Again, I must apologise as I have not wrote a blog for a while as I have been very, very busy. With numerous museums visits and various projects currently on the go, I hope to do a couple of catchup blogs in the next few weeks perhaps. One in particular about an amazing MA conference day I attended yesterday.
Here at the Curatorial services we are in the beginning stages of planning a redevelopment of one of our sites, Stockport Story Museum. This redevelopment is hopefully going to showcase a lot more of the collection and explore deeper in to Stockport and its history. Part of that history is going to be the pride of Stockport, what or who, in particular, is Stockport proud of?
Some notable people from Stockport include Yvette Fielding of Blue Peter and Most Haunted fame, mountaineer Peter Boardman and actor Dominic Monaghan, known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Lost.
However, arguably the most famous person to come from Stockport is Fred Perry.
Fred Perry was born in Stockport on the 18th May 1909 and grew to become a championship-winning tennis player who won eight Grand Slams and two Pro Slams. Perry won three successive Wimbledon Championships from 1934 to 1936 and was World No. 1 for four years in total. Prior to Andy Murray in 2013, Perry was the last British player to win the men’s Wimbledon championship, in 1936.
What you might not know about Fred Perry is that he was also a Table Tennis World Champion in 1929 and he invented the original towelling sweat band! The sweat band resulted from adaptations Perry made to an anti-perspirant device worn around the wrist created by an Austrian footballer. Following this the Fred Perry shirt was launched at Wimbledon in 1952 and became hugely successful leading to the eventual expansion of the brand from the original white shirt. The brand’s logo is a laurel wreath based on the original symbol for Wimbledon.
Here in Stockport Fred Perry is remembered fondly and several memorials to the former tennis champion can be found around the town. In particular, in September 2002 ‘Fred Perry Way’ was opened. This is a designated 14 mile long walking route throughout Stockport. The route combines rural areas with urban landscapes and parklands, including both Vernon and Woodbank Parks, where two of my fellow HLF (heritage lottery fund) trainees are based and where Perry played some exhibition tennis matches.
In 1984 a bronze statue of Fred Perry was erected at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon to mark the 50th anniversary of his first singles championship.
Perry died in 1995 at the age of 85.
It should be very clear to us now how important Fred Perry was to this town, to tennis and what a national icon he became, therefore it would be crazy for our collection not to contain any Fred Perry items. Thankfully, it does. We have a collection that contains books, ‘how to’ guides, photographs (some signed by Perry), commemorative medals, four tennis rackets and ball, press cuttings and a silver tea service set awarded to Perry by the County Borough of Stockport on May 7th 1935.
However, my favourite item in the collection is ‘The Fred Perry Wimbledon Game’. The description of this 2 to 4 player card game reads as follows;
“WIMBLEDON has been devised by lawn tennis experts as the first ever realistic lawn tennis card game. The scoring and object of the game are exactly the same as for a real game of tennis.
The rules as to which shots can be played are based on the principles of tennis as played by good players.
Although WIMBLEDON is planned for entertainment it is a real instructional value. It can easily be played by non-tennis players.
The game is basically one of skill, but there is a sufficient element of chance to give the beginner an opportunity of winning.”
The game was manufactured in Great Britain by Pepys Games and was endorsed by Fred Perry himself. It dates to the 1940s – 1950s and is in perfect condition. All the pieces are present and are not damaged or worn in any way; this game has definitely been taken care of before being donated to the museum in 2006.
‘The Fred Perry Wimbledon Game’ would be a wonderful gift for any child, even today, but as a collections item hopefully this will be going in to a sports themed case in Stockport Museum to illustrate the legend that was, Fred Perry.
In addition to this, on Monday Emma invited Stockport raised Olympic gymnast Hannah Whelan to the curatorial services and she has donated some of her equipment to be displayed too! Emma is also currently in talks with other successful Stopfordians in the world of sport about loans and donations, meaning that this case, and indeed, the entire redevelopment of Stockport Museum is going to be very exciting and one not to miss!