Restoration of the grave of lawn tennis pioneer Harry Gem in Warstone Lane Cemetery, Birmingham, UK
A lawn tennis enthusiast is appealing for donations in a bid to raise up to £10,000 to restore and maintain the grave of one of the game’s pioneers.
Bob Holland, from Birmingham, is planning to bring the grave of Major Harry Gem, who is buried in the city’s Warstone Lane Cemetery, back to its original glory.
Bob, a retired advertising executive and lawn tennis fan, has spent many years researching the history of lawn tennis and the stories of lawn tennis pioneers Major Harry Gem and his friend Augurio Perera.
The pair played their very first outdoor rackets game, which anticipated lawn tennis, as early as 1859 on the croquet lawn of Perera’s home in Edgbaston.
Bob set up the Harry Gem Project with fellow lawn tennis historians Chris and Sue Elks to promote the role of Gem and Perera in the history of the development of lawn tennis.
In 2011 they investigated the dilapidated grave site and vowed to restore it to its original glory.
“The cemetery was not well maintained for many years, so when we examined the grave space it was in a pretty bad state,” said Bob.
“Luckily, the engraving on the ledger stone is in perfect condition, because it spent many years buried under several inches of soil.
“It needs to be lifted and cleaned, and placed back onto new Victorian style grave architecture.”
A local company, Midland Conservation, will be commissioned to do the necessary work and, so far, Bob has managed to raise £8,000 of the restoration and maintenance cost via donations from the Lawn Tennis Association, All-England Club, Birmingham City Council and the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation, amongst others.
He’s now looking to raise the remaining £2000 from individual tennis, history and civic enthusiasts.
“We know there are thousands of fans out there who will be fascinated by the story of Gem, Perera and the birth of lawn tennis, and hopefully they will feel able to donate to the restoration of this little bit of tennis history.”