Vince Sudbery

Fifty years ago when Vince was living in Hampstead he was introduced to West Heath Lawn Tennis Club. Like many before and after him, he would have walked down Croftway, the passage way running between Ferncroft and Kidderpore Avenues, through a green door in a brick wall and up the path to the tennis courts and somewhat flaky clubhouse. It was to be the start of a life long love of tennis, and all that goes with the game, as well as a great affection for the club.

Recalling his early years at West Heath Vince talked of “spending many a pleasant weekend or evening playing moderate tennis or sitting and sipping a glass of draft Whitbread bitter overlooking the lawns, red shale and ancient trees”.

Enjoying meeting people and socialising, Vince was a shoo-in for running the club bar at what was also, in the seventies, viewed by some as the only pub in London with tennis courts and furthermore, one with no licensing laws!

It was here too that he initially met Rosie, for a short time the club social secretary, who arranged internal and outside events as well as having members over to her Harley Street flat.

All small clubs like ours rely heavily on volunteers and Vince was great at lending a hand with everything. It could be anything from replacing the netting behind the courts or driving a lorry load of shale down from Leicester to making a gourmet supper during our tournament or offering advice on the accounts, not to mention researching and writing up the second half of a history of the club from the 1950’s onwards. Exactly the sort of person a club like ours loves.

He also developed a taste for growing his own food whilst at West Heath, taking over a small patch of land at the side of the grass courts and planting potatoes and onions! This was probably done better later, on an allotment at the beautiful nearby Branch Hill.

Whilst always playing at West Heath, his membership wasn’t exclusive. Over the years, and having moved away from Hampstead, Vince joined and played at Georgians, Hanley, Templars and most recently enjoyed regular games of singles and doubles at Coolhurst and I know at all these places he easily made new contacts and great friends. He was always very inclusive, and many of us have joined him in one or more of these clubs for a BBQ, social game or perhaps a small tournament.

So what of his actual tennis – well, in his third season at the club he reached the finals of our men’s doubles only to be thwarted in his attempt for the cup by the indisposition of one of the opposition. For some reason the match was never rescheduled and, understandably, he felt a bit cheated by this! But over the years his tennis continued to improve and by his sixties his game was as solid as a brick wall and, much to his bemusement, he had a place on the men’s second team!!
He was happy to play with all comers and, although competitive, always good-humoured, fair, relaxed and even tempered no matter the score or result, so a pleasure to be with on a court.

A lovely man and we shall miss him, perhaps arriving at the club with a cake from Dunn’s bakery in Crouch End or journeying over the heath with Rosie clutching some home cooked parsnips for our Christmas lunch – and, of course, probably leaving behind a hat or a jumper!

He’ll certainly always be a very big part of the fabric of West Heath.