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It’s three cheers for local sporting anniversary thanks to Leamington distiller

A local distiller has partnered with Leamington Lawn Tennis & Squash Club to create a special gin celebrating its milestone anniversary.

The 1874 has been released as a limited-edition by Warwickshire Gin Company to mark the 150th year since the arrival of lawn tennis in Leamington, and the formation of the first club in the world for the sole purpose of playing lawn tennis.

The orange citrus dry gin, available from the Club’s bar, was inspired by the Spanish co-founder of the club Juan Augurio Perera whose blue plaque can be found on his former house in Avenue Road.

Warwickshire Gin Company, Leamington Lawn Tennis and Squash Club
David Blick of Warwickshire Gin Company with the special-edition gin.

Perera established the club in 1874 with close friends Major Harry Gem and local doctors Frederic Haynes and Arthur Wellesley Tomkins, who went on to develop an outdoor version of the game which made it accessible for the less wealthy.

Distillery owner David Blick said: “As a huge fan of local history, helping to tell the story of Leamington being the home of the first lawn tennis club in the world to us is just fantastic. To be invited to contribute to the 150-year anniversary celebrations was a honour.”

The club, which today has more than 2,000 active members, has been in various locations in Leamington throughout the years, including Avenue Road and St Marks’s Road in Milverton, and, since 1948, in Guys Cliffe Avenue.

Other projects to mark the anniversary include a permanent display of the history of the club at the clubhouse, a community tennis project to provide 150 hours of senior tennis activities in aid of Age UK and the official launch of a book by Susan Hopcroft entitle Leamington’s Game – A History of Leamington Lawn Tennis and Squash Club.

Club Chair Janette George said: “When we started looking at ways in which we could celebrate the 150-year anniversary, we wanted something members could keep. The collaboration with Warwickshire Gin Company seemed an obvious one with their products already associated with Leamington’s tennis history and we hope the GEMima elephant on the label and 1874 name tie everything together.”

The new logo, GEMima, depicts a celebratory elephant – balancing on a ball and holding a tennis racket – also in keeping with Warwickshire Gin Company’s desire to capture a moment in local history.

Samuel Lockhart, the famous elephant trainer, lived in Leamington Spa from the late 1800’s until his death in 1933. Samuel imported and trained several elephants and became the foremost elephant trainer in the world. His most famous troupe were three female elephants Wilhelmina, Trilby and Haddie known collectively as the Three Graces.

His elephants entertained Queen Victoria and were kept, at times, in Leamington Spa in the 1880s and 1890s when he was home from his various international shows. There are several references to Lockhart’s elephants across Leamington.