In 1947, a group of residents of Heather Road, Elaine Crescent and Merlin Crescent, St Julian’s, joined together and purchased a second-hand army hut. This was erected on land leased from the Council and became the Firbank Dale Social Centre. The tennis courts, which had been on the site for many years before, were also renovated and the Firbank Dale Tennis Club was formed.
The court surface was shale and the pavilion was a small wooden building without electricity or water. Nevertheless, the Club functioned very successfully for many years with the accent on “social tennis”. There were times when membership dropped to single figures, but it always recovered and continued to provide a valuable facility for the local residents. However, by the early 1980’s, it became apparent that improvements would need to be made, if the Club was to compete with other activities available.
The members decided that the first priority should be the provision of a new pavilion. Fund raising activities were organised, loans were raised from members and the Lawn Tennis Association and a Grant was obtained from the Sports Council for Wales. By 1984, sufficient funds were available to build the present pavilion. The next few years were spent repaying the loans which had been raised and at the same time the Junior section of the Club was developed. A strong link was established with St Julian’s, Eveswell, Maindee & Durham Road Juniors schools and St Julian’s Comprehensive, who used the courts during the school term.
In 1995, it was decided that attempts should be made to replace the shale courts which had become difficult to maintain and were no longer up to modern standards. A great deal of research was carried out to decide the best surface for our purpose, and it was finally decided to go for artificial grass. It was also found that the court area would have to be extended to obtain the required area behind the base lines and a new entrance would be required to provide for the elderly and disabled.
The total cost of these items was in excess of £200,000, and the Club was forced to submit a number of planned improvements, including a wall to the whole frontage of Heather Road. In year 2000, the money to fund these improvements was found, thanks to the generosity of the Lottery Sports Fund for Wales, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, the Newport Environment Action Fund and Newport County Borough Council who all made grants. The Lawn Tennis Association also assisted with the provision of a loan and the members of the Club made donations and organised fund raising activities.
The development in 2000 was a major success, as only the 2nd Tennis Club in Newport to have Artificial Grass Courts adult & junior membership trebled. Unfortunately in 2010 we had started to see a slight decrease in these numbers, mainly due to increased competition from other sports.
In 2013, sadly the Social Centre, as a place for the local community, had finally come to an end. It’s users – Girl Guides, Whist Drive’s, Art Club, School of Dancing, Computer Club and many more, had themselves disbanded, leaving the committee no choice but to look for a different type of user. In Feb 2014 the Social Club became a part of the Tennis Club and a new lease was being negotiated with the council.
In May 2014 a pre-school Nursery moved into the Social Centre and undertook a major overhaul and adaption of the facilities for its new permanent use.
In 2015 a Tennis membership campaign was launched, open days and free drop in tennis lessons were well received in the local community & schools. At the end of 2015 and into 2016 memberships was slightly improved, although our junior section was under full capacity. At the end 2016 it was decided the courts were in need of a major overhaul and Court No 1 replaced with new artificial grass. Thanks to loans and donations from our members and at a cost of over £23,000, this work was carried out in July 2017, providing us with a superb court playing facility.