A sporting tradition which brought much-needed light relief to the Terry’s chocolate family in times of war has been brought back to their ancestral home in York.
The popular tennis lawn, once an “oasis of peace” for the young Terrys as they escaped the bustle of the family’s busy chocolate factory, has been reinstated at Goddard House.
And amidst the tangle of outdoor equipment uncovered in preparation for this summer’s visitors are the original, somewhat weathered, rackets and balls.
“There was quite a tradition in the family,” said Clare Alton-Fletcher, head of site at the National Trust property on the edge of York Racecourse.
“We can see that in the rackets still here at Goddards, that were the boys’ own. Like in many families, they were handed down from one child to the next.
“Goddard House was built for the Terry family, in the 1920s. And in the gardens was a tennis court, pretty much because Mr and Mrs Terry wanted to be outdoors.
“It was their little oasis away from the busy chocolate business. They frequently used the garden space for tennis.
“But it hasn’t been used for many years and it was laid to lawn.”
Goddard House was home to Noel and Kathleen Terry and their four children, Peter, Kenneth, Betty and Richard, before it was bought by the National Trust in the 1980s as the organisation’s regional offices and was opened to visitors in July 2012.
Period furniture and exhibitions on display show how the property would have looked in the 1930s – which was the heyday of the Terry’s chocolate business.
Gardening teams have spent some time preparing the gardens ahead of this summer’s influx of visitors, laying the lawn, digging holes to place posts and restoring nets.
The courts will be opened up for visitors for the duration of the summer. There will be croquet on the lawn and a giant draughts set, while indoors there will be jigsaws, chess, backgammon and bagatelle – an old fashioned pin ball game.
It is hoped the new lawn will bring back fun and laughter to the courts which hold so many happy memories for the family, with fond tales passed down to each new generation.
“One of the more interesting stories comes from the outbreak of the Second World War,” said Mrs Alton-Fletcher.
“The family listened to the announcement over the wireless, very solemnly in the drawing room.
“Their first task was to put the blackout curtains up, then to lighten the mood their aunt who was staying with them suggested a game of tennis.
“She hadn’t brought her tennis clothes so arrived on court in her bloomers. It made them all giggle. It was what they needed at this desperately grim time.”
Betty Lawrie, now 91, has memories of the courts going back to when she was a little girl. “She used the tennis courts in a very different way,” said Mrs Alton-Fletcher.
“She had a pet rabbit and, when she wasn’t walking it on the race course on a puppy lead, she used to let it out onto the tennis court”
The family used the courts regularly, and this tennis tradition was passed on the chocolate factory where sports clubs, with a membership fee of 6p a week to join, were set up.
“It will be interesting to see if anyone who used to be a part of the sports teams at the factory will come along,” added Mrs Alton-Fletcher.