton Hall.
Declining a world title
In 1909, Ted unsuccessfully contested “Punch” Fairs’ World title at the Brighton court. In 1912, he threw down the gauntlet to title-holder Fred Covey, but, after much procrastination, Covey refused the challenge. Although Ted was entitled – indeed, authorised and instructed – to claim the title by default, he declined to accept an honour for which he had not competed.
Witnesses attest to the purity of Ted’s style; his skill and strength – and of the exceptional quality of his underhand twist serve. At Newmarket, King Edward VIII became so engrossed in Ted’s play that he missed the first race. “Chases for Races” smiled Ted, laconically.
Moreton Hall estate in later years
Following Garland’s death in 1921 the Moreton Hall estate was bought by Colonel R.J.L.Ogilby, DSO, who featured his own coat-of-arms over the net. During the 1930s, the Court was kept going by a small group of enthusiasts including Colonel E.J.L.Speed, MC. who leased it from Ogilby and further, saved it from being requisitioned during the second World War. Major James Dance, MP, acquired the Court in 1949, and this saw the introduction of a programme of fixtures against other clubs.
The Moreton Morrell Tennis Court Company
The Moreton Morrell Tennis Court Company was formed in 1963 and, with the generous help of many supporters of tennis – including Mr. Garland’s three daughters – acquired the building and grounds.
An unusual feature at Moreton is the American squash court: floored and panelled in pine, with a dedans to the rear wall. At Moreton, American squash is played with a cut-down lawn tennis racket and ball.